In the alleys between Geylang Lorong 16 and 12, the throngs of women who used to line the streets to tout their game have long gone, with ever increasing police raids and patrols putting a dampener on what once was a vibrant red light district. Prostitution is legal in Singapore, but it is an offence to solicit in public.
Geylang is a shadow of its former self. At 10PM last Friday, Geylang still bustled with human traffic, but shop keepers in the area say that this is a far cry from business in the past.
A Lorong 12 coffee shop manager said his business has gone down by half. A mobile shop keeper reports a dip in revenue of up to 30%.
A streetwalker interviewed by reporters said that 10 years ago, she used to receive at least 4 men per night. Today, she can go a week without any business.
“No one wants to come all the way to Geylang just to see sex workers, they also want to drink and have fun.
“Now, if they just want to find girls, they can go online,” she said.
Residents however, are relieved that the sleazier elements of Geylang are soon disappearing.
Gone are the hordes of gawking men making their usual pilgrimage to the brothels in the hopes of laying eyes upon the rows of scantily clad women. Even some of the rows of brothels have gone dark.
The common price for a commercial sex transaction costs between $50 and $300, according to online forums. The women are mainly from neighboring countries China, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, most of them here on tourist visas which allow them to stay for no more than 3 months.
Those interviewed pointed to greater enforcement action as the key cause for the dip in traffic. In 2014, MP Fatimah Lateef had asked Parliament to take more concrete action to reduce vice-related activities in Geylang.
One shopkeeper said: “I know the police are doing their job, but if only they could be more lenient. Fewer girls out there means fewer customers coming to Geylang for us too.
“I actually have to hope that the red-light district picks up again. If not, we may have to consider shifting our business somewhere else.”