Prostitution in Thailand
Prostitution in Thailand has been common in modern Thailand and its predecessor states for centuries. During the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1351–1767), prostitution was legal and taxed,:2 and the state ran brothels. Since 1960, prostitution in Thailand has been de jure illegal. Nevertheless, it was estimated to be worth US$6.4 billion a year in revenue (2015), accounting for a significant portion of the national GDP.
The legal framework governing prostitution in Thailand is based upon three acts:
Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution ActEdit
The Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, B.E. 2539 (1996) is the statute most directly prohibiting prostitution. Under the act, the definition of "prostitution" is "Sexual intercourse, or any other act, or the commission of any other act in order to gratify the sexual desire of another person in a promiscuous manner in return for money or any other benefit, irrespective of whether the person who accepts the act and the person who commits the act are of the same sex or not." A clear definition of the phrase "in a promiscuous manner" is not provided.
Under the act, persons who solicit sex "...in an open and shameless manner..." (a phrase that is not clearly defined), or who are "...causing nuisance to the public..." are subject to a fine. Persons associating in a "prostitution establishment" with another person for the purpose of prostitution faces a jail term or a fine or both. The term "prostitution establishment" is not clearly defined, although it may be broadly interpreted to include any place where prostitution takes place, especially in regard to cases involving child prostitution that carry heavier penalties (up to six years if the prostitute is younger than 15 years of age)—otherwise, the law is not usually enforced against prostitution in private places. The act also imposes heavier penalties against owners of prostitution businesses and establishments. The criminal code also stipulates penalties for procuring or using money earned from prostitution.
The Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act was written with a particular focus upon child prostitution and trafficking. Section 8 penalizes customers who engage in sexual intercourse with sex workers under the age of 15 years with a prison term of two to six years and a fine of up to 120,000 baht. For sex workers between the ages of 15 and 18 years, the prison term is one to three years, and the fine is up to 60,000 baht.
In regard to trafficking, Section 9 of the act states that, "Any person who procures, seduces or takes away any person for the prostitution of such person, even with her or his consent and irrespective of whether the various acts which constitute an offence are committed within or outside the Kingdom, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of one to ten years and to a fine of twenty thousand to two hundred thousand Baht."
Additionally, any offense under Section 9 that is committed "by means of fraud, deceit, threat, violence, [or] the exercise of undue influence or coercion," results in a penalty that is "one-third heavier".
Penal Code Amendment ActEdit
The Penal Code Amendment Act (No. 14), B.E. 2540 (1997) does not explicitly state that prostitution in Thailand is illegal, but Title IX, Section 286 of the Penal Code states: “Any person, being over sixteen years of age, [sic] subsists on the earning of a prostitute, even if it is some part of her incomes [sic], shall be punished with imprisonment of seven to twenty years and fined of fourteen thousand to forty thousand Baht, or imprisonment for life.” While penalties are not specified, the same section of the act penalizes any person who (i) is found residing or habitually associating with a prostitute, (ii) receives boarding, money or other benefits arranged for by a prostitute or (iii) assists any prostitute in a quarrel with a customer.
The Act was also written to address child prostitution, but lacks complete clarity, as it does not define what an "indecent act" is. Title IX, Section 279 of the Penal Code states: "Whoever, commits an indecent act on a child not yet over fifteen years of age, whether such child shall consent or not, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding ten years or fined not exceeding twenty thousand Baht, or both."
Entertainment Places ActEdit
The Entertainment Places Act of 1966 places the onus upon the owner of certain types of entertainment establishments if prostitution occurs on the premises, thereby making them criminally liable. According to the act, sex workers must also undergo rehabilitation for one year at a reform house upon the completion of punishment for practicing prostitution.
Related activities such as brothel keeping, solicitation and profiting from the prostitution of others are illegal. Public nuisance laws are also used against prostitution.. In practice it is tolerated, sometimes because local officials have financial interests in local prostitution. Prostitution operates clandestinely in many parts of the country.
