Asia is Earth’s largest and most populous continent. Though many Asian nations have started to adopt Western moral values and take a more liberal view of life, especially with respect to sexuality, many countries remain shrouded in conservatism.
This leaning toward conservatism can be attributed to several factors, such as culture, history, and religion. Despite upholding some of the world’s strictest moral values, however, many conservative Asian countries hide dark secrets.
10 Cambodia’s Virgins For Sale
With three-quarters of its population living below or just above the poverty line, Cambodia is one of Asia’s most impoverished nations. This dire situation has led to the development of many forms of sexual exploitation, including the rampant but covert trade in female virgins.
LICADHO, Cambodia’s leading human rights organization, estimates that thousands of young virgin girls between the ages of 13 and 18 are sold to wealthy Cambodians or foreign tourists every year.
Solving Cambodia’s “virgins for sale” problem is difficult since “it rarely fits into strict definitions of sex trafficking.” In almost all cases, the innocent girls are sold by their own mothers, fathers, or relatives. The selling price can range from $800 to $4,000 depending on the girl’s physical attractiveness and the buyer’s budget.
The prevalence of this problem can be attributed to the belief that sex with virgin girls gives men over 50 “magical powers to stay young and ward off illness.” Most customers are wealthy Cambodian politicians or businessmen, but men from other Asian countries—such as Thailand, China, and Singapore—come to the country to buy virgins, too.
9 Indonesia’s Virgin-Only Policy
In Indonesia, female police and military recruits, who are typically between the ages of 18 and 20, are required to take virginity tests. Human rights advocates have labeled these examinations as unscientific and primitive.
Doctors who perform the tests use the two-finger method. In this procedure, the physician penetrates the vagina with two fingers and inserts another finger inside the anus. Many of those who have participated in these barbaric and torturous examinations were left humiliated or traumatized.
According to Indonesia’s armed forces, the reason for these degrading virginity tests is to make sure that no women “with a bad habit [such as having premarital sex] will become military personnel.” There is an assumption within the country’s military that women who have lost their virginity out of wedlock are not fit to serve as soldiers.
Furthermore, it’s not only the military and national police that use these virginity tests. Other institutions like local governments and the civil service are known to conduct virginity examinations as well.
8 Japan’s Cruel Dolphin-Hunting Tradition
Tradition and modern values often clash. Although tradition would say that something is acceptable, modern values would consider it barbaric or inhuman. Such is the case in Taiji, a small coastal town of 3,500 people in the Japanese prefecture of Wakayama.
Every year, Taiji’s residents engage in a cruel, barbaric hunting tradition. From March to September, its fishermen are allowed by the local government to hunt 2,000 porpoises and dolphins from seven different species.
In 2009, international activists started to raise awareness and campaign against Taiji’s dolphin hunt after the release of the film The Cove, which exposed the cruelty of the tradition. Conservationists assert that the dolphin-hunting tradition really started in the 1960s and that the real motivation behind this cruel practice is money.
The meat of a dead dolphin can fetch between $400 and $500, while live dolphins are typically sold to aquariums for $100,000. However, staunch supporters of the practice claim that “the hunting of dolphins and whales has been a traditional industry and economic lifeline since the 17th century” and that it’s an important aspect of the town’s history and culture.
7 Saudi Arabia’s War Against Witchcraft
Saudi Arabia has a strange, unhealthy obsession with the criminalization of magic. In 2009, the Islamic kingdom created the special Anti-Witchcraft Unit whose function is to investigate suspected witches, disarm spells, neutralize cursed objects, and inform the public about the dangers of the dark arts. Sadly, most of the suspected magical practitioners caught by the Anti-Witchcraft Unit are migrant workers from Africa, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.
Saudi Arabia prohibits the observance of other religions beside Islam. Migrant workers who are seen performing bizarre folk practices or carrying unfamiliar religious objects are typically assumed to be practitioners of witchcraft and sorcery.
In addition, this strange obsession with the dark arts is being abused by Arabian employers. When migrant workers complain about their working conditions, such as not getting paid or living in horrible conditions, employers sometimes resort to counterclaims of witchcraft and sorcery.
Suspected practitioners of magic are often deprived of justice. Most migrant workers can’t afford lawyers and are left with no choice but to represent themselves. Unfortunately, they are usually not fluent in Arabic, and in most cases, translations are either unavailable or unreliable.
What’s worse, “the ability to defend against the charges seems to depend on the caprice of the particular judge assigned to the case.” For example, a judge could prohibit the defendant from questioning the testimonies of the witnesses or forbid his legal representative to enter the court.
6 India’s Temple Of Sex
India’s leaning toward conservatism can be attributed to several factors, such as the influence of the nation’s own Brahmin priestly caste, the British colonizers, and the Muslim dynasties that once ruled the region. However, India’s views on life and sexuality were not as conservative then as they are today.
For hundreds of years, the people of India embraced sex and perceived it in a more liberal way. This acceptance and celebration of human sexuality led to the writing of the world’s first sex treatise, the Kama Sutra, and the creation of “sex temples” whose sexually elaborate motifs would shock India’s conservative society today.
Of all the religious structures in India that depict sexuality, nothing can compare to the temples found in Khajuraho, a small town in Madhya Pradesh. They were built between 950 and 1050 by the Chandela dynasty. Of the 85 original structures, only 22 remain.
In 1986, this religious complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The temples of Khajuraho are the epitome of India’s once extremely liberal view on sexuality.
