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I. Prostitution of Women inside ships docked in Foreign Ports

A. Prostitution

Prostitution became so rampant that it evolved in different countries and

became a universal problem that it triggered different international organizations to do

something about it. This topic is of consequence because of the fact that it practically

assesses how women should be protected in instances such as their entering the

flagstates ships docked in foreign ports and to further explain their rights as well as

the duties of those individuals involved. Because she is inside the extension of the

flagstates territory, will she, as a citizen be made liable of the acts committed in

contradiction to the laws of implemented by her country or gain immunity inside the

comfort of the flagstates ships. Specific regulations are employed by the flagstates to

ensure the appropriate conduct of its crews and officers on board but these paper

would try to look at as to what extent do the regulations reflect the need to advance or

promote the welfare of women.

Prostitution by definition is the performance of sexual acts solely for the

purpose of material gain. Persons prostitute themselves when they grant sexual favors

to others in exchange for money, gifts, or other payment and in so doing use their

bodies as commodities. They are mostly referred to those women engaging in sexual

services in exchange for a specified amount of money. Prostitutes may be of either

sex, but throughout history the majority have been women, reflecting both the

traditional socioeconomic dependence of women and the tendency to exploit female

sexuality. Although prostitution has often been characterized as the “world’s oldest

profession,” the concept of women as property, which prevailed in most cultures until

the end of the 19th century, meant that the profits of the profession most often accrued

to the men who controlled it.1

We have interviewed another chief mate who travelled all over the world as a

seaman his name was Mr. Tomas Nualla, aged 54, said that he had a comrade who

was a gay seafarer and the others know it too and everytime the ship docks he finds a

way to provide himself with sexual services from male prostitutes but also he said that

this was just some of the exceptional circumstances. The port areas according to the

interviewee wherein the prostitutes goes inside the ships was in Thailand, Russia,

Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, New Zealand. He himself said that even the red guards

in China are tolerating the said incidents.

B. Prostitution in Thailand

By taking the context and the situation of Thailand, it shows relatively that

women are accorded a low status in the society making them vulnerable to false

pretensions of pimps and abusers adding the fact that most of them lack formal

schooling and are deprived of essential information. Women are expected to give

back all the hard work that the parents did for them and so because of their lack of

educational attainment, they have no recourse other than to find jobs that would be

easy to earn money disregarding the idea that it might be fatal and can lead them to

have Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It is a human viral disease that

ravages the immune system, undermining the body’s ability to defend itself from

infection and disease and is primarily caused by the human immunodeficiency virus.2

This concept of obligation was deeply inculcated in Thai tradition making it hard for

Jennifer James. "Prostitution." Microsoft® Encarta® 2007 [CD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft
Corporation, 2006.
John G. Bartlett "Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome." Microsoft Encarta 2007 [CD]. Redmond,
WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2006.

the women to deviate from these expectations. So because of this they learned various

strategies to be able to supply themselves their own necessities as well as their

family’s needs. Instead of just taking into account the occurrence of prostitution in

wherever it would be conventionally possible: brothels, bar, massage parlours, streets

and so on. We became more focused on how ships, specifically those flying a

particular flag are also prone to be the areas of prostitution of women docked in

foreign ports.

The impact of prostitution to the Thai economy has resulted in billions of baht

pouring the economy making it easier for women to support their families in rural

villages and provide themselves with basic needs as well. Thai economy is dependent

upon these sex workers because they contribute a considerable amount of increase in

the country’s economy. Most of these women who are into prostitution started as a

young girl given no choice but to enter into that kind of occupation. For it was said

that many foreigners prefer young girls over those mature ones for they believe that

they are still innocent and are free of any diseases which is considered to be a myth

because some experience symptoms of diseases. In Thailand, prostitution is

considered unlawful and they have provisions regarding the matter.3 Despite this

recognition of the fact that prostitution is unlawful, there is still the widespread

acceptance of people about prostitution as becoming one way of earning money. In

other words, it became a source of income of the family and is treated as an

occupation which contributes to the betterment of the country’s economy. In

accordance with this idea, prostitutes have been constantly inside flagstates ships

everytime it docks specifically in Thailand to provide their services and in order to

provide their services and in order to earn money.

This law basically is the Act on Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution which was passed by the
Thai Government last 1996.