Extent of prostitutionEdit
The precise number of prostitutes is difficult to assess. Estimates vary widely and are subject to national and international controversy. Since the Vietnam War, Thailand has gained an international reputation among travellers from many countries as a sex tourism destination.
Estimates of the number of prostitutes in Thailand vary widely. No Thai government has ever conducted a formal survey. Estimates are subject to controversy. A 2004 estimate by Dr. Nitet Tinnakul of Chulalongkorn University gave a total of 2.8 million sex workers, including two million women, 20,000 adult males, and 800,000 minors under the age of 18, but the figures for women and minors were considered to be grossly inflated by most observers, and to have resulted from poor research methods. According to a 2001 report by the World Health Organisation: "The most reliable suggestion is that there are between 150,000 and 200,000 sex workers." In its annual human rights report for 2008, the US State Department noted that, "A government survey during the year found that there were 76,000 to 77,000 adult prostitutes in registered entertainment establishments. However, NGOs believed there were between 200,000 and 300,000 prostitutes." The state department's 2013 Human Rights Report for Thailand made no estimates of the extent of prostitution, but in 2015 Havocscope, a database providing information about the global black market, gave an approximate figure of about 250,000 for the number of prostitutes working in Thailand. UNAIDS in 2015 estimated the total population of sex workers in Thailand to be 147,000.
It has been suggested for example that there may be as many as 10,000 prostitutes on Ko Samui alone, an island resort destination not usually noted for prostitution, and that at least 10 percent of tourist dollars may be spent on the sex trade. An estimate published in 2003 placed the trade at US$4.3 billion per year, or about three percent of the Thai economy. In 2015 Havocscope said that about US$6.4 billion dollars in annual revenue was being generated by the trade, a figure which accounted for 10 percent of Thailand's GDP. Havocscope claims that sex workers in Thailand send an annual average of US$300 million to family members who reside in more rural areas of Thailand.
In 1996, the police in Bangkok estimated that there were at least 5,000 Russian prostitutes working in Thailand, many of whom had arrived through networks controlled by Russian gangs.
In July 2016 it was reported that the Thai government intended to abolish the sex industry. Ms Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the tourism minister, said "Tourists don't come to Thailand for [sex]. They come here for our beautiful culture" and that "We want Thailand to be about quality tourism. We want the sex industry gone". Kobkarn was replaced as tourism minister in November 2017.
Location of prostitutionEdit
The primary tourist "prostitution zones" of Thailand are often identified as the red-light districts of Bangkok and Pattaya as well as Patong Beach Resort on Phuket Island. In addition Hat Yai and other Malaysian border cities cater to Malaysians. In Bangkok the areas most commonly associated with prostitution include the entertainment district of Patpong as well as locations in the western Sukhumvit Road area such as the street called Soi Cowboy and the Nana Plaza building. The so-called Ratchadaphisek entertainment district, running along Ratchadaphisek Road near the Huai Khwang intersection features several large entertainment venues which include sexual massage. Lumphini Park in central Bangkok is well-known as a prostitution spot after dark. In Pattaya the primary areas associated with prostitution are Boyztown, Sunee Plaza and Walking Street.
Rather than face of the risks of working independently, many sex workers trade their freedom for the relative safety that comes with fixed employment in businesses such as "karaoke" bars, "massage" parlours, or brothels. Prostitution may take place in a number of different types of venues, including brothels, hotels, massage parlours, restaurants, saunas, hostess bars, go-go bars and "beer bars". Many other service sector workers offer sexual services as a sideline. Thai prostitution is divided into different sectors that serve different markets (the main criteria being the socioeconomic status of customers and the nationality of both customers and prostitutes). Straightforward brothels, which offer no services aside from sex, represent the lower end of the market. These are most common outside Bangkok, serving low-income Thai men.
