KASAMA Vol. 15 No. 4 / October-November-December 2001 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Gimik! Do you know what it means?
Gimik - a Filipino slang word which means to pick up a woman in the streets for the purpose of sex.
Where did this word originate?
'Gimmick' is an American slang word meaning trick or contrivance and 'to turn a trick' is an English slang expression meaning to engage in prostitution.
But, do you know what 'gimik' means for the lives of women in prostitution in the Philippines?
RAQUEL IGNACIO of BUKAL, a Philippine women's NGO working with women in street prostitution in Quezon City, Metro Manila was in Australia recently.

Published by BUKAL Inc.
Quezon, Philippines, 1999

Gimik! is the first ever book on street prostitution narrating the lives of 28 women.

Gimik! is published by Bukluran ng Kababaihan sa Lansangan (BUKAL) a group working with women in street prostitution in Quezon City, Philippines and written by BUKAL organizers who witnessed, first-hand, the women's daily struggles.

The Introduction, the Foreword and the Situationer that follow are extracts from the book. We are grateful to BUKAL for providing a summary translation.


Read Between the Lines
by Aida F. Santos

The stories in this book come from the women themselves. They are written from the perspective of the organizers of BUKAL but they remain as raw and fresh as they were told.

The theme running through the stories is basically the women's experiences as they brave the streets of Cubao and Quezon Avenue. More often than not the women have similar stories. This simply shows that though the names and places are different, the experiences of women in prostitution are the same: violent and ridden with human rights violations.

The women have different circumstances before they ended up in prostitution. Now that they are there, it is very difficult to get out. They would need a strong support system to lean on when they leave. One that would accept them without prejudice to their being survivors of prostitution. Society is not ready for this. In the same way, society is not ready to accept that prostitution is violence against women, that prostitution is a human rights violation.

In reading the following stories we could glean some insights on why they are in this industry. Then we could realize that they really did not choose this life.

Lastly, in reading stories, the unwritten words stand out to testify to the women's strength despite the hellish life they lead in the world of prostitution. The brave words that hide the inhuman condition they endure.


Thoughts of an organiserů
by Raquel T. Ignacio

In my four years as an organizer in the streets, I have seen the women, the customers, the condition in the streets. The first time I went to Quezon Avenue, I was amazed to find so many streetwalkers along the stretch of Quezon Boulevard. Their pimps were mostly homosexual males.

Streewalking in Cubao is more straightforward. The customers can be seen negotiating with streetwalkers. Haggling for a cheaper buy as in buying meat from the wet market.

These two areas testify to the growing demand for women for sex by the male population. Men are the buyers, women are the commodities. Even women who are not streetwalkers, when walking along these streets at night, chances are a man would approach her asking for her price.

In the time I have spent with these women, I was given the opportunity to share their lives. I was given the chance to listen to their stories. Most of these stories are testimonies of violent experiences, of abuses, of hardships in the street life. It is common to hear these women talk of how they are demeaned and shamed by people around them. Despite all this, the women continue to hope and dream of a better life. And they continue to strive to reach that dream no matter how simple or how grand the dream may be.

At times I would feel so helpless, unable to do anything to change this situation. Sometimes, I want to stop going to the streets so that I will not have to witness this violence. Sometimes I want to give up. But every time I feel this way I remember the women streetwalkers who continue to struggle despite the harsh reality of their lives and again I feel brave enough to face it with them. My strength comes from these women who continue to strive to change their lives.

To the women in the streets that I have known and to those I would still have the chance to meet, I salute you.


Quezon Avenue is a busy thoroughfare that connects major cities in the metropolis. Along this boulevard are business and entertainment establishments that cater to the middle and upper economic classes. There are also government offices along this avenue. Quezon Avenue has become popularly known as a pick-up point for women streetwalkers. In the streets this activity is referred to as 'gimik'.

Cubao, on the other hand, used to be the trade center of Manila. But with the rise of modernized commercial centers, Cubao lagged behind. Along Aurora Boulevard - one of Cubao's main roads - are second class cinemas, old stores, and open markets. Along its side streets there are bars, clubs and cheap hotels. 'Gimik' in Cubao happens around the clock, 24 hours, unlike in Quezon Avenue where the streets are alive only at night.

