Chances are if you’re browsing this website, you love to travel. The people we meet, the landscapes we see, the food and the history – it’s the reason we save our money and keep hitting the road – we search out and thrive on experiencing the new, the foreign and different. There’s nothing that gives us greater pleasure than falling in love with a city, learning about the culture not from the outside looking in, but from immersing ourselves as best we can into a city’s psyche.
But, contrary to our pursuits to learn and experience, some people don’t travel to satisfy their wanderlust, rather they have an agenda fraught with exploitation and manipulation.
The sex trade is a thriving business – and it’s not specific to one country or region. Human Trafficking is the worlds fastest-growing criminal industry – children and women abducted and transported to foreign lands, forced into in the sex trade, often against their will. Others from poor and struggling regions turn to the sex trade to earn money to support their families. We all know that this happens – It’s a horrifically sad and regretful situation exacerbated when cashed up foreigners – people from our own cities – travel to poorer nations and prey on these victims.
The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Children has published statistics from a study on the sex trade in Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. The study estimates that between 0.25% and 1.5% of the total female population of the four countries is engaged in prostitution, accounting for between 2% and 14% of the countries’ gross domestic product (GDP). While you might not consider 1.5% of the entire female population to be a very high figure, this figure covers the whole gender, not just those that are adults. This equates to over 200,000 Prostitutes in Thailand alone.
Travel to any tourist town in Thailand and you’ll likely see any number of western men with their arms draped around the shoulders of young Thai women. I understand It’s not always sinister. We aren’t privy to the inner workings of their relationships – if it’s love then we can’t pass judgment on that.
Other times it’s an opportunity seized– A lonely traveler who sought companionship through a local – and paid for the privilege. While not a practice I would engage in – at home or abroad – if the woman is of age, involved by her own free will and no one is abused then some could argue that it’s really none of our business, dubious morality or not.
It’s the sex tourists and sex-pats (I think you can figure of what group that is) that I have the problem with. People who plan their entire holidays (or relocate) to have cheap sex as many times as they can before going back home to their normal life, jobs, wives. These are the people that write blogs and books on submissive “Little Brown f**king machines”. They own go-go bars and brothels, organising transactions between girls (sometimes boys) and foreigners, utilising a crude photo album full of pictures of girls in degrading positions so the foreigner can pick out a ‘date’. In an audio grab taken from a BBC interview in 2004, a local brothel owner says “The tourists, as opposed to the sexpats, are not so bad—often ignorant, yes, but lonely and innocent too.”
Alex Renteon wrote in his piece Learning the Thai Sex Trade;
“One of the self-justifications put forward by the sexpats is that the business makes everyone happy—the exploitation is two-way. It is not like normal prostitution, you hear. All the girls are smiling! (”All smile, all the time!” is an official tourism slogan). But you don’t have to be a feminazi to see that the power relationship is grossly unbalanced. The real choices lie with the man with the wallet.”
Interestingly, Westerners involved in sex tourism make up only a small fraction of the group. 60% of Thailand’s 10 million visitors come from other countries in Asia. In the brothel-lined streets of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, there are ‘Japanese’ only brothels. But the biggest user of prostitution in Thailand, are the local Thai’s themselves.
Researching this article a difficulty I encountered was trying to find accurate figures. Sex tourism is extremely difficult to measure. Immigration cards don’t exactly offer ‘Holiday, Business, lots of sex’ as purpose of visit choices. Arrests are easier to measure;
The sex tourists and sex-pats that prey on children forced into the sex industry are abhorrent. Of the pedophiles that were arrested over a 2 year period in Thailand, The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Children says 25% were American, 18% German, 14% Australian and 12% English.
No one arrested was from an Asian country.
Not only are these pedophiles raping the country of their conservatives culture, they’re raping the kids as well. It makes me sick to my stomach. What can we do? I think if you are visiting a South East Asian country and you see something is clearly wrong, like an underage child entering a car with a foreigner late at night, tell someone. Make some noise. Pull them up on it, or call the police. Sure it might be innocent, and if that were the case they would hopefully respect what you were doing. If it’s not innocent you might have saved a child from whatever horror was to come.
Leave your thoughts on this in the comments field below.