Prostitution is prohibited under Thai law, but karaoke bars and massage parlours can be registered as normal, legal businesses. When arrests of sex workers occur at such premises, police usually treat the act of prostitution as an exchange between the sex worker and the client—an exchange to which the owner of the business was not a party. Cases of clients being charged are few and far between, giving rise to the popular quip that, "employing sex workers is legal, being a sex worker is illegal, clients get off scot-free." Owners of such establishments are only accused of crimes when breaking other laws, such as the employment of underage workers or illegal migrants.
Soapy massage establishments (Thai: สถานอาบอบนวด; RTGS: sathan ap op nuat, "bathing and massage places"), akin to Japanese soaplands, typically provide either an oil massage, nude body massage, or a bath treatment which includes sexual services. In this type of establishment, male clients can engage in sexual activity with female prostitutes. Prostitution establishments targeted at locals are usually "bathing-sauna-massage" parlours of this type. There are so many soapy massage businesses in some sections of Bangkok, using massive quantities of water pumped illegally from groundwater, that they have been accused by authorities of contributing to Bangkok's subsidence of one centimeter per year.
One observer says that, "So-called 'karaoke bars' commonly feature karaoke machines as décor, even though few or no customers visit such venues to sing, but rather to buy sex service."
Although Thailand is known for Thai massage, its non-sexual, traditional style of massage, known as nuat phaen boran, some massage parlours provide customers erotic massage at additional cost including handjobs, oral sex, and sexual intercourse. The Federation of Thai Spa Associations (FTSPA) in 2016 urged authorities to clamp down on sexual services being offered at some massage parlours. The FTSPA maintains that influential figures have used legal loopholes to open "pretty spas" or massage parlours where tourists can buy sexual services. The difference between this type of massage and ab ob nuat is that not all massage parlours offer sexual services.
Bars catering to foreignersEdit
Women ("bar girls"), or men, in the case of gay bars, or transsexual ("kathoeys") are employed by the bars either as dancers (in the case of go-go bars) or simply as hostesses who will encourage customers to buy them drinks. Apart from these sorts of bars, there are a number of other sex trade venues. In most of these establishments the prostitutes are directly employed, but in hotels, some bars and discos freelance prostitutes are allowed to solicit clients. Prostitutes will usually receive a commission when a customer buys drinks and sexual services can be arranged to take place on premises or elsewhere (with the latter requiring the customer to pay a "bar fine" to release the prostitute from the bar).
The documented history of prostitution in Thailand goes back at least six centuries, with overt and explicit references by the Chinese voyager Ma Huan (1433) and subsequently by European visitors (Van Neck, 1604; Gisbert Heeck, 1655 and others). It is certainly not a new phenomenon, though it may have been exacerbated by the Japanese occupation during World War II and by the extensive use of Thailand as a "Rest and Recreation" facility by US forces during the Second Indochina War (c. 1963–1973).
When Rama V abolished slavery in 1905, women found themselves left without anything, so they sold their bodies for survival. Around that time millions of Chinese men came to do construction work, demanding for sex. In 1908, the king passed laws to legalize prostitution and help sex workers get medical care.
Thailand has an ancient, continuous tradition of legal texts, generally described under the heading of Dhammasattha literature (Thai pron., tam-ma-sat), wherein prostitution is variously defined and universally banned. The era of traditional legal texts came to an end in the early 20th century, but these earlier texts were significant in regard to both the writ and spirit of modern legislation.
In the twentieth century a variety of laws relating to the sex industry were passed, including the Contagious Diseases Prevention Act of 1908 and the Entertainment Places Act of 1966. In the 1950s the Thai prime minister Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat initiated a morality campaign which included the aim of criminalising prostitution through the imposition of fines and imprisonment. A system of medical examinations and "moral rehabilitation" was introduced and the focus of public blame was moved from traffickers and procurers to the prostitutes themselves. Prostitution itself was made illegal in Thailand in 1960, when a law was passed under pressure from the United Nations. The government instituted a system of monitoring sex workers in order to prevent their mistreatment and to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The 1960 law was repealed by the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, B.E. 2539 (1996).
