Prostitution is traditionally thought to be a woman’s business. With the changing times, the trade has evolved to include other men and even minors. Sadly, Thailand’s sex workers are not limited to grown men and women but they also involve children. Despite the enactment of an anti-children prostitute law, minors are still engaged in this trade. Sownia Nair’s essay written for the U. S. Department of Justice in 2007 and the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington will be cited to provide perspective on the issue.
Like other studies, this paper found a correlation between poverty and prostitution. But in addition, this paper will also probe if sex workers are willing participants or they’re doing the trade for other reasons. In this regard, Justin Hall’s Prostitution in Thailand and South East Asia will be cited to relate women experiences in the trade. A study conducted by Cholthira Satyawadhna will also be referenced in explaining gender-based labor division in Thailand and its relation to prostitution.
Health concerns will always be involved when commercial sex is the issue. Thai sex workers are among the world’s high-risk groups to contact the deadly HIV/AIDS virus. In the late 1980s, an AIDS epidemic spread throughout Thailand as sex workers and drug dependents who were infected spread the disease to their customers, wives, husbands, partners and children. As a result, the government launched a massive campaign to control the situation. A report from the international organisation AVERT and other groups are used to trace how AIDS spread in
Thailand and what control measures where implemented by the government to stop the disease. Sex Tourism 6 Sex Tourism in Thailand Prostitution: History & Current Situation Chinese voyager Ma Huan alluded in 1433 about a certain practice by some Thai people that could be likened to prostitution. In 1604, Dutch visitors to the country have certainly mentioned in their records that there are whores in Siam (Thailand’s old name). There are no records, however, that points to how this trade exactly started. The point is, prostitution has long been practiced in the country.
Anthony Reid, a distinguished Australian scholar of Southeast Asian history, has cited that what appears to be the beginning of brothels in the country was in the 1680s when a Thai official was given a monopoly to run a prostitution den using hundreds of slave women as sex workers. During those times, majority of the customers were locals and some were Chinese. In the twentieth century, Western involvement in Thailand’s sex trade began when American soldiers came to the country during their rest and relaxation period from the Vietnam War to find solace and entertainment, which they generally found on cabarets with English names.
These clubs have thousands of hostesses that the soldiers can have in exchange for a sum of money. As for the Japanese people, it was the soldiers in the Second World War that first came in contact with the Thai sex workers. In fact, it was the Japanese conquerors who forced women from captive lands to engage in sex. To understand why Thai prostitution is targeted on Westerners and Japanese people, Davidson and Taylor (1996) explained that when you get to the bottom of it, it’s the cost that Sex Tourism 7 matters.
Comparing the cost of hiring a Thai prostitute to that of a sex worker, say for example in Britain, the former can be rented for a day for a fraction of what British prostitutes demand. Although prostitution has been technically illegal in the country since 1960 through the enactment of the Prostitution Suppression Act of 1960 that punishes those who engage in the trade for US$50 and two months imprisonment, the creation of a newer law paved a way for the trade to flourish under different alternative fronts. The passing of the Entertainment Places Act of 1966 made it possible for prostitution to be conducted under legal means.
Commercial sex dens can reinvent themselves into massage parlours, teahouses and karaoke bars where special services can be offered. Special services are not defined under the law, thus, it can be of any form. Another law came into effect in 1996, the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act that says those who are under eighteen can’t engage in prostitution, meaning, older than that age can. In 2003, the Ministry of Justice held a public forum for the possible legalisation of the trade to increase government revenue and at the same time, protect sex workers better. To date, this proposal has not moved forward.