Editor's Note
Dr. Elizabeth Graham
Foot-Binding Heels
Stacie Zollen
The Perfect Body
Esther Baum
Female Body Modification
Aynsley Hyndman
Females in Children's Lit
Teya Cherland
Body Image & Well-Being
Jennifer Oakes
Young Girls and Body Image
Susan Burns
Unachievable Standards
Melissa Mason
Objectification and Well-being
Heather Tornblom
Intimate Partner Violence
Celeste Taylor
Sex Trade - The Case of Thailand
Courtney Wielenga
Sex Trade - The Case of Thailand
Courtney Wielenga

Personal Statement:

I chose to research the sex trade in Thailand this is a topic I am hoping to create more awareness about. The sex trade is a growing trade that many women and children are being forced into. I chose Thailand because this is an area that prostitution is very prominent in; there is support from local men as well as Thailand becoming known for international sex tourism. The sex trade not only involves grown women but also young children. Many families believe it is the children's job to enter into the sex trade to support their family financially. Many of these women and children do not have any hope of going to school or getting a good job, they know that they are to become prostitutes. Prostitution among young children has grown popular because men think that they are less likely to get HIV when they sleep with a young child over women. This makes the sex trade among children a rising trend. The sex trade is not just affecting Thailand but it is a universal problem that puts many women and children in danger. Many of these prostitutes are seen as worthless objects. I feel that the sex trade is a problem that needs to be addressed to stop the oppression occurring for many women and children. The more we learn about the sex trade on a global scale, we will be able to understand the sex trade that is occurring in our own communities.

The sex trade is one of the oldest known professions; the sex trade is recognized all over the world and is a growing epidemic in Thailand for many children, youth and women. Thailand's sex trade is an International problem that draws many tourists to engage in sex with child prostitutes, male and female. The sex trade is creating many problems among women and children in Thailand. In order to understand how people can help fight against this growing industry we must understand what origins of the sex trade, the risks of the sex trade, and who is taking an initiative to fight against the sex industry.

The sex trade became publicly exposed in Thailand during the Vietnam War, when the American military came from overseas. Sex tourism in Thailand is a growing industry, offering guided sex tours to show the tourists where the many children and women who are involved in the sex trade are to help create new cliental (Royal Thai Embassy, 1997). The sex trade services men of all ages from across the world in Thailand, the options for jobs for women and children are limited to joining the sex trade to allow for basic survival. Women and children enter the sex trade as there is a demand that is being supported by men in Thailand, as well as international tourists. These children and women come from rural and urban areas of Thailand are young in age and are in a weaker position to protect themselves from brothel owners, pimps and customers. Women and children are at an economic and social disadvantage and are subjected to being sold into prostitution by their family members, or entering into prostitution willingly, hoping for a better life and the ability to support their family members. The sex trade is a dangerous job for many women and children affecting their well being by falling victim to extreme mental and physical abuse including rape, torture, starvation and imprisonment, death threats and physical brutality (BDA, 2000 pp.1). Women and children who are engaging in sex are exposed to many health risks such as HIV, Aids, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and pregnancy. The sex trade is a growing job that many children and women are entering into all over the world. The consequences of the sex trade affect women and children who are involved in the sex trade but also those women and children who are not. Due to the sex trade, the female gender is evolving into a gender that is seen only as sexual objects. The risks and harmful effects of the sex trade often leave long lasting physical and mental scars. In terms of my theory I am applying to my analysis I am analyzing my research based on the Radical Feminist Theory.

