What fuels Bangkok’s sex trade
In Thai culture, the financial burden of providing for the family often falls on the shoulders of wives and daughters. Combined with a severe lack of education for many, this desire and desperation to support their loved ones drives them to enter the sex industry.
This cultural restriction on women has a knock-on effect on the attitudes of Thai men, who are raised in a culture where prostitution, sex and lust are far too normalised. Approximately 50% of Thai boys will have sex with a prostitute by the time they are 16 years old, and this number grows to over 90% by the time men are aged 25.
Since 1960, prostitution in Thailand has been illegal. Nevertheless, the sex industry is estimated to be worth US$6.4 billion a year in revenue. In July 2016, it was reported that the Thai government intended to abolish the sex industry. The tourism minister said "Tourists don't come to Thailand for [sex]. They come here for our beautiful culture" and that "We want Thailand to be about quality tourism. We want the sex industry gone”. He was replaced a few months later.
The problem comes to a head in Bangkok. The world’s most visited city has long been the epicentre of South-East Asia’s sex industry, fuelled largely by the 21 million tourists who visit each year. Of that number, around 60% are men, and 70% of those men will use a prostitute. That means 8.8 million men who visit Bangkok this year will pay for sex from one of the 250,000 female sex workers.
While these statistics are overwhelming, please remember that each “number” is a person, just like us. They are lost and hurting, desperately trying to fill the needs and desires in their lives.
Through projects based in the centre of Bangkok, Hope and Light supports and enables outreach to women trapped in these vulnerable situations. We are helping them find alternative safe work and new opportunities for a more fulfilled life. Our goal is to enable women to leave prostitution, to feel dignified and safe, and to no longer fear being led back into a life of misery.