Prostitution in Thailand

Prostitution in Thailand was first described in the West in reports by sailors visiting what was then called Siam, as early as the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the Vietnam war, Thailand has gained international notoriety among travelers from Japan, Korea and Western countries as a sex tourism destination.

Position in society and extent of prostitution

In Thai society, visiting prostitutes is considered common - but not necessarily acceptable - behavior for men; many women believe that the existence of prostitution reduces the incidence of rape, and view prostitution as the lesser evil compared to husbands taking "lesser wives" ("mia noi") or mistresses.[1] These working class prostitutes and their customers are far more likely to refer to themselves as "rented-wifes" or "lady-bar" than the English or Thai equivalents of the pejorative "prostitute". A study in 1990–1991 found that over 90% of (male) military conscripts (aged 20 to 22) reported having visited a prostitute in the past.[2]

Estimates of the number of prostitutes in Thailand vary widely and are subject to controversy. One estimate published in 2003 placed the trade at US$ 4.3 billion per year, about three percent of the Thai economy.[3]

Legal situation and history

Prostitution has been technically illegal in Thailand since 1960, when a law was passed under pressure from the United Nations. The prohibition is not enforced; instead, the government has instituted a system of monitoring for sex workers in order to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.[2]

The "Entertainment Places Act of 1966", still in effect today, makes it possible for Thais to render "special services". This is done, for example, by establishing such places as massage parlors where men come and look at women, who are sitting separated by a glass wall, and can pick and choose whom they want. The women come to the men's hotel room and massage them, but, in reality do more than that. It is usually left for the customer to decide what kind of special service he really wants, and because of that such establishments are able to avoid being designated as (illegal) brothels.

This act was designed to pave the way for brothels to be legalized under the guise of massage parlours, bars, night-clubs, tea-houses, etc. It was enacted at a time when the Thai Government sought to increase state revenue from the "rest and recreation" activities of the U.S. armed forces stationed in Vietnam.

The "Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act of 1996" outlawed the hiring of prostitutes under the age of 18, as well as people associating in prostitution establishments for the purpose of prostitution; this provision does not appear to be enforced.

Possible legalization

In 2003, the Ministry of Justice was considering legalization of prostitution and held a public discussion on the topic. Legalization and regulation was proposed as a means to increase tax revenue, reduce corruption, and improve the situation of the workers.[3]

Forms of prostitution

Prostitution in Thailand comes in a number of forms, mainly brothels, body-massage parlors, hostess bars, and karaoke places, all of which cater mostly to local customers and Asians. For the well-heeled, private member clubs abound. There are also various go-go bars and "beer bars" which often cater to Western expatriates or tourists. Finally, there are large numbers of "freelancers" who can be found in hotel lobbies, discos, bars, and shopping malls or on the street. While some are sex trade workers by any definition, others are less clearly so, and may merely ask for or expect financial support from the men they sleep with.

Prostitution in Thailand comes specialised for many ethnic backgrounds. Many places catering to Thais/Asians will not allow people from other backgrounds to enter the premises if not invited by one of the regular guests or without paying a prohibitive entrance fee. The same goes for places catering to Westerners, Japanese, Arabs or other ethnicities, most will refuse clientele with another background at the door.

Body massage

Body massage (Ab ob nuat, washing and massage in Thai) in Thailand most often consists of either an oil massage, assisted bath, and/or bodyslide treatment ("soapie") followed by sexual services. These latter may or may not be included in the price paid to the house; if not, they are negotiated with the masseuse. Some of these establishments cater mostly to locals and Asians, but will also accept Western customers. In most of these places, the women wait sitting behind a glass window ("fish bowl"), usually watching television, while the men have a drink and choose a woman.

These places can be found in all larger cities in Thailand, and are often combined with hostess bars, karaoke bars and a restaurant. Chuwit Kamolvisit, then prominent owner of several such up-scale parlours, created a commotion in 2003 when he publicly accused hundreds of police officers of having accepted bribes from him. He later ran for public office and became a member of Parliament.

It should also be noted that Thailand is known for a traditional style of massage, unrelated to the body massage. Traditional, "ancient", or "physical" Thai massage (Nuat Phaen Boran, Thai: นวดแผนโบราณ) is very relaxing and beneficial, and the masseuse or masseur is well trained, often at temple academies such as Wat Pho in Bangkok.

