A video posted on YouTube has laid bare the reality of the alleged underage sex industry in Malaysia.
The video, titled "Trapped: The underage sex trade in Malaysia", was produced and directed by freelance video journalists Mahi Ramakrishnan and Rian Maelzer, and features interviews with social workers, experts and some of the underage sex workers themselves.
It reveals an illicit web of human trafficking and underage prostitution in Kuala Lumpur, which is rampant but largely kept hidden from the authorities.
The video follows a possible raid by Malaysian police and enforcement officers on a karaoke pub on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, where a group of foreign women, euphemistically known as guest relations officers (GROs), were rounded up.
A check on the women's identifications showed that they were all over 18, but child rights advocate Dr Hartini Zainuddin explained that many are given fake passports which do not show their real age when they are trafficked to Malaysia.
"When we manage to go back and trace their birth certificates in the Philippines, for example, she's 15," said Dr Hartini.
The video also shows that some of the underage girls who were trafficked to Malaysia came of their own choice, while others were tricked and remained there as virtual prisoners.
A surreptitious interview with a 17-year-old underage sex worker from Indonesia reveals that she first arrived in Malaysia when she was 15. She sends money back to her parents, who are under the impression that she is working in a restaurant.
Another interview featured an underage prostitute from Tamil Nadu, India, who was tricked into coming to Malaysia to work as a domestic helper when she was 13.
She said that she was locked up when she first arrived before being brought to another house where they gave her food and drinks.
"After drinking, I felt very dizzy. Lots of men were there, but they left me with one man and the rest left the room.
"When everyone else left, the man touched me all over my body and tortured me," she said, adding that she now has to service up to 12 clients a night and must do as they say or will be punished.
The video has gained over 263,000 views since it was posted on Sep 12.
However, it was reported in The Star that Malaysian police described the video as "lopsided", and denied that Malaysia's sex trade was as rampant as the video made out.
The Malaysian police Secret Societies, Gambling and Vice Division assistant director Senior Asst Comm Datuk Roslee Chik was quoted as saying: "Sex is not an industry in Malaysia, the term 'sex activities' is more appropriate."