As many of you may know, the rate of prostitution-tourism in Asia is extremely high. Particularly in Thailand, where prostitution attracts more than half of the tourists to Thailand. The origins of Thailand’s severe prostitution problem, as well as its rapid expansion, can be traced back to the Vietnamese war in the 1960’s, during which time the Thai government had a contract with the American troupes to rest in Vietnam. This sudden drastic off-set in the male to female ratio resulted in a boom for sex trade and played a major role in the rapid industrialization of Thailand’s economy in the 1970’s. By 1982 tourism had become the country’s largest industry for foreign exchange, and along with it; the sex tourism industry.
In 1992 the sex tourism counted for 1.67 billion us $ per year, in 1993 it counted for 2.12 billion us $ per year, and in 2003 it counted for 4.3 billion us $ per year. These numbers are very high for a country whose government maintains an anti-prostitution stance. Of the 10 million tourists that visit Thailand each year, 70% of those tourists travel specifically for sexual tourism; 60% of whom are men, . Can you imagine that only 30% of 10 million tourists visit Thailand for cultural and historical purposes? How outrageous is that? Knowing that a country with so much to offer and such cultural value, has more tourists interested by its sexual tourism then by its landscape or historical aspects.
It’s very sad to acknowledge that the prostitution problem in Thailand is almost unfix-able, due to the high demand and the high number of people dependent on the industry for employment. Thailand the government cannot afford to lose such a lucrative tourist market; being fully aware that sexual tourism brings in billions of dollars each year, and knowing that the sex trade is the main reason people travel to the region. Another factor is that the 2 million people who work in the industry are usually poor and uneducated. The Thai leaders have little incentive to end prostitution, as instead of profiting from sex workers, the government would be responsible for providing for them (as they are underqualified for other work). Even if they state that they are against prostitution, the government fails to create strong laws that address the problem, nor do they enforce the few that are in place. It is hard to stand up for something with no perceived benefit. Furthermore, most Thai people don’t seem to be concerned by the prostitution problem. Most of them find it normal to bring friends or business clients to brothels or to higher class prostitution establishments.
An often overlooked but disturbing reality is the part played by foreign agencies in the expansion of this trade. Many agencies promote this type of tourism to their clients. Customers have the option to book regular sex tours, minor/underaged sex tours, and even sex packages, which is shocking! I personally don’t see any solution for the people who are already entrenched in that lifestyle, since most of the time they are either unqualified to do anything else, they have to sell themselves to provide for their families, or have developed a dependence on drugs and are unable to escape. The life style of the people working in the industry can be extremely harsh: they have 1 day per week off and most of the time they serve a high number of clients per day, for which they receive a low wage. They are physically and mentally abused, and what’s more, a high percentage sex workers suffer from sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.
The only solution I could see is if the government were to focus on poor children and provide them with education they need to avoid prostitution and lower its rates. Also agencies have to stop promoting such nonsense packages! Especially, agencies in foreign countries such as Canada Australia and USA.