Bars catering to foreigners

Enlarge picture
A dancer at a go-go bar along Patpong, in Bangkok.
The most prevalent form of sex trade interaction with Westerners - although this form is less prevalent than the Thai sex trade - are the various forms of bars. In most cases, women ("bar girls", or men in the case of gay bars, or transsexual "kathoeys") are employed by the bar either as dancers (in the case of go-go bars) or simply as hostesses, and will encourage customers to buy them drinks. The hostesses or dancers are also often looking to find customers for sexual services; in some cases, the bar will employ one or more "mamasans" who will help match interested customers up to companions, although mostly their assistance is not necessary. In most cases, a customer will pay a bar fine in order to leave the bar with his chosen companion, and will then need to negotiate with him/her for any time and/or sexual services. This can be generally divided into "short time" (at most a few hours) or "long time" (overnight and in most cases the following day). Some indoor bars also have "short time rooms" on site, where instead of paying a bar fine to the bar, the customer will pay for the use of the room and services will be performed on-site. Pattaya, on the east coast of Thailand, is home to many such bars - known as "bar beers" - and, according to some estimates, has about 40,000 or 50,000 bar girls who cater for Western men and in a few cases Arabic men. The cost of a girls' services from such a bar - which varies very little in price - is 1,000 baht for a "long time" and 500 baht for a "short time". Most girls in the Pattaya bars have a child from a previous or current relationship with a Thai man (which is kept secret from their clients). The bar girls, especially in Pattaya, offer the Western man a very "girlfriend experience", in which the girls will not only have sex with the man but also offer to be with him the whole time he is on holiday - and also be a loving, happy girlfriend for the duration. It is for this, latter reason that many Western men fall in love with the girls, and in some cases return to their native countries and send money to the girls so that they may stop working.

Go-go bars are distinguished by having dancing on stage similar to a strip club in Western countries, although in general as of 2004 because of the "social order" crackdown, dancers will more likely be topless or in a bikini or similar revealing costume rather than fully naked. Even toplessness is technically illegal.

"Beer bars" and hostess bars are similar; beer bars are generally outdoors, fairly small, and often clustered with other beer bars, while hostess bars are generally indoors. Beyond that, there is a very great range in size and amenities. There are also a fair number of bars which blur the line with a brothel of sorts, such as "blowjob bars" or various short-time establishments.

Beer bars and gogo bars operate similarly: the staff receive a monthly salary, from about 2,000 baht in some beer bars to about 10,000 baht in better gogo bars (as of 2006). They receive a commission on any staff drink that is bought for them. The bar fine, paid by a customer who wants to take a companion out of the premises, is paid to the bar and a small amount is credited to the "offed" worker. The bar typically prescribes a minimum number of bar fines the individual staff needs to generate per month (typically about five to six); staying below that limit results in a pay cut. The workers receive two to three days off per month; they are usually charged a bar fine for any additional day of work they miss. Many go go bars require the women to undergo regular health checks, enforced by financial penalties.

Private Member Clubs exist for the well heeled. These clubs usually cater to a richer clientele and are staffed by fairly sophisticated Thais who are fluent in English or, for veniues targeting other nationalities, in the client's mother tongue. They entertain the client while he stays at the club. If the girl likes the client, typically she will leave the club with the client. Most clubs usually have live music and a laidback atmosphere. Some bars employ kathoey ("ladyboys") exclusively, catering to male customers. Many of these bars are owned and operated by Westerners. Technically, foreigners are not allowed to own more than 49% of a bar or nightclub, however, so these Westerners either partner with a Thai or lease the bar from a Thai owner. Some entrepreneurs also create a number of bars with the chief purpose of selling or leasing them to poorly informed Westerners.

Apart from these sorts of bar, there are a number of other venues for the sex trade; some bars, while not employing staff as sex workers, will allow freelancers to solicit clients. This is also true of some coffee shops near night-time entertainment districts, and many of the foreign-oriented nightclubs.

The Bangkok nightlife was considered interesting enough to be the topic of a columnist, "Nite Owl" for almost forty years in the Bangkok Post but it was dropped in 2003 due to lack of relevance and a writing style that was dated.

Many believe Thai sex workers have the ultimate goal of meeting a rich Westerner as husband or boyfriend, but this is not the case for all. Some have numerous foreign boyfriends sending money, and therefore they have friends, family and a good level of income.

Male prostitution

Many male sex workers service gay (or bisexual) male clients, but there are at least some women who employ them as well. (Thailand's male sex workers are mostly from the poorest areas of Thailand and are often the sole support of their rice farmer birth families). The market which until recently had almost exclusively focused on a gay clientele, has become increasingly popular with women.[4]

The population of male sex workers is estimated to be fairly evenly split between young men who identify as gay and young men who identify as heterosexual, but still perform sexual services with men.

