segunda-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2020

"Cities of Sin": 1933

Num livro editado em 1933 da autoria de Hendrik de Leeuw (1891-1977) intitulado "Cities of Sin", o autor expõe os 'pecados' de várias cidades do mundo, incluindo do extremo oriente: Yokohama, Hongkong, Shanghai, Macau, Port Said, e Singapore.

O autor nasceu na Holanda mas foi cedo para os EUA. Esta obra foi escrita quando Hendrik estava a trabalhar na Ásia tendo visitado as cidades que refere. Trata do problema da prostituição e do tráfico de seres humanos, em especial de mulheres e crianças. Um tema para o qual o mundo começava na altura a despertar.
Macau surge no capítulo 4 (p.146-189) - "Brown Girls and Fantan": "There is no question that it harbors in its hidden places the riffraff of the world, the drunken ship masters,the flotsam of the sea, the derelicts, and mora shameless, beautifull, savage woman than any part in the world. It is hell. But to those who whirl in its unending play, it is one haven where there is never a hand raised or a word said against the play of the beastliest emotions that ever blacken the human heart."

The procession of women and girls in the Orient rolls to its dark fate under the heavy hand of tradition and custom. As the Yoshiwara is a part of Japan, so is the Purple Mansion a true part of China. Rice and women: those are the staples of the two kingdoms. Turn now to Macao. It is Chinese, too, as may be seen if you will run your eye along the map a few miles from Hongkong. And yet it is a place apart. Its evil is of itself. Its perversions, its strange lusts, its fever of gaming, all those deeds that slay and break thousands of girls in those shadowy dens — all these rise out of the soul of a bastard people, a lascivious creature that runs riot with all the bloods of the East and the West. By some it is regarded as the potent power behind the white slave traffic of the East. There is no question that it harbors in its hidden places the riffraff of the world, the drunken ship masters, the flotsam of the sea, the derelicts, and more shameless, beautiful, savage women than any port in the world. It is a hell. But to those who whirl in its unending play it is the one haven where there is never a hand. raised or a word said against the play of the beastliest emotions that ever blackened the human heart. I went there after Shanghai And as our steamship ap- proached that small peninsula of granite hills and sandy flats on which Macao has been built, I thought of Luis de Camdes, the most renowned of the Portuguese poets, and of the poem that he wrote during his exile, enforced upon him because he exchanged too eager glances with a girl. I thought, too, of the strange fate that may befall a city, how it may pass, as Macao has passed, from a high place in the immense Asiatic world to this nothingness: the last remains of Portugal’s former greatness.

There are, perhaps, 160,000 people there, of which 4,000 are Portuguese and the remainder, except for 500 of other foreign nationality, are Chinese. Once there were thousands more, but the rise of Hongkong stopped the growth of Macao. An enchanting scene. The Praia Grande, a beautiful bay, the graceful sweep of sea wall and rows of houses, of many colors, rising upon the slopes. Ancient forts and modern public buildings stand together. And behind all rise the summits of the Mountains of Lappa. Now frail sampans move near our ship; rusty-sided steamers, with Lascars gazing from their ports move down the bay; a cruiser flying an outlandish flag hauls up its anchor with a deep rattle. I go ashore, A swarm of beggars and ricksha coolies im portune. There is a babel of voices, flashes of color — in dress, in buildings, and in bright eyes — and that mingled odor of humanity and strange foodstuffs, found always where many live together in the Orient. I beckon to a coolie and he pulls me quickly through a part of old Portugal, where, for hundreds of years, merchants and Jesuits have striven for their successes. 