These women who maneuver their way inside the ships are waiting at the port

area in Thailand where the ships will be docking making it an opportunity to earn

money. A secret ladder will be placed somewhere which would become the venue for

them to be able to enter the ship which should have been restricted because they are

unauthorized, nevertheless they still continue until they are inside and off to the

officer or the crews’ room. One seafarer that we interviewed, Mariano Rio, said that

some prostitutes paid the crews who saw them entering their ship so that they would

not be forwarded to the police and in turn would be able to convince this officers and

crews to avail of the services. The name of the ship where he worked as a second

mate is Oceania having Panama as the port of register. Some prostitutes seeing the

arrival and eventual preparation for docking of the ship would ride a boat and the

ship’s ladder at the sides would be lowered down to accommodate them.

One international organization which seeks to promote women’s welfare in

Thailand is the Canadian International Development Agency. It has helped build

capacity to broaden public participation in development, improve access to the legal

system, and advance the rights of women and children. The Southeast Asian Gender

Equity Program extends CIDA’s assistance for activities among Southeast Asian

women’s organizations. SEAGEP programs include advocating women’s rights;

human resource development; appropriate integration in the economy; personal

security, empowerment and decision-making. Another is that there are various UN

agencies joined together in late 1995 to form Gender and Women Development

Working Group (GWAD). The primary objective is to facilitate collaboration of the

United Nation’s system in pursuing areas of common interest, the exchange of


information and cooperation and complementarity program development and


II. Main Issue

There is no denying that the sex industry has taken on international

dimensions, recognized as an economic motor for many countries, particularly in

Asia. Even here in the Philippines, women were also involved in the prostitution

inside ship.5 The United Nation obligates the States to refrain from committing human

rights violations and also to take positive measures to ensure that individuals are able

to enjoy their human rights. Treaties and Conventions are human rights instruments

upon which the legal obligations of the States are articulated. The declarations and

resolutions which is a politically, binding documents that do not have the force of law

and is drafted by the United Nations but which nevertheless represents important

guidelines and procedures on State’s obligations. The main issue on this paper is,

whether who will be obliged to protect these women involving the prostitution inside

the ship docking on an international port and the undertaking of the present measures

to protect them. Majority of the seafarers that we have interviewed, from an ordinary

working seamen up to those who have obtained a higher position at the ship he was

sailing with stated that depending upon the type of the port of one’s country in which

the international ship is going to dock and one must also considered the type of the

ship, the seafarers are cruising with to make such a response towards the issue of

prostitution. In South American countries like Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela,

Asian Development Bank.Country Briefing Paper: Women in Thailand. Asian Development Bank:
Programs Department West and Office of Environment and Social Development, December 1998.
According to chief mate Joemarie Gonzales sailing a ship of MT ALDAN with a port of registry in
MALTA, women were waiting for the international to dock and they would immediately run towards
the ship once docked mainly for financial reasons.

prostitution inside ship is predominant. The captain of the ship is expected to follow

and implement the company and owner’s policy in the conduct the ship is expected to

follow and implement the company and owner’s policy in the conduct inside the

ship’s premises. Maritime Affairs Ministry has to work on ways to give ship crews

“preventive education” in the hope they would stop sexually patronizing women.

The role of the State is also important in the protection of women from

prostitution. Moreover, States have a different restrictions and enforcement of law.

There was this issue on the prostitution which involved the Korean nationals and the

local women in the Pacific Island of Kiribati. In addition, prostitutes in Kiribati are

referred to as the “korakorea” mainly because of the nationalities of their most

frequent client who are Koreans. In 2005, it only shows that the issue was so serious

that there was a banning of Korean ships from docking at the port of the Kiribati.

There were some women who were underage as young as fourteen years old and that

they had admitted that they were being sold to Korean men. According to the

statistics, there were about forty to fifty local women in Kiribati who were engaging

in prostitution with Korean nationals there on port calls. The increasing number of

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or commonly known as the AIDS virus led

also to the banning of the Korean ships. During a period of 2003, because the crews

consistently tried to buy sex there, the authorities of the Kiribati prevented the

Koreans from calling to port. The problem here is that, in South Korea, there exists no

criminal provision for overseas child sex tourism and prostitution. The banning

however was the decision made by the Roman Catholic Church in which it threatened

the government of Anote Tong to step down if he could not solve the prostitution

issue in the country. In the case of those States who have already legalized

prostitution, although prostitution is considered to be legal, yet there are still


limitations on how a State considered the act as really legal and how far it is to go

beyond that legalization. The examples to be given here are the States which legalized

prostitution. In Greek and Turkey, women must register and attend clinic for regular

examinations particularly twice a week and in Western European countries such as

Germany, prostitution is legal but only for European Union residents and in Denmark

wherein it is not illegal to provide sexual services so long as prostitution is not the

main source of income.6 Many countries make it clearly illegal yet widely tolerate it.

Governments have developed the three basic legal frameworks concerning

prostitution; the prohibition which is the act of accepting payment for sex and

sometimes paying for sex is illegal, the law forbids certain activities in relation to

payment for sex rather than paid sex itself and this falls under criminalization and this

is considered to be the most common legal framework for commercial sex throughout

the countries. And finally, the regulation, exception to criminal law made for those

parts of the sex industry which complies with certain conditions. However, in India

despite the many laws against the sex industry and traditional caste-bound

prostitution, trafficking and prostitution is still common. Therefore, it is illegal to be a

prostitute or to live off a prostitutes earning. The laws are not consistently enforced.

Women were involved in this situation and they are the female sellers

however, it is the seafarers themselves who actually determine the shape of each

prostitution cases. Although there are as well instances that prostitution at ship were

being conducted by males and it happened oftentimes, but if we compared to the

situations among the female prostitutes it is likely most of the prostitutes are women

and that they need a support coming from the international bodies and upon which the

Prostitution Education Network

implementation of international standards on human rights is impossible without the

assistance of the corresponding national legislation.

III. Resolutions:

A. Rights of Women

Women have rights just as men also have. But because of the predominant

patriarchal societies, most women become the marginalized sectors in the society;

depriving them of their basic rights so many organizations were founded to suit the

demands of women for equality.

Prostitutes can face different circumstances such as the client abuse, disease

and others and no matter we think about the morality commodified sex, we

understand that these women should not have to face such risks. This part is our

resolution to the ongoing prostitution that is happening inside a foreign ship. These

include the Convention which aims to protect the women, International Organization

and the International Law itself. The development of international mechanisms and

procedures aimed at promoting compliance with the human rights, and the access of

individuals to these international agencies, testify to the fact that the individual is

increasingly coming to be involved directly with international law.

In the international law particularly in Human Rights, there is this so-called,

Principle of Non-Discrimination. It is both a human right of its own and a

constitutive element of all human rights. The rules are to be found at both the national

and international level. This principle has undoubtedly acquired the status of a

fundamental rule of human rights law. It is widely held that the principle of non-

discrimination is a principle of customary international law, and at least as regards

discrimination on the basis of sex, race and ethnic origin, it has also the status of jus

cogens.7 With a view to the differences in the protection provided especially in

international instruments, it has to be emphasized that the individual is always entitled

to the best protection provided in any applicable instrument. Next is the Convention

on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women or popularly

known as the CEDAW which defines what constitutes discrimination against women

and set-up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. On the Art. 6 of

the CEDAW, it stated there the importance of the national legislation to protect the

women8 and the appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against the women

in the field of employment in order to ensure the equality of men and women.9 One of

the organization that was the first specialized agency of the United Nation is the

International Labor Organization which aims to promote the rights at work,

encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen

dialogue in handling work-related issues working intensively throughout the world to

promote a solid legal framework for respecting social rights. We have included this in

our resolution since the International Labor Organization make a technical

cooperation projects through the close international cooperation between countries.

B. Duties of Flagstates

As defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

(UNCLOS) the implementation and enforcement of international maritime regulations

for all ships granted the right to fly its flag. However, the flagstates may conduct the

larger part of its activities through entities located in other countries. The flagstates

No derogation is permitted from a jus cogens norm as laid down by Art. 53 of the Vienna Convention
projects through the close international cooperation between countries.
State Parties shall take all appropriate measures including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in
women and exploitation of prostitution of women
Art. (11)(f)

has the responsibility for the implement action and enforcement of rules adopted by

other Inter-Governmental Organization bodies including the International Labor

Organization. Under the UNCLOS, the duty of the flagstates is stated in the Art. (94)

(1) in which every State shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in

administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag. That is why if

the seafarers were caught having a prostitute inside the ship, he will be directly liable

to the company of the ship he is flying since the flagstates has the responsibility over

the seafarers. Under the Art. 94 (2)(b) of the UNCLOS, every State shall, assume

jurisdiction under its internal law over each ship flying its flag and its master, officers

and crew in respect of administrative, technical and social matters concerning the

ship. All flagstates should endeavour to ratify the principal maritime treaties such as

those being adopted by the International Maritime Organization and the International

Labor Organization and as a responsible flagstates, they should be able to identify

some valid explanations if they were not bale to ratify any treaties and in practice

should be expected to implement and enforce national regulations that comply with

the vast majority of the detailed requirements specified within these international

regulations. By this provisions it can be interpreted as something which simply

implies that whatever actions the crews, master and officers commit, they are held

accountable under the laws of the flagstates. (Shipping Industry Guidelines on

Flagstate Performance.:2008)

C. Obligations of Crews and Ships

The very nature of life at sea, with men and ships always vulnerable to the

elements, requires that proper discipline be maintained on the vessel. Under the

general maritime law and by the statute disciplining seamen, under certain

circumstances is enforceable by fines, forfeitures and deductions from earned wages.