The customers who frequent women in Quezon Avenue are from the middle to upper-middle classes - professionals, businessmen, movie actors, and students. Government officials, politicians, military men, celebrities and foreigners pick up women from this area. In Cubao, customers are from the lower class - factory workers, vendors, laborers, vagabonds, etc. There are approximately 600 women streetwalkers in Quezon Avenue and Cubao. Most of these women are from 18 to 25 years old. However, there are girls as young as 13 and women in their 50's streetwalking in these areas. Also, most of these women come from the provinces. Some were recruited to work in Manila, but were instead brought to brothels. When they escaped, they came to the streets. There were those who worked in bars but resorted to the streets where they could earn more. Others ran away from their homes due to problems with their families. There are rape and incest victims among them and they ended up in the streets as prostitutes to be able to feed themselves.

Women in the streets are exposed to various forms of violence from police, customers, and bystanders. Some are beaten, some are verbally humiliated, some were forced to use drugs, and almost all of them have had their lives threatened.

Health is a big issue with women in the streets. They have great fear of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV and AIDS. To prevent this, they use various self-medication and home remedies but without advice from physicians or health workers. Most of them use condoms unless the customer refuses. In this case, the women are forced to have unsafe sex because they need to earn money. Substance abuse is prevalent among the streetwalkers. The most popular substances are shabu (poor man's cocaine) and solvent. They need the drugs to cope with their situation. The effects range from having thin, frail bodies to mental breakdowns.

The implementation of the Anti-Vagrancy Law is a constant source of violence for the women. Twelve police stations go around Quezon Avenue and Cubao to arrest the streetwalkers for vagrancy. The police are harsh in dealing with the women.

An indicative study was conducted by BUKAL in 1997 on the effects of the implementation of the Anti-Vagrancy Law on the women streetwalkers in Quezon Avenue and Cubao. This research involved 30 women respondents from both areas. Eleven of these women were arrested for vagrancy 5 to 9 times, six women were arrested 10 to 14 times, and one was arrested more than 15 times. The rest were arrested 4 times or less but all were arrested at least once before the period of the study. All were arrested in the streets while streetwalking along Quezon Avenue and Cubao.

The results show that most of the women were arrested by police roving the streets in police mobiles or in taxicabs. Most often, policemen who arrest the women are not in proper uniform and they do not produce proper identification or badge before conducting the arrests. In an effort to avoid being caught, some of the women hide under parked cars; others go down the gutter into the sewage system. When there's no place to hide nor time to look for hiding places, the women run until they're sure no police is after them, risking their way through on-coming traffic. Some prefer to just go along with the police to avoid being hurt and humiliated.

While they are being arrested, the women are often yelled at or threatened with guns. The arresting officers pull them by the hair, push and shove them, punch, hit, and kick them. One respondent had a miscarriage due to the violent nature of the arrest. Two of the respondents were robbed by the arresting officers. Others became victims of extortion.

The penalty for vagrancy can be fine or imprisonment. Ultimately, the women are jailed. In the Quezon City Jail, the women are not held in cells. They are placed in the chapel that does not have walls. When it rains, the women endure the cold and flood. The whole place is cramped and dirty with no beds to sleep on. Sexual abuse is common when the women are under police custody. Out of the 30 respondents, 16 said they were sexually harassed and 11 were raped.

The unjust implementation of the Anti-Vagrancy Law creates additional burden on the women since they are forced to give 'grease money' every night to avoid being arrested. The effects on their families are adverse particularly for the children. It is clear that the Anti-Vagrancy Law is unjust and inhuman. It runs counter to the spirit of human rights. It does not provide any solution to the ever increasing number of women streetwalkers. It does nothing but worsen the already grave situation faced by women in the streets.

There is a copy of Gimik! in the CPCA-Brisbane library.

Bukluran ng Kababaihan sa Lansangan (BUKAL)
c/- CATW-AP, Suite 406 Victoria Condominium
41 Annapolis Street, Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila PHILIPPINES
Phone: 0011 63 2 722 0859
Fax: 0011 63 2 722 0755 c/- CATW-AP

Related articles:


The Road BUKAL Travels

Interview with BUKAL members Liza and Gina