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Rangsimon Pholcharoenchit

Jordan Ruyle
Philosophy 3
Report Version 1
10 October 2016

Prostitution: A Report on Gender Inequality in Thailand

The recent State Departments 2014 Trafficking in Persons report has
downgraded Thailand to the lowest possible ranking, Tier 3placing
Thailand, along with North Korea, Syria and the Central African Republic
in term of human rights issues (Brown 2014). This, a blow to Thai
governments ego, is a reflection of its inability to stop human trafficking.
Although the scope of human trafficking encompasses many issues, this
report will only focus on a specific issueprevalence of prostitution in
Thailand. The most recent estimate of number if prostitutes in Thailand is
250,000 (Baccagno 2015). Of that figure, most of the sex workers are
women from the rural parts of Thailand. It is estimated that at least one of
every 100 working women is a sex worker. (Simpkins 1998) Because
prostitution is arguably a form of violence against women (Farley 2004), its
prevalence is shockingly reflects Thai societys tolerance towards this form
of violence. In her artical, The Privileged Lie of Gender Equality in
Thailand, Chia argues that such tolerance is propagated by the following:
Thailands history of sexual objectification of women; social acceptance of
prostitution as a necessary evil; economic pressures on women of lower
socioeconomic status; and lack of effective legal framework (2016).
History of Objectifications: The bars are temples but the pearls
ain't free

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Although sex industry in Thailand is not a recent development,

western influence in the recent years have contributed to the form it has
taken today. Thailand has infamously known for prostitution since the end of
World War II. The states has fashioned itself as a Rest and Recreation
facility for foreign soldiers during the Japanese occupation and later during
the Second Indochina War (Latstetter 2000). By the end of the wars, not
unlike other developing countries, Thailand has began to commercializes its
sex industry (Simpkins 1997). Today, sex tourism in Thailand accounts for
approximately 6.4 billions US dollars annually, a striking 10 percent of the
nations entire GDP. Off that figure, 300 million US dollars are being sent
into rural areas to support the family of sex workers (Boccogno 2015). One
study on tourists spending at Koh Samauia tourist destination not
particularly known for sex tourismfound that 10 percent of tourists
spending is on sex (Martin 2006).
Social Acceptance: Prostitutes play a crucial role in conserving Thai
Thais opposing views of premarital sexual experience of men and
women necessitates the social functioning of prostitution. Studies of urban,
middle class population at the turn of the century finds that 30.2 percent of
married men has previous sexual experience, while the same of married
women is a meager 0.03 percent (Francouer 1997). Such inconsistency
between men and women is only possible if those premarital sexual
experience of men are to be attained through the service of sex workers.

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This notion is reflected by the finding from research on Thai Royal Army. It
is found that of the 97 percent of 21 year old samples that have had sexual
intercourse, 74 percent reports having their first sexual experience with a
female sex worker. In contrast, only 12 percent have had it with a lover,
and only a mere 8 percent with their girlfriend (Francouer 1997). Thus,
prostitutions in Thai society functions not only as a necessary evil needed to
preserv[e] the virtue of good women, but also as a sex educat[or],
providing a coming out of age men with sexual experience that is expected
of them (Francouer 1997).
Economic Pressure: Sex pays
Thailands wealth disparity has pushes women from rural areas into
sex industry. Simpkins argue that prostitution is the only mean a woman of
lower socioeconomic status can make significant earnings. In one estimate,
female sex worker can earn a relatively monument earning of 300 US
dollars per month, in contrast to 8 US dollar per month of an average
worker; the difference is a striking 20-40 folds (1998). Sex pays; and as Thai
society moves from agricultural economy to an industrial one, women are
being moved from their rural areas into the urban, where their newfound
role of a breadwinner for their parents forces them into this lucrative
business. In fact, a shocking estimate done in the 90s has found that more
than 1.2 million people are (almost 20 percent of the nations population)
are financially dependent on avenues earned through prostitution (Simpkins
1998). Yet, the urban middle class women, who are not subjected to the

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same economic pressure, fail[s] to empathize with sex workers,

disregarding them as immoral. Ultimately, as Chia argues, Thailands
gender problem is intimately connected to class (2016).
Ambiguous Legal Framework: Not to womens benefit
Thailands ambiguous law prohibiting prostitution does little to
protect women against this form of sexual violence. Rather, Thai
government seems to be preoccupied with upholding the Thai conservative
valuesabhorring female sex workers as immoral and absolving male client
of their guiltswhile attempting to profit from the sex industry (Chia 2016).
Interestingly, prostitution is not illegal per se; Thailands Penal Code, Title
IX, Section 286, only prohibits any person from subsist[ing] on the earning
of a prostitute, even if it is some part of her incomes (aHennessy 2012).
Moreover, under the Prostitution Act

Simpkins concludes that sex industry [i]s not imposed on Thailand

against its will (1998).
As illustrated, the aforementioned factors has emplaced propagated
prostitution in Thailand. The issue of prostitution, a form of violence against
women, must be addressed holistically from different perspectives. This is
not simply to bump Thailand up from the Tier 3 category, but to resolve a
deep rooted issue within Thai society in the context of a global goal to
achieve universal human rights.

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Julia Boccagno (11 November 2015). "Thailand's trans sex workers seek
empowerment, not pity". Asia Correspondent. Retrieved from
Jasmine Chia (30 March 2016). The Privileged Lie of Gender Equality in
Thailand Harvard International Review. Retrieved from
Latstetter, Jennifer (2000). "American Military-Base Prostitution". The
Monitor: Journal of International Studies. College of William and Mary, 6.
Retrieved from https://web.wm.edu/so/monitor/issues/06-2/6-latstetter.htm .
Dulcey Simpkins (1998) Rethinking the Sex Industry: Thailand's Sex
Workers, the State, and Changing Cultures of Consumption. Issue title:
Unequal Exchange: Gender and Economies of Power, 12. Retrieved from
http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.ark5583.0012.005 .

Lorna Martin (25 Jan 2006). "Paradise Revealed. The Taipei Times.

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aHennessy; kilikina (27 Jun 2012). "Current Legal Framework: Prostitution

in Thailand". IMPOWR.org. ABA. Retrieved from

Melissa Farley (1 October 2004). Prostitution Is Sexual Violence.

Psychiactric Times. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/sexualoffenses/prostitution-sexual-violence.
Sophie Brown (21 June 2014). Tackling Thailand's human trafficking
problem. CNN. Retrieved from
http://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/20/world/asia/thailand-trafficking-report/ .

Francoeur, Robert T., ed. (1997). The International Encyclopedia of

Sexuality: Thailand. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company.
Retrieved from http://www.sexarchive.info/IES/thailand.html.