Honestly speaking, Thailand and prostitution are not an unfamiliar counterpart. Since the arrival of the US military at Pattaya during the Vietnam War era, these businesses have been formed to suit foreigners and persisted, or even flourished, to nowadays. Undeniably, Thailand is now recognized for its famous international sex tourism industry, especially for Pattaya, with the report of 27,000 prostitutes, it is called ‘the sex capital of the world’. It is also well known that this ‘grey’ industry brings a huge amount of income to the country and it also pays well for the one doing it. Despite all being said, prostitution in Thailand is still not regulated, not legally recognized as career, therefore, state welfare is not provided for the people therein.
Internationally, domestically recognized, but still, illegal
In Thailand, prostitution is technically illegal. It is said to be contradictory to public orders and good morals of the Buddhist country. People who is opposing legalization of prostitution said that it also promotes adultery and human trafficking. A law governing this matter is the ‘Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act 1996’. This act prohibits public inducement for the purpose of prostitution, any publication advertising thereof, procurement/seduction/taking away of a person for the purpose thereof regardless of consent. Association with another person in a prostitution establishment for the purpose of prostitution of oneself or another person is punishable, as well as the owner/manager of such an establishment. Therefore, Thai prostitutes can never enjoy the rights like other workers. They work under a lawless environment, no holiday pay, minimum wage, sick leave or break time.
How prostitution is legalized in other countries
Many countries have legalized prostitution. In France, self prostitution is not a criminal offense but a prostitution establishment or being an agent therefor is prohibited. The Netherlands, New Zealand, Austria, Greece, Germany and Ecuador, on the other hand, legalize all of those. These countries require business certificates and career registration. They also have age requirements for both the workers and the customers. In those countries, sex workers are seen as just another career which is entitled to state welfare and duties to pay taxes. Public orders and good morals are not a topic to be heard when considering this issue.
Effects of Prostitution’s Prohibition
The effects of the prohibition bring discussion to our society. Some people express that prohibiting prostitution is appropriate as Thailand is a Buddhist country and such an act is contradictory to good morals of Buddhism rules and it also promotes adultery, human trafficking, unintended pregnancy. However, people who disagree with the prohibition describe that the effects of such prohibition cause difficulties to sex workers. Firstly, sex workers who are willing to do sex works shall not be labeled as criminals. Secondly, it contrasts with the main principle of civil law, which is private autonomy, in other words, self-determination. Moreover, the Prostitution Act is too ambiguous and gives too much power to the authorities in order to interpret the situation and the law by themselves in deciding whether the sex workers shall be fined or act contrary to the law or not. Another serious concerns are the way authorities arrest the sex workers in an abusive manner, luring them, violating human’s privacy.
Movements Against the Prohibition
Many movements have always been performed and kept getting into people’s attention. Recently, there is a petition and campaign in abolishing The Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act (1996). This topic is being spoken in many platforms that sex works are not crime. Sex works are works that are mainly formed by consent and the will of the workers and customers. Therefore, sex workers, regardless of their genders, shall not be labelled as bad persons as they are mere normal workers who do their jobs for living.
The movements also added that, regarding the abolishment of the Prostitution Act, if the authority concerns about human trafficking issues, Thailand also has the specific Act preventing human trafficking, criminal code, and Children Protection Act which could solve the problem far more straightforward than the Prostitution Act.
Thailand’s massive income is from sex industry. Sex workers also pay taxes, however, they are not protected officially. The movements calling for rights and protection for all sex workers regardless their genders, has been extensively awared. Forming from consent and will between sex workers and customers, it shall not be a crime. If sex works are decriminalized, they will be treated like other workers in our society and be able to get into healthcare or check-up systems conveniently. If they are lured into trafficking, get sexual abuse, or get defrauded, they will be able to inform the authority openly and fearlessly.
Additionally, it should be noted that decriminalization is different from legalization. Legalization requires criteria or sex work license in order to be a legal sex worker, so if someone did not conform with the criteria or have no license, they would be left out, not protected by the law, and could be deemed as criminal. On the other hand, decriminalization causes sex workers not to be treated as criminals, and they will be protected.
Thailand shall start educating children about consent, sex education, and mutual respect. Consent teaches children that agreement between parties is important and benefits all parties. Sex education tells children to know safe sex. Mutual respect polishes children not to judge others from their conditions. Moreover, government have to effectively enforce human trafficking and child protection Act, reform abortion law, including be caring and considerate in order to make sure that sex industry is safe. These might decrease concerns of people who are worried about permitting prostitution and build a society where people are equal, accepted and respected.
กรกฤช สมจิตรานุกิจ, "สิบปีการล่อซื้อ: เมื่อรัฐไทยทาเกลือลงบนแผลสดของพนักงานบริการ และเรียกมันว่าความช่วยเหลือ," (2 มิถุนายน 2561) สืบค้นเมื่อวันที่ 12 พฤศจิกายน 2563, จาก https://prachatai.com/journal/2018/06/77251
"รับได้ไหม? ค้ากามเสรี EP.3 ดูให้ชัด!ซัดด้วยเหตุผล ทำได้หรือไม่ ยกระดับโสเภณี ถูกกฎหมาย," (23 กรกฎาคม 2558) สืบค้นเมื่อ 12 พฤศจิกายน 2563, จาก https://www.thairath.co.th/content/512166
วรุตม์ พงศ์พิพัฒน์, "เส้นทางที่เลือกไม่ได้ ของ ‘ผู้ชายขายตัว’," (27 สิงหาคม 2561) สืบค้นเมื่อวันที่ 12 พฤศจิกายน 2563, จาก https://www.the101.world/male-prostitution-in-thailand/
Thomson Reuters Foundation, "Sex workers petition to decriminalise prostitution," (22 September 2020) accessed 12 November 2020, from https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1989843/sex-workers-petition-to-decriminalise-prostitution
Lonely Planet, “The Sex Industry in Thailand,” accessed 16 November 2020, from https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand/bangkok/background/other-features/b9e4d08a-a917-4bbb-8329-656c5e62bdd6/a/nar/b9e4d08a-a917-4bbb-8329-656c5e62bdd6/357640
Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act B.E.2539
Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash