A few days ago I got an email from a college student asking for help on one of her papers.
“…quick question…okay so i am writing a research paper on types of slavery that sitll occur today, sexual exploitation being the focus. My research shows that the highest occurances are in the Thai culture. They say that young girls, who do not have opportunities for education, use sexual favors as a source of income to provide support for their fam. Have you heard anything about this, or if it was an issue in Thailand when you lived there? I am just interested in hearing the opinion of someone who wasn’t IN the environment that bread such horrific acts, and see if it played a role in her life at all. “
What follows is my answer :
Yep. It’s sad but it’s true. I think that its commonplace in a lot of developing or under developed countries. A lot of girls (and young boys) living in rural villages go into the ‘big city’ in search of a better life. A lot of these families depend on agriculture (growing rice, coconuts, pineapples, etc) for their living. The story is that men will come to their village as head hunters and promise to find these girls jobs in the big city. For some girls they end up in factories (which are more like sweat shops) and the not so lucky ones end up in whore houses. They have to work off the ‘expenses’ for the trip, for housing, for food ect. In the end they end up having very little money left over. After a few years, they earn enough to buy their freedom back and the smart ones either become mistresses to rich men or they save enough money to actually open up a small business.
There is an upside to this (if you can call it that) They make more money than their families ever can growing rice. If you go to some small villages, some of the temples are very built up. These temples benefit from the girls’ earnings since this is one way they think that they can atone for their ‘sins’ and collect some good karma. These girls send back a lot of money to their families. (Family ties are very close in Thailand) Do the families know what’s going on? They must…but they prefer to talk about their daughter who is an ‘actress’ or a ‘dancer’ or has a rich ‘boyfriend.’ The money that the girls earn usually pay for the other children to go to school (if the families are smart) and hopefully the next generation becomes free from the cycle of poverty. More often than not, the money buys them a house, a fridge, a tv, and all the other conveniences of a modern life. That’s why people ‘accept’ this. It’s the ONLY way out for many families.
As for how this affects me personally? Walking around hand in hand with a white guy 10 years ago would mean that I was looked upon as a prostitute or at least a money grabbing slut. Now? There is a little less stigma (not all women with white men are whores or sluts… although a lot of them still are 🙂 ) Its not a great thing that your country is so well known as the commercial sex capital of the world. There are guys who upon hearing I am from Thailand immediately launch into how they like “Thai” women/boys or talk about their ‘trips’ to Thailand with a certain tone. (no buddy, I am not for sale…I don’t care how many dollars you have)
A policeman once came into a restaurant I was waitressing at and promised to look after me if I would move in to live and cook for him. I am uncomfortable walking on certain beaches where there is a large tourist industry because I have to see all those bars filled with women waiting to ‘meet’ the German/Swiss who will pay the equivalent of what it takes her family one month to make except she can make it on her back in a couple of hours. I am especially uncomfortable walking there with my white husband because I am ashamed of what the other foreigners there must think of me.
But it’s a fact of life. If there wasn’t a market for commercial sex, it wouldn’t be such a profitable business and the lure for the pimps and girls/boys alike would not be so great.
In time as Thailand’s economy improves and the poverty level is higher, hopefully prostitution would not be the only way to raise one’s standard of living.
Hope this helps. Sorry its so long winded.