In 2003, the Ministry of Justice considered legalising prostitution as an official occupation with health benefits and taxable income and held a public discussion on the topic. Legalisation and regulation was proposed as a means to increase tax revenue, reduce corruption, and improve the situation of the workers. However, nothing further was done.
In 2008, 532,522 Thais were suffering from HIV/AIDS. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Thailand, and especially among sex workers, has been the subject of significant media and academic attention, and Thailand hosted the XV International AIDS Conference, 2004.
Mechai Viravaidya, known as "Mr. Condom", has campaigned tirelessly to increase the awareness of safe sex practices and use of condoms in Thailand. He served as minister for tourism and AIDS prevention from 1991 to 1992, and also founded the restaurant chain Cabbages and Condoms, which gives free condoms to customers.
After the enactment of the Thai government's first five-year plan to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country, including Mechai's "100% condom programme", as of 1994 the use of condoms during commercial sex probably increased markedly. No current data on the use of condoms is available. The programme instructed sex workers to refuse intercourse without a condom, and monitored health clinic statistics in order to locate brothels that allow sex without condoms.
A study done by AIDS Care investigated substance use of HIV risk behaviors among kathoey sex workers in Bangkok, Thailand. Only half of participants stated that they were tested for HIV and one had seen a health care provider in the past 12 months. It found that katheoys who experienced abuse from a father or brother were less likely to use condoms during anal sex with customers. Katheoy sex work tends to be in large cities and tourist areas including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket City, and Pattaya. Many kathoeys work part-time as freelance prostitutes and keep a day-time job. Kathoeys are usually a cheaper alternative to female prostitutes and considered as less likely to be a disease risk. Pressure from often specialized "ladyboy" bars puts kathoeys at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases given that many customers are unwilling to use condoms.
Reasons for the prevalence and toleration of prostitutionEdit
Thai society has its own unique set of often contradictory sexual mores. Visiting a prostitute or a paid mistress is not an uncommon, though not necessarily acceptable, behaviour for men. Many Thai women, for example, believe the existence of prostitution actively reduces the incidence of rape. Among many Thai people, there is a general attitude that prostitution has always been, and will always be, a part of the social fabric of Thailand. On the other hand, "...the idea of legalizing sex work is unacceptable to many thin-faced Thais who judge the profession to be a foundation of vices. It doesn't matter how many sex workers are left out of the formal economic sector and become more prone to extortion, exploitation and abuse – many Thais simply will not tolerate sex work as legal."
According to a 1996 study, the sexual urge of men is perceived by both Thai men and women as being very much stronger than the sexual urge of women. Where women are thought to be able to exercise control over their desires, the sexual urge of men is seen to be "a basic physiological need or instinct". It is also thought by both Thai men and women that men need "an occasional variation in partners". As female infidelity is strongly frowned upon in Thai society, and, according to a 1993 survey, sexual relationships for single women also meets disapproval by a majority of the Thai population, premarital sex, casual sex and extramarital sex with prostitutes is accepted, expected and sometimes even encouraged for Thai men, the latter being perceived as less threatening to a marriage over lasting relationships with a so-called "minor wife".
Another reason contributing to this issue is that ordinary Thais deem themselves tolerant of other people, especially those whom they perceive as downtrodden. This acceptance has allowed prostitution to flourish without much of the extreme social stigma found in other countries. According to a 1996 study, people in Thailand generally disapprove of prostitution, but the stigma for prostitutes is not lasting or severe, especially since many prostitutes support their parents through their work. Some men do not mind marrying former prostitutes. A 2009 study of subjective well-being of prostitutes found that among the sex workers surveyed, sex work had become normalized.
