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Rangsimon Pholcharoenchit

Jordan Ruyle
College Writing 109C
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 alongside North Korea, Syria and the Central African Republic in
regard to human rights records (Brown, 2014). This blow to the Thai
governments ego is only equivalent in magnitude to the pervasiveness of
human right issues in Thailand. This report focuses on the issue of
prostitution. The most recent finding estimates that nearly 1 in every 100
Thai women are working as prostitutes (Baccagno, 2015). Because
prostitution is arguably a form of violence against women (Farley 2004), its
prevalence is a shocking reflection of Thai societys tolerance towards this
form of violence. In her article, The Privileged Lie of Gender Equality in
Thailand, Chia argues that such tolerance is the result of Thailands history
of sexual objectification; the pervading social acceptance of prostitution as a
necessary evil; economic pressures on women of lower socioeconomic
status; and the lack of effective legal framework (2016).
History of Objectification: The bars are temples but the pearls ain't
free
The sex-trade industry in Thailand is not a recent development.
During the Japanese occupation, and later during the Second Indochina
War, Thailand aptly fashioned itself as a Rest and Recreation facility for

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foreign soldiers (Latstetter, 2000). Then, by the end of the wars, not unlike
other developing countries, Thailand has commercialized its sex industry
(Simpkins, 1997). Today, sex tourism in Thailand accounts for approximately
6.4 billions US dollars annually, a whopping 10 percents of the nations
entire GDP (Boccogno, 2015). A study on tourists spendings at Koh Samaui
a destination not particularly known for sex tourismfinds that a
surprising 10 percents of tourists spending is on sex (Martin, 2006).
Social Acceptance: A necessary evil
Within Thai society, prostitutes mediates the role of satisfying Thai
mens requirement of premarital sexual experience and protecting the
virtuous women from such. Studies on the urban, middle class population
finds that 30.2 percents of married men has had previous sexual
experiences, while the same is only true for a meager 0.03 percents of
married women (Francouer, 1997). Such inconsistency between men and
women is only possible if those premarital sexual experiences of men are to
be attained through the service of sex workers. This notion is reflected by
the finding from research on the Thai Royal Army. It is found that of the 97
percents of 21 years old men that have had sex, 74 percents reports having
had their first sexual experience with a female sex worker (Francouer,
1997). Thus, prostitution 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 coming of age men with the sexual experience that is
expected of them (Francouer, 1997).

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Economic Pressure: Sex pays


Thailands wealth disparity pushes women from rural areas into sex
industry. Simpkins argues that prostitution is the only mean by which a
woman of lower socioeconomic status can make any significant earnings. In
one estimate, a female sex worker is said to earn a relatively monumental
earning of 300 US dollars per month, in contrast to 8 US dollars per month
of an average worker; the difference is a striking 20-fold to 40-fold increase
(1998). Sex pays. As the economy burdens women with their newfound role
of a breadwinner, they have no choice but to partake in this lucrative
business. In fact, almost 20 percents 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
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, the Thai
government seems to be preoccupied with upholding the Thai conservative
valuesabhorring female sex workers as immoral and absolving male
clients of their guiltwhile 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

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earning of a prostitute, even if it is some part of her income (aHennessy,


2012).

Because these factors has worked together to emplace and propagate


violence against women in the form of prostitution, Thailands prostitution
issue must be addressed holistically. This, is not simply to bump Thailand up
from the Tier 3 category, but to resolve the deep rooted issue within Thai
society in the context of the global goal to achieve universal human rights.

References

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aHennessy, & kilikina. (2012, June 27). Current Legal Framework:


Prostitution in Thailand. IMPOWR.org. Retrieved from
http://www.impowr.org/content/current-legal-framework-prostitutionthailand.
Boccagno , J. (2015, November 11). Thailand's trans sex workers seek
empowerment, not pity. Asia Correspondent. Retrieved from
http://asiancorrespondent.com/2015/11/thailands-transsexual-workersseek-empowerment-not-pity/.
Brown, S. (2014, June 14). Tackling Thailand's human trafficking problem.
CNN. Retrieved from
http://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/20/world/asia/thailand-traffickingreport/.
Chia, J. (2016, March 30). The Privileged Lie of Gender Equality in Thailand.
Harvard International Review. Retrieved from
http://hir.harvard.edu/privileged-lie-gender-equality-thailand/.
Farley, M. (2004, October 1). Prostitution Is Sexual Violence. Psychiatric
Times. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/sexualoffenses/prostitution-sexual-violence.
Francoeur, Robert T., ed. (1997). The International Encyclopedia of
Sexuality: Thailand. Retrieved from
http://www.sexarchive.info/IES/thailand.html.
Latstetter, J. (2000). American Military-Base Prostitution. The Monitor:
Journal of International Studies. College of William and Mary, 6.

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Retrieved from https://web.wm.edu/so/monitor/issues/06-2/6latstetter.htm.


Martin, L. (2006, January 25). Paradise Revealed. The Taipei Times.
Retrieved
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2006/01/25/200329071
0.
Simpkins, D. (1998). Rethinking the Sex Industry: Thailand's Sex Workers,
the State, and Changing Cultures of Consumption. Unequal Exchange:
Gender and Economies of Power, 12. Retrieved from
http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.ark5583.0012.005.