The Thailand sex trade became a growing problem in the 1960's and 1970's during the Vietnam War when many American Soldiers served over seas. This influx of Americans opened up other areas of the sex industry like massage parlors and brothels, consequently opening up more jobs for women and children in Thailand. In 1967, the Thai government and the United States military signed a treaty allowing the US soldiers who were stationed in Vietnam to have a period of "rest and recreation" which the soldiers called I & I: intoxication and intercourse. (Bishop & Robinson, 2002).The Thai government encouraged prostitution regardless of the laws prohibiting it since tourists provided the Thai economy with large amounts of money in a short period of time due to the amount of prostitution the sex trade was creating. When the Vietnam War ended, sex tourism retained a steady profit due to tourism agencies picking up where the war had left off. The Thai government still promoted prostitution because of the annual profit which amounted from $5 million in 1967 to $20 million in 1970(Jeffery, 2002 pp.39). Military troops and other men from around the world returned to Asia for its well known sex tourism (Arnold & Bertone 2002, p8). Many men came to Thailand because up until 1960, prostitution was legal. The Thai government implemented the Prostitution Prohibition Act in 1960. This act defined prostitution as "indiscriminant acceptance of sexual intercourse or acceptance of any other act or the performance of any act for the satisfaction of the sexual desire of another for hire whether the acceptor of the act and the performer of the act are of the same or different act are of the same or different sexes" (Jeffery, 2002 pp.26). This definition highlighted the sexual behavior rather than the exchange of words between two people. Women convicted of prostitution were sentenced to up to six months in jail and were expected to be rehabilitated after. The rehabilitation programs did not equip women with skills for other occupations. Rather it focused on three aspects: the first is child care, health and sanitation; the second is training in proper home care and cooking by officials; and the third is proper codes of conduct regarding morals (Jeffery, 2002 pp.27). According to Women the governments were to blame for the sex trade that was occurring in Thailand, so the governments were trying to rehabilitate them back into society.

In 1966, shortly after the Prostitution Prohibition Act was passed, the Thai government passed the Entertainment Places Act, aiming to regulate the places that prostitutes were found working by obtaining a license from the police before they could attend to male customers. This idea was never really enforced because the police did not regulate these licenses (Armstrong, 2000 pp.11). The government seemed to be promoting the idea that prostitution was illegal; however, they were still promoting Thailand with the entertainment purposes of women through travel agencies. They had also made the statement that prostitution was an unfortunate side effect of poverty (Jeffery, p41).

Since 1960 and 1970, the government has started to recognize the serious problem regarding prostitution in children and women. The Prime Minister has made prostitution one of the government's priorities. In 1980, a new prostitution act was enacted punishing the brothel owners and pimps, and the prostitutes were seen as victims. However a strong criticism of the Thai government is that they usually do not follow through with punishing the offenders (Armstrong, 2000 pp.11). As a consequence of the inaction of the government, and with the sex trade in Thailand becoming well known internationally, women's groups started to step in and fight against this epidemic sweeping through Thailand. In 1880 the feminist group NGO which is a non government organization began focusing on the needs of women; they felt that prostitution was a product of globalization of the economy and the increasing dependence of the tourist industry in Thailand. NGO talked about the unspoken violence against women and children that was taking place as a result of the sex trade such as rape and the harmful health effects such as Aids (Jeffery, 2002 pp.81). The history of the sex trade in Thailand shows how the government was at fault for the growing sex trade that exposes many children and women everyday to health and safety concerns, which is still a problem today.

Many women and children enter into the sex trade in Thailand because of cultural, historical and family reasons. Many women and children are expected to obey their family's wishes and support their family members so they can survive. Many women and children are expected to work in dangerous jobs and not come back empty handed due to their traditional responsibility to care for their parents. Prostitution can be perceived as traditional responsibility to care for their parents. It is a cultural expectation for girls to make sacrifices for their families even if it means entering into the sex trade (General Assembly Document, 1996 pp.7). Women and children who enter into prostitution often do so voluntarily because of this traditional belief to improve their family's financial standing. This obligation exists even if their family makes a decent living.

In a family there are different expectations place upon each female child. The first born is expected to stay at home and help her parents with daily tasks. The middle born is the financial helper assisting the family in making money, and the last born usually receives more schooling (Bower, 2005, pp.2). Due to limited income, parents encourage the sex trade because of the financial gain that they receive (Bower, 2005, pp.2.).