Politicians and prostitutionEdit
Chuwit Kamolvisit was the owner of several massage parlours in Bangkok and considered by many a "godfather of prostitution" in Thailand. In 2005 he was elected for a four-year term to the Thai House of Representatives, but in 2006 the Constitutional Court removed him from office. In October 2008 he again ran for governor of Bangkok but was not elected. He revealed in 2003 that some of his best clients were senior politicians and police officers, whom he also claimed to have paid, over a decade, more than £1.5 million in bribes so that his business, selling sex, could thrive.
Although Thailand's sex trade aimed at foreigners can be considered overt, the industry that caters exclusively to Thai men had never before been publicly scrutinised, let alone the sexual exploits of Thailand's unchallengeable officials.
Support of prostitution is pervasive in political circles, as BBC News reported in 2003. "MPs from Thailand's ruling Thai Rak Thai Party are getting hot under the collar over plans by the party leadership to ban them from having mistresses or visiting brothels...." One MP told The Nation newspaper that if the rules were enforced, the party would only be able to field around 30 candidates, compared to its more than 200 sitting MPs."
Attitudes towards women were exemplified by MP Thirachai Sirikhan, quoted in The Nation, "To have a mia noi [mistress] is an individual's right. There should be no problem as long as the politician causes no trouble to his family or society".
After a police raid on some Bangkok parlours where policemen had sex with prostitutes, "Acting Suthisan Police chief Colonel Varanvas Karunyathat defended the police action, saying that the (police) officers involved needed to have sex with the masseuses to gain evidence for the arrest." Apparently, this is standard practice as a separate police force did the same in Pattaya in May 2007.
Interview with a Thai human rights activistEdit
Kritaya Archavanitkul, a Thai human rights activist, interviewed by UC Berkeley Institute of International Studies, said,
This is sad to say, that the Thai social structure tends to accept this sort of abuse, and not only to accept – we have laws, we have bills that vitally support the existence of these sex establishments. That's one thing. And also, we have a Mafia that is also involved in the political parties, so this keeps the abuse going. The second reason is a cultural factor. I don't know about other countries, but in Thailand the sexual behaviour of Thai men accepts prostitution. Every class of Thai men accept it, although not all Thai men practise it. So they don't see it as a problem. So when it comes to the policymakers, who are mostly men, of course, they don't see this as a problem. They know there are many women who are brought into prostitution in Thailand. They know that some are treated with brutal violence. But they don't think it's a terrible picture. They think it's just the unlucky cases. And, because of the profit, I think there are many people with an interest involved, so they try to turn a blind eye to this problem.
According to a Library of Congress study published in 2003, "The red-light districts of Thai cities are home to...brothels, casinos, and entertainment facilities that function both as sources of income and as operations centers for trafficking in humans....":44 It has been estimated that organised crime groups have brought over a million women into Thailand from China, Laos, and Vietnam. The 14K Triad organisation dominates the trafficking of women from China to Bangkok for prostitution.
In the book Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, Kevin Bales argues that in Thai Buddhism, women are viewed as naturally inferior to men, and that Buddha told his disciples that women were "impure, carnal, and corrupting." This is also supported by the belief that women cannot attain enlightenment, although this view is disputed by other Buddhist scriptures such as the Vinaya Pitaka in the Pali Canon. The current Dalai Lama has repeatedly asserted that women can attain enlightenment and function as equals to men in spiritual matters, but his branch of Buddhism is not the one practised in Thailand, which has its own particular agglomeration of beliefs. Bales also points to the fact that ten kinds of wives are outlined in the Vinaya, or rules for monks. Within these rules, the first three are actually women who can be paid for their services. In present day Thailand, this is expressed as a tolerance by wives for prostitution. Sex with prostitutes is viewed by wives as empty sex, and thus women may allow their husbands to have meaningless sex with prostitutes rather than find a new spouse.
Buddhism also prescribes "acceptance and resignation in the face of life's pain and suffering", in accordance with belief in karma and the expiation of sins from previous lives. Women may choose to believe that suffering as prostitutes is the result of their karma.
Exploitation by police and officialdomEdit
Prostitution's tenuous position in Thai society makes it ripe for exploitation by police and governmental officials. Sex businesses pay considerable sums to authorities in order to be permitted to continue in business. Sex work has become in effect a cash cow for those in a position to extract bribes. Those in a position to benefit have a financial interest in seeing the status quo continue. Business owners and individual sex workers complain that since the junta came to power in 2014, harassment has increased, as have the sums demanded. This has the effect of driving businesses out of business and sex workers to the street or internet as freelancers.
Prostitution and crime in ThailandEdit
The exact number of child-prostitutes in Thailand is not known. According to the US-based research institute “Protection Project”, estimates of the number of children involved in prostitution living in Thailand ranges from 12,000 to the hundreds of thousands (ECPAT International). The government, university researchers, and NGOs estimated that there are as many as 30,000 to 40,000 prostitutes under 18 years of age, not including foreign migrants (US Department of State, 2005b). Thailand’s Health System Research Institute estimates that children in prostitution make up 40% of prostitutes in Thailand.
The reasons why and how children are commercially sexually exploited by include:
- Poverty: a high proportion of the population lives in poverty.
- Ethnic hill tribe children: these children live in the border region of northern Thailand. They suffer from disproportionate levels of poverty in relation to the general population and most of them lack citizenship cards. This means that they do not have access to health care or primary school, which limits their further education or employment opportunities.
- Trafficked children: Many children are trafficked into or within the country through criminal networks, acquaintances, former trafficking victims and border police and immigration officials who transport them to brothels across Thailand.
- Sense of duty: According to traditional customs, the first duty of a girl is to support her family in any way she can. Due to this sense of duty and to pay off family debts, many girls have been forced into prostitution.
Children are exploited in sex establishments and are also approached directly in the street by paedophiles seeking sexual contact. Child sex tourism is a serious problem in the country. Thailand, along with Cambodia, India, Brazil and Mexico, has been identified as a leading hotspot of child sexual exploitation. Paedophiles, in particular, exploit the lax laws of the country and attempt to find cover to avoid prosecution.
A 2004 report from the US Department of State indicates that human trafficking—for sexual exploitation and forced labour—originates in Thailand, as well as being a destination, and is also used for transit. There are also reports of bribe-taking by some low- or mid-level police officers that facilitates the most severe forms of trafficking in persons. A human trafficking gang was intercepted in the southern city of Pattaya in October 2014.
Women of Thai and other nationalities have been lured to Japan and sold to Yakuza-controlled brothels, where they are forced to work off a financial debt. It is easy to lure these women from neighboring countries because Thailand has 56 unofficial crossover points and 300 checkpoints, where people can cross the border without paperwork. In a landmark case in 2006, one such woman, Urairat Soimee, filed a civil suit in Thailand against the Thai perpetrators, who had previously been convicted in a criminal court. The woman had managed to escape from the Yakuza-controlled prostitution ring by killing the female Thai mama-san and spent five years in a Japanese prison.
The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Thailand as a 'Tier 2' country.
Sex worker perspectivesEdit
Were it not for financial pressures, there is evidence that most sex workers would not choose the work. In Sweden and the Netherlands, where prostitution is "...legal, protected, lucrative and safe,..." it is not a popular profession. Greece provides a recent example of the correlation between prostitution and economic destitution: researchers there estimate that the number of people selling sexual services in Greece has soared by 150 percent since the Greek market collapse in 2008. Many sex workers in those countries are imported from south and Southeast Asia. One Thai university student doing sex work to support herself lamented to an interviewer that "my life doesn't give me choices". The president of Thailand's Foundation for Women notes that, "These women may well have the capacity to separate their sex work from their self-identity." In the words of one of the sex workers she interviewed, "Once I met my customer on a street, he tried to approach me. But I ignored him. What right does he have? Outside a brothel, I am a normal woman."