According to a 2002 study by Associate Professor of Sociology Nither Tinnakul of Chulalongkorn University, some Thai women were paying upwards of 10,000 baht (243 US dollars) per night for the services, which may contradict conservative Thai traditions.[5]

A 2005 study of twelve underage male prostitutes in Pattaya found that they were content with their work that allowed them a comfortable living. The younger ones were dependent on pimps. Most of them suffered from emotional problems and some were lured into the trade.[6]

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"[7], 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; he also founded the restaurant chain Cabbages and Condoms. 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 program", the use of condoms during commercial sex has jumped markedly, to 90%. The program instructs sex workers to refuse intercourse without condom, and monitors health clinic statistics in order to locate brothels that allow sex without condoms.[2]

Thailand was praised for its efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS during the late 1990s, but a study in 2005 found that the lack of public support in the previous several years had led to a resurgence of the disease.[8]

Child prostitution, trafficking, and sex slavery

The exact extent of child prostitution, sex trafficking, and sex slavery in Thailand is not known today. Efforts are made by the Thai authorities to eradicate child prostitution in the portion of the sex trade catering to foreigners. Thai law specifies that the age of consent for sex work is 18.

Some sex workers in Thailand, adult and child, and for that matter in several other parts of the world, are tricked, sold, or coerced into the work. [9]

Recent International Labor Organization research suggests a speculative figure of 12,000 children per year being trafficked for sexual exploitation in South East Asia, mostly to Thailand. Thai non-governmental organisations and the Thai government estimate that 30,000 to 40,000 prostitutes are under 18. A proportion of prostitutes over the age of 18, including foreign nationals from Asia and Europe, are also in a state of forced sexual servitude and slavery. [10]

It is common that Thai women are lured to Japan and sold to Yakuza-controlled brothels where they are forced to work off their price.[2] In a landmark case in 2006, one such woman filed a civil suit in Thailand against the Thai perpetrators, who had previously been convicted in criminal court. The woman had managed to escape from the Yakuza-controlled prostitution ring by killing the female Thai mama-san and had spent five years in a Japanese prison.[11]

Organizations

Several support organizations for sex workers exist in Thailand. Most of them attempt to discourage women from taking up or continuing the trade.

EMPOWER is a Thai NGO that takes a neutral stance towards sex work and offers educational and counseling services to female sex workers. It has been operating since 1985 and has offices in Patpong (Bangkok), Chiang Mai and Mae Sai.[12] (Sex Workers in Group) is a recent offshoot of EMPOWER, offering support to male and female sex workers in Patpong and Pattaya.[12] It offers English classes, teaches safe sex, distributes condoms, and promotes health and safety with their gym and discounted medical examinations. The newly formed organization SISTERS works with transgender sex workers in Bangkok and Pattaya.

FACE is an organization that focuses on child prostitution and trafficking and is the main partner of the UN in the country.

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 organization no longer focuses expressly on safe sex issues, but continues to provide information, condoms, and prevention programs around the country.

International Justice Mission is a U.S.-based Christian human rights organization which operates in Thailand to rescue brothel workers held in sexual slavery.

Books and documentaries

  • Jordan Clark's 2005 documentary Falang: Behind Bangkok's Smile takes a rather critical view of sex tourism in Thailand.
  • Travels in the Skin Trade: Tourism and the Sex Industry (1996, ISBN 0745311156) by Jeremy Seabrook describes the Thai sex industry and includes interviews with prostitutes and customers.
  • Cleo Odzer received her P.H.D. 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 1559702818). In the book she describes the Thai prostitutes she got to know as quick-witted entrepreneurs rather than exploited victims.
  • Hello My Big Big Honey!: Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews by Dave Walker and Richard S. Ehrlich (2000, ISBN 0867194731) is a compilation of love letters from Westerners to Thai prostitutes, and interviews with the latter.

References

1. ^ "'It's in the nature of men': women's perception of risk for HIV/AIDS in Chiang Mai, Thailand", Morrison L. Cult. Health Sex. 8(2):145-59, 2006
2. ^ Thailand, in The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, Volume I–IV 1997–2001, edited by Robert T. Francoeur
3. ^ Thailand mulls legal prostitution. The Age, November 26 2003
4. ^ Male Prostitution booms in Thailand. ABC Correspondents Report, July 21 2002
5. ^ Thai Female Elite Demand Black Gigalos. The Spokesman, Morgan State University, August 11 2002
6. ^ Young teens happy with sex work: study. The Nation, September 8 2005
7. ^ [1]
8. ^ "Mechai renews crusade against the Aids threat" The Nation, September 5 2005
9. ^ Bales, Kevin (2000). Disposable People. New Slavery in the Global Economy. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24384-6. 
10. ^ UNICRI Trafficking in Minors, Report on Thailand 2005
11. ^ "Woman's Dying Wish: to punish traffickers who ruined her life" The Nation, January 23 2006
12. ^ SWING