In terms of the actual sex trafficking, it occurs in many different stages involving many different people to successfully traffic women and children in and out of countries. Traffickers manipulate women into going to different countries creating lasting consequences for these women. Not all women and children choose to go into the sex trade but instead are mislead at having great job opportunities such as housekeeping in another country and then are trafficked to another part of the world. "Trafficking is recruitment, transportation, and transfer, harboring a receipt of persons by improving means, such as force, abduction, fraud, coercion, for an improper purpose, like forced or coerced labor, servitude, slavery, or sexual exploitation. "Countries that rarify protocol are obligated to enact domestic laws making these activities criminal offences, if such laws are not already in place" (Arnold & Bertone, 2002 pp.8). Many traffickers manipulate the law by getting women and children smuggled into different countries with fake documents to avoid boarder crossings and questions. The women and children do not own visas due to this fact they will be unable to leave the country, trapping the women into the sex trade.

In the sex trade there is more than one trafficker involved there is the recruiter, the agent in the country of origin who pays the recruiter and arranges travel documents and holds the women until they are ready to leave and the escorts who accompany women to destination sites (common wealth secretariat, 2002).

Sex trafficking results in debt bondage between the victim and the "employer" (trafficker or pimps), the victim must pay a substantial amount of money back to their employer (Haney, 2001 pp.2). "The traffickers would often demand repayment for all costs including travel, and housing, often preventing flights by holding women and children's passports (Jeffery, 2002, px111). Women and children in the sex trade often times are left with no options of escape because of the high regulation and control that the traffickers had on these women. Even if these women and children wanted to leave they are often too scared to leave their employers because of death threats, rape and torture that can occur.

The sex trade in Thailand has many lasting consequences on women and their well being. The sex trade in Thailand is an extremely dangerous job for many Women and Children. The Traffickers that work in this operation have complete control over the women leaving them with no rights or freedom over their own bodies therefore enslaving them to a world of sex. The traffickers are leaving the women and children so psychologically and emotionally abused that they can not escape their horrendous working conditions. These harsh conditions that women are forced to work in are what define most cases as trafficking (Arnold & Bertone, 2002 pp.8). Traffickers keep the women from leaving by placing debt bondage on them, leaving the women to pay it off leaving her working in the sex trade for months. For the children who are in these situations they are often too vulnerable and scared to leave because of the abuse that can take place. The women and children entering into the sex do not realize the consequences that have a lasting effect on their well being as individuals in society.

The growing sex trade in Thailand has become a dangerous job for many women and children who suffer from the abuse by traffickers, pimps and brothel owners as well as due to the dangerous infectious diseases that are sweeping through Thailand almost epidemically. In many brothels when the girls are working the owner's only concern is that the girls do not get pregnant. The brothel owner will hand out condoms to the clients that come, but the use of the condom is left entirely up to the client. The girls said even if the client used a condom the friction of the condom hurt to bad after serving seven or eight men in a night. (Human rights Watch, 1993). Most of the girls who worked in brothels did not know about Aids or what it was. "Aids/HIV did not come into public consciousness in Thailand until the 1990's" (Jeffery, 2002 pp.79). Because there is a demand of having sex without condoms many, women and children are exposed to various venereal diseases. "HIV positive rates reached proportions of 41 percent to 54 percent among commercial sex workers in brothels". With the number of women being exposed to aids there was a report estimating how many women actually were infected with HIV. "In 1993 the government reported that approximately 450,000 Thai women were infected with HIV" (Jeffery, pg xiv). More then 20,000 women in Thailand who attended prenatal clinics were testing positive to HIV. Researchers were estimating that by the year 2000 two to four million people in Thailand will die of AIDS Thailand does not have the health care to deal with an epidemic of this size (Jeffery, 2002 pp.108). The growing occurrences of aids in women this has contributed to some of the reasons why children have become involved in the sex trade. Pimps and brothel owners thought that they would be less likely infected (Jeffery, 2002 pp. xiv). Pimps also like to market children as "clean virgins" so they will pay more for children because the misconception is that children do not carry diseases (O'Rieley, 1993 pp.2). This idea is not true because children are more likely to "carry Aids/HIV because their vaginas and anuses are easily torn, creating sores and bleeding allowing the Aids virus to spread more quickly" (O'Grady, 1992 ). Aids and HIV is affecting many women involved in the sex trade but also a great number of children will be affected because of the demand of young females to enter into the sex trade.

