The Southeast Asian region is one of the most dynamic tourist destinations in the world. Hordes of Western visitors visit the region for its scenic spots, warm climate, and unique culture. This influx of visitors creates employment opportunities for the locals and augments the income of the poor. More importantly, tourists bring with them currencies that are needed by countries to engage in international trade. In Thailand, tourism revenue amounts to six percent of the country’s gross domestic product of US6.
While tourism is greatly encouraged for the benefits it brings to the countries of destination, it also has its dark side. Not all of the tourists who visit Asia are in the region to do what ordinary tourists do. Some of them are in Asia to seek a different kind of entertainment that traditional tours don’t provide. Men, being enterprising by nature, have created another purpose for tourism by linking it with prostitution in what is commonly known as the sex tourism industry.
As the term implies, it uses commercial sex as a come-on to visitors.
Thus, tours are not solely organised to visit historical venues and picturesque spots, they’re also conducted to provide foreigners access to the red light districts. Sex tourism is loosely defined as engaging the services of prostitutes for carnal pleasures typically by tourists from affluent countries. The United Nations’ World Tourism Organization unit describes sex tourism as organised trips under the guise of common tours with the primary purpose of providing tourists commercial sexual activities with residents in a particular
destination. Sex Tourism 3 To ask if sex tourism is illegal is almost irrelevant. Prostitution exists almost anywhere in the world. In Asia, prostitution is prevalent and open in many developing countries. Thailand is one of these countries where sex tourism is open and booming, gaining for itself the reputation of being the whorehouse capital of the world. In particular, Thailand’s sex industry is largely concentrated in Bangkok and the Pattaya district where there are many expat residents.
Hundreds of nightclubs, beer bars, and go-go bars can be found in these areas, which allegedly are venues for meeting commercial sex workers. The purpose of this study is not to delve on the moral issues surrounding the sex industry in Thailand. Instead, this paper will: i) trace the history of sex tourism in the country; ii) explore various factors that attract foreigners to the country’s red light districts; iii) identify factors that lure or force sex workers to do what they do; iii) list the different forms of prostitution in Thailand; iv) discuss Thailand’s legal stand on prostitution;
v) probe the prevalence of child prostitution in the country; and vi) consider the health issues plaguing the sex workers, particularly that of HIV/AIDS. To this end, various published papers and other resources will be studied to obtain a better understanding of an industry that gained for Thailand notoriety all over the world. All throughout the paper, I have attempted to limit opinions to establish the work as a purely research material. Sex Tourism 4 Introduction Prostitution in Thailand has gained international attention due to its prevalence and extent.
Although commercial sex industry is not unique to the country, its importance is significant for it reflects on the entire society as a whole. This study will incorporate historical as well as contemporary issues surrounding the trade using existing literature. However, papers on this topic do not reflect great variation in scope and nature. Most studies attempt to find the correlation of poverty, state laws and gender issues with Thai prostitution. To pinpoint the exact period of the proliferation of prostitution in Thailand would be difficult.
While some say that it dated as far back as the fifteenth century, some researchers will argue that it started with the presence of the American military who were in the country during leaves from their tour of duty in the Vietnam War. This paper will not make assumptions on that case, instead, it will trace how sex tourism took root, developed, sustained and became almost a way of life in Thailand. Part of this section touches existing anti-prostitution laws in Thailand — their implementation and effectiveness. Also part of this topic is the government’s plan to legalise prostitution in order to increase national revenue.
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