Thailand’s sex industry was created exclusively for foreign tourists, right? Wrong! It is a myth Thailand’s sex industry was exclusively made for tourists. It was set up for Thai people.
There are hundreds of “Love Motels” spread across the country, and it’s not foreigners who commonly go there. There’s even a term for a casual sex partner, “Gik,” which is like a fuck-buddy. So, let’s not oversimplify the complex history of sex tourism in Thailand, because its growth is influenced by many factors like the economy, cultural attitudes, and government policies.
To really understand Thailand’s sex industry, we need to go back in time. Sexual slavery is deeply rooted in Thailand’s history, and it all starts with polygamy. Having multiple wives was a sign of wealth and social status, and this practice was common among Thai kings and powerful men. Women were commodified, and purchasing sex became a way to establish social status and wealth.
Sex work in Thailand has been documented as far back as the 1300s, and the modern sex industry experienced a surge in growth during the early 1900s when it served a wave of Chinese immigrants, Japanese soldiers during World War II, and US soldiers during the Vietnam War. However, despite its economic significance, the industry faced increasing resentment from many Thais due to its visibility and notoriety. As a result, the country enacted the Suppression of Prostitution Act in 1960 and the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act in 1996, which effectively criminalized most activities associated with sex work and the profits generated from it.
Thai officials often downplay the prevalence of prostitution to present a positive image of the country and to appease constituents who oppose sex work. However, these claims are often met with scepticism, as social media commentators found when police announced that they found no illegal prostitutes during a January 14 inspection in Pattaya.
Sex workers accuse Thai police of extorting or ignoring them, and researchers like Ronald Weitzer, a sociologist and expert on sex work in Thailand, allege that police are heavily involved in sex tourism and profit from the industry. Weitzer believes that the police, who have a vested interest in keeping prostitution illegal, receive payoffs.
Pol. Maj Gen. Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn, the deputy commissioner-general of the Royal Thai Police, suggests that legalizing sex work could help to reduce corruption. He believes that legalization would be beneficial to law enforcement by eliminating the need to discipline officers for corruption and allowing them to focus their resources on other areas.
@thethaigerofficial The truth about Thailand’s Sex Tourism History in 1 minute. #fyp #thethaiger #sextourism #sex #tourism #history #thailand ♬ original sound – The Thaiger
The phenomenon of prostitution is largely a result of poverty, low levels of education, and a lack of employment opportunities in rural areas. The majority of prostitutes in Thailand come from the northeastern Isaan region of the country, as well as from ethnic minorities or neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, and Laos.
According to UNAIDS, there were approximately 43,000 sex workers in Thailand in 2019
There is a darker side to the sex industry, as discussed in Stephen Leather’s excellent book Private Dancer. Sex trafficking, a form of human trafficking, involves manipulation, coercion, force, and emotional abuse. Even if a person willingly chooses to become a sex worker, any presence of manipulation, abuse or coercion, pushes their circumstances from chosen work to trafficking. Sex work and sex trafficking thrive in Thailand because of a strong presence in the country’s history, and many families are living in extreme poverty, with little economic opportunity.
So, the next time you hear someone simplifying the history of Thailand’s sex industry, remember that it’s not just about American soldiers or foreign tourists. There’s a complex and dark history behind it all, and it’s something we should all be aware of.
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