With the growing aids epidemic the prime minister was able to use 4 million dollars towards fighting Aids, he also launched a campaign that created awareness of Aids that was taking place in Thailand it aired on 488 state-owned stations, and every school was required to teach about aids. Tourism declined in Thailand with the talk about an Aids epidemic sweeping through the country these were some of the effects of the large sex trade. Another measure taken to fight the Aids epidemic was the 100 percent condom use which promoted using a condom consistently; this program also distributed condoms to local brothel owners (World Bank, 1997).

AIDS is just one of the many harmful effects of the sex trade on women. Women undergo serious other health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal tearing, urinary difficulties, and unwanted pregnancies and repertory problems. Women also undergo serious psychological and emotional problems such as emotional risks of the sex trade such as depression, guilt and shame, rape, violence, murder, fear and anxiety (Haney, pp.1). The sex trade in Thailand creates serious harm to women and children who are involved. Many women and children and families do not understand the health, psychological and emotional risks that are created because of the sex trade that could last a life time. There are many organizations fighting to keep women out of the sex trade and to give them hope of a better future.

Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) activists were responding to the fight against the sex trade. The NGO were monitored strictly by the military (Jeffery, 2002 pp.74). There are many NGO organizations formed all over the world to help with the women involved in the sex trade. ECPAT is an NGO organization helping to fight sex tourism. End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT). This is an international organization founded in 1991, with headquarters in Thailand. The organizations goal is to eliminate child prostitution worldwide. The core of ECPAT plan is lobbying governments to persuade them to enact laws protecting children. ECPAT also works with rural leaders to convince parents not to sell their children (Royal Thai Embassy, 1997). Another organization is UNICEF and the Thai Buisness Initiative in Rural Development, which encourages businesses to create job opportunities in remote areas. (Royal Thai Embassy, 1997). All of these organizations are known through out the world. They are making efforts to try and stop the sex industry from growing any further and creating any more harm to women and children. These organizations combined with the support of the world could help save millions of lives every year from the harmful consequences of the sex trade. I believe that the sex trade is a global problem that needs to be addressed in every country across the world. Women can make a difference in preventing women and children from entering into the sex trade, by creating awareness of the effects of the sex trade and helping the women and children find other solutions then selling their bodies for money.

The sociological theory that I will be using in relation to the sex trade is Radical Feminism. "Radical Feminism is a branch of feminism that views women's oppression as a fundamental element in human society and seeks to challenge the standard by broadly rejecting standard gender roles. Radical feminists seek the root cause of women's oppression" (Daily, 1978). The radical feminist present many important points in that can be linked in the direction of the sex trade, and the oppression of women beginning with the perceived problematic male gender. Radical feminists believe that men's sexual aggressive nature is not biological but culturally gendered and could be modified. Radical feminists are encouraging changing men's attitudes toward women, as a more enlightened one is important in relation to the sex trade (Bromberg, 1998). If men were to change their attitudes towards how they view women, as a more enlightened one is important in relation to the sex trade. If men were to change their attitudes and realize that women are human beings and not just sexual beings, the rape and torture that occurs when men buy women for sex.