Further reading


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Anthem
Phleng Chat
Royal anthem
Phleng Sansoen Phra Barami

Capital
(and largest city) Bangkok [1]

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Sex tourism is travel to engage in sexual intercourse or sexual activity with prostitutes, and is typically undertaken internationally by tourists from wealthier countries.
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mistress is a man's long term female sexual partner and companion who is not married to him. The relationship is generally stable and at least semi-permanent; however, the couple do not live together openly. Also, the relationship is usually but not always secret.
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A word is a term of derision, or a phrase is pejorative, if it implies contempt or disapproval. The adjective pejorative is synonymous with derogatory, derisive, and dyslogistic.
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A brothel, also known as a bordello or whorehouse, is an establishment specifically dedicated to prostitution, providing the prostitutes a place to meet and to have sex with the clients.
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Hostess clubs are a common feature in the night-time entertainment industry of Japan: establishments that employ primarily female staff and cater to males seeking drink and attentive conversation.
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Go go bar can refer to:
  • In the present United States, a go-go bar is typically an alternative term for certain sorts of strip clubs.
  • In the past, it was used to refer to bars or nightclubs featuring go-go dancers.

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Thai}}} 
Official status
Official language of: Thailand
Regulated by: The Royal Institute
Language codes
ISO 639-1: th
ISO 639-2: tha
ISO 639-3: tha

Thai (
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Chuwit Kamolvisit aka Davis Kamol (Thai: ชูวิทย์ กมลวิศิษฎ์, born August 29, 1961) was Thailand's biggest massage parlor owner.
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Nuat phaen boran or ancient massage is known in Thailand as นวดแผนโบราณ. It is a type of Thai massage that involves stretching and deep massage.
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Thai}}} 
Official status
Official language of: Thailand
Regulated by: The Royal Institute
Language codes
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ISO 639-2: tha
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Thai (
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Wat Pho (Thai: วัดโพธิ์), also known as Wat Phra Chetuphon วัดพระเชตุพน) or The Temple of the Reclining Buddha
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Transsexualism is a condition in which a person identifies as the gender opposite to the sex assigned to them at birth. Transsexualism is considered a taboo subject in many parts of the world. Negative beliefs about transsexualism may stem from religious beliefs or cultural norms.
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kathoey or katoey (Thai: กะเทย, IPA: [kaʔtʰɤːj]
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Go go bar can refer to:
  • In the present United States, a go-go bar is typically an alternative term for certain sorts of strip clubs.
  • In the past, it was used to refer to bars or nightclubs featuring go-go dancers.

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A bar fine (sometimes written as "barfine"), bar fee, or (in engrish) paybar, is the payment made by customer to the operators of a bar (particularly hostess bars, lady bars or go-go bars) that allows a dancer or hostess or some other employee of that bar to stop work
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Go go bar can refer to:
  • In the present United States, a go-go bar is typically an alternative term for certain sorts of strip clubs.
  • In the past, it was used to refer to bars or nightclubs featuring go-go dancers.

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worldwide view.


A strip club is a nightclub or bar that offers striptease and possibly other related services such as lap dances.
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Toplessness refers to the state of partial female nudity in which a woman or postpubescent girl has her breasts uncovered, with her areolae and nipples visible. The adjective topless
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bikini or two-piece is a type of women's swimsuit, characterized by two separate parts — one covering the breasts, the other the groin (and optionally the buttocks), leaving an uncovered area between the two garments. It is often worn in hot weather and while swimming.
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Thai baht
บาทไทย (Thai)

Baht bills and coins Aluminium satang coins
ISO 4217 Code THB
User(s) Thailand

Inflation 5.
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kathoey or katoey (Thai: กะเทย, IPA: [kaʔtʰɤːj]
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nightclub (or "night club" or "club") is a drinking, dancing, and entertainment venue which does its primary business after dark. A nightclub is usually distinguished from bars, pubs or taverns, by the inclusion of a dance floor and a DJ booth, where a DJ plays recorded dance and
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Bernard Trink (b. 1931) is a former columnist for the Bangkok Post. A native New Yorker, Trink came to Bangkok in the mid 1960s and taught English at various universities before taking over the "Nite Owl" column in 1966 at the now defunct Bangkok World
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