Some "sex workers" claim that actual sex is a minor part of their occupation. An independent sex worker in Chiang Mai says, "...most of her job is having drinks with customers, only involving sex two or three times a month. Akin to a 'professional girlfriend', ...sex workers provide...company to middle class or foreign men. In return, clients will buy her clothing, take her to watch movies...."
Support organisations for sex workersEdit
Numerous support organisations for sex workers exist in Thailand.
EMPOWER is a Thai NGO that offers health, educational and counseling services to female sex workers. The organisation seeks to empower sex workers and has been operating since 1985, with offices in Patpong (Bangkok), Chiang Mai, Mae Sai and Patong Beach (Phuket).
SWING (Service Workers in Group) is an offshoot of EMPOWER, offering support to male and female sex workers in Patpong and Pattaya. It offers English classes, teaches safe sex education, distributes condoms, and promotes health and safety with an in-house gym and discounted medical examinations. The newly formed organisation SISTERS works with transgender sex workers in Bangkok and Pattaya.
The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) is a regional organization, headquartered in Thailand, of sex worker led organizations. It exists to promote and protect the health and human rights of sex workers in Asia. It supports the full decriminalization of sex work and the recognition of sex work as work.
The Population and Community Development Association (PDA), headed by Mechai Viravaidya, pioneered family planning and safe sex strategies in Thailand over thirty years ago. The organisation no longer focuses expressly on safe sex issues, but continues to provide information, condoms, and prevention programmes throughout the country.
The Fr. Ray Foundation in Pattaya provides care and housing for vulnerable children at the Children's Home, and the Drop-In Centre for Street Kids for homeless children. Exploited women and their children are provided with education and care at the Fountain of Life facility.
SHE Foundation (Self Help & Empowerment) is a Christian charity organisation that works with women and children involved in the commercial sex trade in Phuket. SHE offers a prevention programme that provides women with free hotel training, free housing and paid employment making jewellery within the SHE Center.
The Well, a US-based Christian service that is part of the Servantworks organisation, has been working with sex workers and at-risk people in Thailand since 2004. The Well provides alternative employment, educational opportunities and social services to assist women and families.
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Prostitution in Thailand has been illegal since 1960 when The Prostitution Suppression Act B.E. 2503 (1960) (the “1960 Prostitution Act”) was passed under pressure from the United Nations.
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- Cleo Odzer received her PhD in anthropology with a thesis about prostitution in Thailand; her experiences during her three years of field research resulted in the 1994 book Patpong Sisters: An American Woman's View of the Bangkok Sex World (ISBN 1-55970-281-8). In the book she describes the Thai prostitutes she got to know as quick-witted entrepreneurs rather than exploited victims.
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- For an informative caricature of the contemporary sexual norms and mores of Thailand (and its Sex Industry) versus the West see the novels of John Burdett including Bangkok 8 for the comparative anthropology of his half Thai-Western (son of a 'Bar-Girl') protagonist detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep.
- Dennis Jon's 2005 documentary travelogue The Butterfly Trap provides a realistic and non-judgmental first person viewpoint of sex tourism in Thailand.
- Jordan Clark's 2005 documentary Falang: Behind Bangkok's Smile takes a rather critical view of sex tourism in Thailand.
- David A. Feingold's 2003 documentary Trading Women explores the phenomenon of women from the surrounding countries being trafficked into Thailand.
- For a discussion reflecting on the history of prostitution, see Scott Bamber, Kevin Hewison and Peter Underwood (1997) “Dangerous Liaisons: A History of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Thailand,” in M. Lewis, S. Bamber & M. Waugh (eds), Sex, Disease and Society: A Comparative History of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ISBN 978-0313294426), Westport: Greenwood Press, Contributions in Medical Studies No. 43, pp. 37–65.
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