What names of streets! Travessa do Bom Jesus, Pateo da Eterno Felicidade, Odd sensations flicker through the heart as the eye takes in the pink, mauve, gray and sapphire colors of the houses, the gables and the shutters. It is Iberian. There is no sign of Dutchmen here, although, since 1514, the Dutch have taken a major part in the making of the city. I go to the Hotel Boa Vista where life runs smoothly and comfortably for me. Hard to believe that outside of this smart hostelry, with its liveries and its servility, there burns the plague spot that so many have described to me. I take my seat for dinner in a hall cooled by punkas and I look out on the ocean, a gigantic chocolate-colored space on which hundreds of junks are floating. There are scores of other men at the tables — Chinese, Englishmen, Americans, and swarthy, bearded men of a mixture of races. I had in my pocket a letter to a certain man who was to supply me with the proof of what had been said of Macao. I started toward his house in a twilight that seemed to be flickering out, as if the sun were a fading lamp. Darkness came and seemed as heavy as a shroud as it enveloped the mountains. I shrank back in my seat and looked half-heartedly out at the changing thoroughfares. I had passed away from neatness and glitter. Here was filth again. There were mud-houses, squat, black things, and bamboo shacks, straggling in uneven rows and clusters. They choked the Rua Comercio between them, these patterns of ugliness. (...)
He puffed a bit and spat a bit. He then asked me if I Had not wondered, when I came in, why he received visitors in such squalid surroundings. I admitted that it puzzled me. “Opium,” he said. “From this place much opium and many women are bought and sold and transported. There are some persons who might like to stop in here. Investigate, you know. Under this shabby front, oiu: business is hidden. We avoid suspicion.” By exchanging glances with him as we chatted, I came to the correct conclusion that this man was a user of opium, a great betrayer of women, and, of course, crafty, vicious, cruel, and intelligent. He was a killer, too, or I miss my guess. He smelled of blood, of lives taken for the sake of gold. He then began his melodrama. He seemed to take pleasure in my confusion and his next act was one calculated to increase my perplexity. I said: “Yes, I am rather curious to know the purpose of the switchboard and the telephones. Where do they lead and how does it come that you ply your trade from this filthy place?” He put his finger on a button. He said: “No! I am going to tell you nothing. What is there to tell you? This is China. Yes, we buy and sell women. But what of that? You have seen it on the mainland. It is the same here. The women are needed. I get them. However, you may look around if you wish.” He pressed a button, he sat back and looked at me. Presently a door — hardly more than a panel in the streaked wall of the room — opened, and a Chinese stepped forth. (...)
The social significance of Macao, insofar as the traffic in prostitutes is concerned, lies in the fact that here, in this city, the systems of the East and the systems of the West, that is to say, Portugal, exist side by side and may be Compared, Also, for the first time in this account of prostitution, we approach what is known as the licensed house in Europe and American countries. True, the Yoshiwara and the Chinese systems have an aspect of licensing, but that formality of registration is more directly concerned with the contract for the sale of the body than with the personality itself. I suppose that it is generally accepted by sociological students that recognizing and licensing brothels is the best answer that a government can give to the question: How shall sexual intercourse be made available cheaply and safely to the male population?
The government of Portugal has made some attempt to solve the problem. The attempt can hardly be called a sin cere or a successful one. And what is true of Portugal is also true of Macao. The history of the legislation begins in 1900 when laws were laid down providing for the registration of licensed prostitutes. However, there was no law made against the procurement of women and the flourishing traffic in children was not at all impeded by the action of the government. One article did refer to persons who incite, promote or facilitate the corruption of children, but it was a law that had no strength in it and did not, by any means, include all those who are in the business of procuring women. Then, as now, there were no laws barring a woman over the age of twenty-one from becoming a prostitute. These few measures were all that existed in Portugal at the time of the International Convention of May 4, 1910, which Portugal at once signed. In article three of this convention, the high contracting parties bound themselves to take the necessary steps in their respective countries to give full application to the convention. In Portugal and in Macao, where the law was as much needed as in any other centers of vice in the world, the convention did not receive the support of new laws and enforcement. There is without question in Portugal a complete lack of interest in the attempt to abate the traffic in women and children or to pass laws that make prostitution or procurement a punishable offense. In Macao I found that the registration of these professionals had become obligatory. That is, they were compelled to enter their names on the police registers when, after re- peated warnings, they were again found plying their trade. In the event that a girl is actually forced by economic circumstances to live by prostitution and later obtains a situation which enables her to earn a living, she may have her name removed from the register when she submits proof that her future conduct will be respectable. 
The police of Macao adopted, in 1925, a set of laws which were regarded as being especially severe. They would have been severe, indeed, had there been any inclination to scurry about with both eyes open and see that the law was carried out. As usual, however, the police scurried about with their eyes shut and their capacious pockets open for whatever little gifts, no matter how tainted, might fall therein. I give here some of the provisions of the laws that were designed to protect very young girls against the rapacity of their parents or the subtle devices of the manicured, jeweled hands of procurers that are always reaching into that land for the lively, bright-eyed children who give signs that they may be beautiful. One paragraph of the decree states that minors, that is to say those under the age of sixteen years, may not frequent licensed houses, or Maisons de Passe, or houses where prohibited gambling is carried on, or clubs, taverns, or hotels. They are also barred from the cinema where the entertainment may harm their moral well-being and the same law applies to the theater. 
The Portuguese lawmakers, in sending the statutes to Macao, revealed legalistic quirks that are a bit difficult to fathom. One of the paragraphs, for instance, states that a certain type of young girl, a minor, may be deemed morally corrupt if she for any valid reason frequents or resides in a licensed house of prostitution. I have pondered on the word “valid” and it, somehow, amused me. I suppose that the lawmakers meant to say that if the young person re- sides in such a house for the fun of it she is all right, but that if the reason for residence is that she wishes to become a professional then the reason is valid and she is corrupt.

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