The carvings on the walls depict activities of a shockingly intense erotic nature. They show men, women, and animals engaging in bestiality, threesomes, and orgies. In addition, some of the sexual positions portrayed are so acrobatic in nature that they are virtually impossible to reenact in real life.
5 Bhutan’s Dark Secret To Happiness
Considered to be one of the happiest places on Earth, Bhutan holds a dark but powerful secret to achieving lasting peace—thinking about death every day. In Bhutanese culture, people are encouraged to contemplate death five times a day.
Interestingly, Bhutan’s deadly secret to happiness is backed by science. In 2007, psychologists Nathan DeWall and Roy Baumeister of the University of Kentucky conducted an experiment that showed that “death is a psychologically threatening fact, but when people contemplate it, apparently the automatic system begins to search for happy thoughts.”
There are two reasons why the citizens of Bhutan do not fear death and even view it as the secret to genuine happiness. First, this tiny kingdom presents several ways that a person could die. Bhutanese people could meet their demise on the country’s “winding, treacherous roads.” They could eat poisonous mushrooms, get mauled by bears, or simply die of exposure.
Second, Bhutanese people believe in the concept of reincarnation. They embrace death simply because they assume that they’ll get another shot at life.
This strong emphasis on happiness has led Bhutan to develop the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. Since the 1970s, this remote kingdom has rejected the notion that Gross Domestic Product is the only measurement of prosperity. Instead, Bhutan uses GNH to evaluate its progress and development.
4 The Philippines’ Davao Death Squad
According to Numbeo.com, a crowdsourcing survey website, Davao City is considered to be fifth safest city in the world. This is quite surprising because the city is located on Mindanao Island, a region in the Philippines teeming with Muslim rebels, Islamic terrorists, and communist insurgents.
Even though its location is relatively dangerous, Davao City has managed to enjoy a high safety index due to the vigilante group that operates within the city’s boundaries.
The Davao Death Squad (DDS) has been accused by the Human Rights Watch of killing more than 1,000 drug dealers, street children, petty criminals, and others. Aside from lawbreakers, the DDS is also known for killing its own members if they might expose the vigilante group’s covert operations.
Human rights advocates have accused Rodrigo Duterte, who served as mayor of Davao City, of being the man behind the DDS. In response to these accusations, Duterte declared that he would kill 100,000 criminals if he became president of the Philippines.
Much to the horror of his critics, Duterte won the recent Philippine presidential election. If he remains true to his word, then Filipinos can expect a Philippine death squad in the coming months.
3 South Korea’s Modern-Day Slave Farms
South Korea is one of Asia’s most affluent countries. But despite the prosperity, sophistication, and development it experiences, this country is plagued with a primitive problem: slavery.
About two-thirds of South Korea’s sea salt is produced on the remote islands of Sinan County. It is in these rural areas that modern-day slavery is rampant. The majority of the workers (most of whom are disabled or homeless) receive scant or no pay despite working at least 18 hours a day. These “slaves” are also physically abused by their “masters.”
Even more alarming and depressing, almost all the residents on these remote islands know of the abuse that the salt workers endure. If the police had investigated the problem thoroughly, then “pretty much everyone on the island[s] should’ve been taken to the police station and charged.”
However, reports say that local police officials are aware of the existence of slavery within their jurisdiction but choose not to stop it. In fact, many have been accused of helping the farm owners to stop the slaves from escaping.
2 Uzbekistan’s Mass Female Sterilization
In an effort to control its growing population, the government of Uzbekistan has been secretly sterilizing its female population. Every year, the government presents a plan with a specific quota for each doctor in this Central Asian nation.
In urban areas, doctors are required to sterilize at least four women per month. However, in rural areas, the situation is more dire and gynecologists are mandated to sterilize eight women per week.
In most countries, sterilization is a choice, and many women choose to undergo it for practical reasons. However, in Uzbekistan, married women are unwilling to undergo sterilization because giving birth to many children is considered a mark of personal success. With few women giving their explicit permission to undergo sterilization, the government resorted to performing the operations without the women’s knowledge and consent.
The government of Uzbekistan has repeatedly denied the existence of forced sterilization programs and has even asserted that its “record [of] protecting mothers and babies is excellent and could be considered a model for countries around the world.”
1 Bangladesh’s Teenage Brothels
Unlike their Western counterparts, Bangladeshi men prefer girls with curves. This preference for a healthy, plump look has led many teenage prostitutes to take Oradexon, a steroid used to fatten cows and treat allergies and inflammation in humans.
Prostitution is rampant in Bangladesh, an impoverished nation in South Asia. For as little as $0.60, male customers can have sex with female prostitutes. This extremely low rate causes the girls to service as many as 15 men a day.
Sadly, most of Bangladesh’s prostitutes are teenage girls who are as young as 12 years old. Even more depressing, the majority of these girls were sold by their own families to human traffickers for as little as $245.
To attract more customers, these young girls are forced by their sardarnis (madams) to take Oradexon. This over-the-counter drug increases the girls’ appetites, making them gain weight quickly and appear to be mature and healthy. (In Bangladesh, the legal age for prostitution is 18 years old.)
Unfortunately, Oradexon is highly addictive and continuous intake can lead to skin rashes, high blood pressure, headaches, and diabetes. Aside from that, this dangerous drug can also weaken the immune system.
Paul Jongko is an experienced freelance writer who spends his time writing interesting stuff and creating piano covers. To hire him for your writing projects, email him at email@example.com.