Under General Maritime Law, there must be a case of high and aggravated neglect or

disobedience, importing the most serious mischief, peril or wrong; a case calling for

exemplary punishment, a case involving a very gross breach of the stipulated contract

for hire.

In consideration of the nature of a seaman’s life, with its long periods of close

confinement to the ship and her personnel, and the absence of usual amenities of life

on the shore, the maritime law has adopted a mild and liberal view toward the

mariner’s conduct while in the service of the ship. It punishes gross and obstinate

offences including the forfeiture of wages especially if they continue to persist

without repentance or does not make amends.

There are rules of behaviour wherein the crews agree to conduct themselves in

an orderly, faithful, honest and sober manner, to be diligent in their duties and be

obedient to the lawful command of their master. (Norris: 1994, p.467)

1. International Maritime Organization Rules (IMO)

Ultimately, safety rests very largely with the crews of ships rather that with the

ships themselves. For this reason IMO has attached the utmost importance to the

training of ships' personnel. In 1978 the Organization convened a conference which

adopted the first ever Convention on Standards of Training, Cerification and

Watchkeeping for Seafarers. The Convention entered into force in April 1984.

The Convention established, for the first time, internationally acceptable

minimum standards for crews. It is not intended as a model on which all States must

necessarily base their crew requirements, for in many countries the requirements are

actually higher than those laid down in the Convention. Rather the Convention is

aimed at eliminating inadequate or supplementing insufficient requirements wherever

necessary, while at the same time providing developing countries in the process of

building up their fleets with internationally acceptable minimum requirements and


Each year the Organization arranges or participates in numerous seminars,

workshops and other events which are designed to assist in the implementation of

IMO measures. Some are held at IMO headquarters or in developed countries, others

in the developing countries themselves.

2. Rules of Hiring Companies (Employers and Seafarers)

Certain rules are employed by the hiring companies involving the conduct of

the seafarers for which would become the basis for their own manner of behaviour.

The Regulation on the employment and related to employment relationships between

seafarers and shipowner’s general provisions is to regulate the employment and those

directly related to employment relationships between seafarers on a ship flying the

flag of Bulgaria and the shipowner. This involves the conditions for hiring and

signing of an employment contract, hours of work, hours of rest, paid annual leaves,

repatriation, social and cultural conditions on board and shipowner’s liability in cases

of disease or accident affecting the seafarers and those obligations as stated in the


There are many provisions which were inside the scope of the regulations and

these includes, employment relationships, repatriation, hours of work and rest,

overtime and night work, paid annual leave and it also was stated the obligations of

seafarers. Section three of the said regulation on Article 80, stated that, “The seafarers

shall not perform onboard ship an activity they do not have the necessary qualification

or license for, or activity which is not included in their employment obligations.”

Seafarers are bounded to do their duties on board ship and nothing more than

doing things contrary to the contract they signed. Before making themselves available

in working to the said vessel, they were able to read the agreements and so there is no

reason why they would not know what is stated.

3. Recent Developments in the International Ship and Port Facility Code

(ISPS Code)

This is in response to the adopted amendments to the International Convention

for the Safety of Life at Sea and requires that ships, companies and port facilities to

comply with the requirements. The code embodies a series of functions and these

includes but are not limited to gathering and assessing information with respect to

security threats and exchanging information with respect to security threats,

preventing unauthorized access, port facilities and their restricted areas. According to

the part of the International Code for the Security of Ships and Port Facilities which

contains mandatory provisions specifically on the ship security and this is to take

preventive measures against security incidents such as ensuring the performance of all

ship security duties, controlling access to the ship, controlling the embarkation of

persons and their effects, monitoring restricted areas to ensure that only authorized

persons have access, monitoring of deck areas and areas surrounding the ship and

these activities shall be carried out through appropriate measures being taken.

In general ISPS code was designed to address international maritime security

concerns on terrorism after the September 11 attack. Second is to ensure that

international acceptable standards and security measures are in place. Third, is to


enhance the ability of sovereign nations to detect or deter security threats within an

international framework. Fourth, to establish clear and identifiable roles for doing so.

Lastly, to provide a platform for the collection and exchange of security intelligence.

(ISPS: 2007, p. 2)

Because of this code, it was said to be the reason why there is the inability of

the prostitutes to enter ships because of the restricted areas of ships and inaccessibility

of the ship to unauthorized people because of the fear of terroristic activities that

might happen. It really helps to improve security and better protect people and cargo,

as well ports and international shipping against terrorism. Because of this code,

women is protected from uncertain circumstances that might happen such as torture or

cruelty from the ship crews, officer or the captain of the ship.

D. Obligations of Port States

International law has recognized that port states may affirmatively take

measures to inspect vessels visiting their waters and enforce internationally-

recognized maritime standards for ship operations and other environmental rules. It is

also generally recognized in international law that a ship voluntarily entering a foreign

port accepts the jurisdiction of that foreign state.

Under international law the flag State is primarily responsible for ensuring

compliance with international minimum standards. Article 94 of the 1982 UN

Convention reaffirms this fundamental principle, but also makes clear that flag states

have certain obligations especially with regard to ensuring compliance with

international minimum safety, pollution prevention and social standards. Similarly,

Article 217 of the 1982 UN Convention sets out an obligation on flag States to

effectively enforce such international rules, standards and regulations, irrespective of

where the violation occurs. These requirements were incorporated in IMO Resolution

Guidelines to Assist Flag States in the Implementation of IMO Instruments (A. 847


Article 91 of the 1982 UN Convention requires there to be a "genuine link"

between the vessel and the flag State. Although the "genuine link" is not expressly

defined in the 1982 UN Convention, other Articles, especially Article 217, implicitly

point to the requirement for at least an "economic link". This indicates that there

should exist within the flag State a substantial entity which can be made responsible

for actions of the vessel and on which penalties of adequate severity can be levied so

as to discourage violations of applicable international minimum rules and standards,

wherever they occur.

IV. Constraints:

1. UNCLOS does not establish definite obligations of the flagstates in specifically

ensuring women’s welfare in foreign ships. Although UNCLOS has provided

provisions for the flagstates duties in terms of the social matters involving the ship

and its crews, officers it did not specify the fact that in the provisions, women’s rights

were being advanced or promoted. It was not precise in really identifying how women

specifically her rights can be protected by the flagstates.

2. Lack of Strict Regulations for the crews and Officers

There is the laxity of implementing the rules and procedures given by the IMO

and other treaties that the ship had ratified with. This is mainly the reason why

prostitution is still continuously happening within the international ship because of the

lack of disciplined among the sailors. In our interviews to the seafarers, if they were

caught they would have the quick response to the captain that the prostitutes that they

brought inside was a friend of them so the captain would just leave them behind

without any words and at times they would be only required to give a fine which was

not specified if how much that is and received a warning and that he will be expected

not to do the certain acts again. At present, there is no international agency that

provides guidance on AIDS health promotion targeted at seafarers. There is no

support for regional projects on AIDS health promotion for seafarers and no

information network and resource center on information packages and that AIDS has

not been mainstreamed in the training of the seafarers and it is never a part of the

curriculum in maritime scholar. Finally, within the United Nations bodies, not a single

cent has been directed to purely seafarer’s intervention. The continuance of the

actions of hiring the prostitutes inside the ship was said to be the norms on-board to

help ease the emotional affection of the seamen being away from their family. And

some of the officers tolerate the action and it was visibly clear that there was a part of

the ship like a room being used if they have a prostitute with them. And hiring a

prostitute per se is not a criminal offense and that there is no such policy to regulate

the said activities going on inside the international ship.


Although women’s rights as of the present is being recognized by many

institutions, states and other personalities and even if there are organizations which

promote or advance the rights of women, still it is not enough to foster rigid

enactment universally. The domestic laws of the countries, even with the intent to jail

those who exploit these women, the women themselves are not even willing to reveal

the informations about the member of their families. Certain obligations of crews and

ships, flagstates, port states does not directly involve the consideration of women’s

welfare. They are vague and does not give precise steps as to the way women should

be treated and it was just assumed out of those provisions. The Conventions and other

international organizations can be used to regulate the prostitution inside the ship

docked in foreign ports.


Baculna, Jennibeth and Sherry Ann Bayona. Interview with Joemarie Gonzales,
February 24, 2008.