Radical feminists also see the cultural problems such as lying; cheating and manipulating others to satisfy ones own needs and how that idea plays an important component towards the oppression of women and the sex trade (Bromberg, 1998). We live in a culture of immorality such as cheating, lying, and manipulating others this plays a big part in how men are going to treat women. With these beliefs as being tolerated it may give way for more sexual exploitation among women. Trafficking in women and children one day may be acceptable in society if we do not put an end to the way men view women. The organized sex trade oppresses women with the hegemonic beliefs that males are the dominating force in society. Radical feminist believe that women as prostitutes are viewed as mere sexual objects which allows men to coerce and oppress the female gender to satisfy their own sexual desires (Bromberg, 1998). Whoever is the dominant gender in society according to Radical Feminism will always oppress others, that is why Radical Feminist hopes for a gender free society one day. Radical Feminism is always looking at the root causes to explain women are routinely oppressed; I believe that looking critically at the sex trade from this ideology can help many people understand why the sex trade takes place and what people can do to put an end to sexual exploitation.

Through the history of the sex trade in Thailand, it is evident to why many women entered into prostitution. The sex trade offered a job to many women and children that are economically disadvantaged that paid a good amount of money in a short period of time. For many women and children their traditional role is to contribute back to her family by supporting them financially. Many women and children felt had no options for jobs but to enter into the sex trade. Trafficking also affects many women by manipulating them to enter into foreign countries telling them about the wonderful job they will have, instead coercing them to work in conditions that are unbearable and inhumane. Women in the sex trade are exposed to men who lie, cheat and manipulate women to satisfy their needs. Women and children suffer from harmful effects of the sex trade such as AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, rape, and violent beatings that will be life lasting.

The sex trade is a problem that needs to be addressed to stop the oppression that is occurring for many women and children. The more we learn about the sex trade globally, the more we will understand the sex trade that is taking place in our own communities. If we understand the root causes to the sex trade we will begin to understand how to put and end to the suffering of women and children across the world.

List of References

Armstrong, Ellen. (2000). Exploring the Factors that push young women into sex work in Northern Thailand: A critical appraisal of policy Responses. Retrieved November 20, 2005, from

Arnold,Christine,& Andrea M., Bertone.(2002). Addressing the Sex Trade in Thailand:Some lessons learned from NGOs. Part 1. [Electronic Version]. Academic Journal of Research. Retrieved November 10, 2005, from

Bishop, Ryan, & Lillian, S, Robinson. ( 2002). How My Dick Spent its Summer Vacation. Retreived November 25, 2005, from

Bower, Bruce. (2005). ChildHoods End. [Electronic Version]. Academic Journal of Research, vol 168, issue 13.

Bromberg, Sarah. (1998). Prostitution: On Whores, Hustlers, and Johns. Northridge: Prometheus Books.

Buramese American Democratic Alliance, (2000). Modern Day Slavery: Trafficking of Women and Children. Retrieved November 23, 2005, from

Commonwealth Secretariat. (2002). Report of the Expert Group on Strategies for Combating Trafficking of Women and Children. Retrieved November 25, 2005, from

Daily, Mary. (1978).The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. Retrieved November 26, 2005, from

Dawn,Haney.(2000). Third World Women's Health. Retrieved October 10, 2005 from

General Assembly Document. (1996). Traffic in Women and Girls. Report of the Secretary General. Retrieved November 26, 2005, from

Humans Right Watch. (1978). Retrieved November 24, 2005, from

Jeffery,A.,Leslie.(2002). Sex and Borders. Vancouver:UBC Press.

O' Grady, Ron. (1992). The Child and the Tourist. (Bangkok, ECPAT: 1992), 80. Retrieved November 20, 2005, from

O'Reilley, Anne. (1993). Child Prostitution: The next push for human rights. [Electronic Version]. Academic Journal of Research, vol 20, issue 2.

The Royal Thai Embassy. (1997). Child Prostitution. Retrieved Novmember 20, 2005, from

World Bank. (1997). Confronting Aids: Public Priorities in a global epidemic, Oxford University press, p. 276.

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