SINGAPORE: The Jurong East HDB estate, bordered by Jurong East Avenue 1 and Jurong East Street 31, has experienced a significant increase in massage establishments, with over ten such businesses now in operation.
This surge has elicited a mix of concern and scrutiny from both residents and authorities, particularly due to the sensitive nature of some services offered.
A recent investigation by Shin Min Daily News into this area unveiled a troubling scene. Women, often dressed in revealing clothing, were seen at the entrances of these establishments, apparently soliciting passersby, especially men, to enter.
Local residents, especially those with families, have expressed their unease. One resident, speaking to Shin Min, voiced her concerns about the potential impact on the community’s youth.
The situation becomes more complex when considering the experiences of legitimate massage business owners.
One traditional Chinese massage parlour owner shared her distress with Shin Min, discussing the challenges of operating next to establishments with questionable practices. Her business faces unwarranted associations, with men regularly inquiring about illicit services and her staff subjected to undue scrutiny.
Gutzy’s investigation highlighted a range of services offered by these parlours, varying from standard massages to explicit sexual services.
During an inquiry on Wednesday night, one employee stated they only offered massages for S$50, while another explicitly offered a handjob for the same price.
Conversations with industry insiders revealed to Gutzy that many masseuses, typically foreign nationals from China or Vietnam, work for as little as S$15 per hour on 12-hour shifts, receiving a low base pay with no additional compensation when there’s no business. They often feel compelled to offer additional services to repay their hefty agent fees.
In some instances, masseuses collaborate to rent a shop, employing a ‘fall guy’ or ‘dua pek gongs’ to front the illegal businesses. This allows them to provide services without having to pay a boss.
While prostitution in Singapore is not illegal, related activities such as public solicitation, living off the earnings of a prostitute, and maintaining a brothel are criminalized. In this context, offering services like handjobs, although not illegal per se, could violate the Massage Establishments Rules 2018.
According to Section 12 of these rules, licensees of massage establishments must ensure that their employees do not offer sexual services, engage in indecent acts, dress indecently, or solicit business outside the premises.
Violating these rules can result in severe penalties, including fines of up to S$5,000 for first-time offenders and up to S$10,000 or imprisonment for repeat offenders.
The Member of Parliament overseeing the area is Ms Grace Fu, Member of Parliament for Yuhua SMC, who also serves as the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment.
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