Thailand’s Sex Workers Working to Decriminalize Prostitution


Sex workers in the kingdom have organized a petition pushing for prostitution to be decriminalized. They are also working to ask the Thai lawmakers to repeal all legal punishments encompassing prostitution.

Empower Foundation, a Chiang Mai-based advocacy group that protects the welfare of sex labourers in the country, said it is working hard to gather 10,000 signatures. The signatures gathered will then be introduced to parliament in anticipation of convincing the officials to change the nation’s present prostitution laws.

The current sex laws in Thailand condemn all types of prostitution and the parties involved. There are about 80% of whom are moms and the primary provider for the entire family. The money earned is usually remitted to their home towns month to month to help their families.

Women and LGBT+ rights activists state the current law, which made prostitution illicit in 1960, has been of little use to protect the welfare of sex labourers. In fact, rehashed captures and fines for accomplishing sex work has driven them further into poverty.

At present, prostitution is culpable in Thailand by a fine of up to 40,000 Baht (RM5, 260) or two years in jail, or both. Individuals who pay for sex with underage specialists can be imprisoned for as long as six years.

History of the sex industry in Thailand

Prostitution has been common in Thailand for hundreds of years. From the mid-1300s to the mid-1700s during the Ayutthaya Kingdom, prostitution was even legitimate and taxed by the Thai government.

The Soi Cowboy touristic street is regarded as one of the most popular red-light districts in Bangkok.

Prostitution prospered particularly after the abolishment of slavery in 1905 as previous slave spouses under the medieval framework got themselves alone and without any financial support. During the 1980s, the sex industry in Thailand started to boom after the Thai government invested greatly to advance the travel industry in the country. Today, under the 1996 Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, prostitution is criminalized.

Be that as it may, prostitution or selling sex is in fact unlawful in Thailand. Regardless of the ubiquity of the sex business in Thailand, prostitution has been illegal in the kingdom since the 1960s.

However, the laws against prostitution are ambiguous and unenforced. In addition, it is even more difficult to decide the number of sex labourers in Thailand due to the presence of numerous types of prostitution.

Major reasons behind the thriving illegal industry

Over the years, Thailand has gained a reputation among tourists from numerous nations for its sex industry.

The Soi Cowboy touristic street is packed with go-go bars.

Notwithstanding their experience, most women in the sex business are there for financial reasons: many find that sex work is one of the most lucrative positions in their level of education. The most extensive information on the financial matters of sex workers in the country originates from a 1993 study by Dr Kritaya Archavanitkul, a demographer from Mahidol University.  (What could be compared to a midlevel government worker work, a position obtained by cutting edge training and family connections. These economic factors give a solid impetus to rustic, untalented ladies (and, less significantly, men) take part in sex work.

Cultural attitudes of Thais towards the sex industry

Throughout Thai history, prostitution was accepted and commonly practised among major sectors of society, even though it was always despised by society in general.

In 1998, the International Labor Organization advised Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, to officially recognize prostitution as a legitimate economic sector and income source. It is estimated that a third of all establishments engaged with some form of sex work are registered with the government, and the majority is already paying informal taxes in the form of bribes.

Response from the Thai authorities

The women’s affairs department at Thailand’s Ministry of Social Development and Human Security said it was currently amending the prostitution law and would launch an online public hearing next year.

“We are aware of complaints regarding rights violations of sex workers due to this law… And we are not neglecting their suggestions (to repeal the law), ” a spokesperson said.



More Information About:

Content Source: 

  1. Branding Thailand: Correcting the negative image of sex tourism
  2. History of Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in Thailand

Prepared by: Chun Wai


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