Sex Tourism in Thailand Luisa Gracia

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Tables of Contents
1.0 Introduction 3
2.0 The Case: Thailand 4
2.1 Tourism 4
2.2 Culture 5
2.3 Economy 5
3.0 Sex Tourism 6
3.1 Causes 6
3.2 Issues 8
3.3 Sex Tourism in Thailand 9
4.0 Findings and Analysis 12
5.0 Conclusions 13
6.0 Recommendations 14
7.0 References 15
List of Figures
Figure 1: Motivational Factors of Sex Tourists 10
In the last week (May 2012) the most talked about movie in the Cannes is `Paradise: Love”. The plot is about young European tourists flying into Kenya in search of young prostitutes (MSN, 2012). On the other hand The Australian (May 12, 2012) reports that “Drunken lads` holidays in Thailand and Indonesia, involving unprotected sex with prostitutes, are boosting Queensland`s HIV rate”. Australia is just an example stated here. Even Americans are floated into Thailand in the name of `Sex Tourism` with attractive quotes like `Night Life Package` (Intarakomalysat, 2003).
Especially in developing countries Sex Tourism is rapidly spreading from one country to other. The main reason for this is that tourism is one of the major sources for generating revenue for various countries of the world. Only through the word-of-mouth publicity sex tourism has become famous but not by advertising and promotional campaigns. It became imperative for the world leaders to take initiatives in order to prevent the spreading of Sex Tourism throughout the world as it became a major issue (Agustin, 2011).
This paper as such furthers to conduct a research on `Sex Tourism`. Specific focus will be on Thailand. The idea is make recommendation in the light of the changes and challenges occurring in the society. Emphasis will also be laid on issues and difficulties faced by all of those who are involved directly or indirectly. This will be done by analysing the cultural change and the impact on the society. The focal idea of this study is gained from the studies of Woodall (2005) who stated that the Thailand government saw tourism as a way to earn foreign exchange to boost their economy. Similarly, the empirical studies of Ryan & Robinson (1998) also found that the government of Thailand found the `linchpin` in promoting tourism and the hidden agenda is `Sex Tourism`.
Patrica (2001) also found that international tourism is crucial to Thailand`s economy (accounting to 60% of the country`s total economy), and the contribution of sex tourism is a lion`s share in Thailand. As per the studies of Kyriacou (2012), an increasing growth of immunodeficiency (HIV) as well as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), was observed that has led for calls to again push the safe-sex message amid fears young people are becoming lax. The author further states that in Thailand out of every 100,000 people 1300 people are suffering with the disease i.e. the rate of HIV is at its peak in Thailand when taken per head basis.
The Case: Thailand
The country of Siam or the Kingdom of Thailand is situated in Southeast Asia at the centre of the Indo-China peninsula. With the population of approximately 64 million people Thailand has become the 20th largest country and with an area of around 513,000 km² (198,000 sq mi), Thailand has occupied 51st place in the world. Thai- a Tai-Kadai language is the language spoken by the people of Thailand.
In the kingdom of Thailand tourism is the main source of revenue. In 2007 its contribution is of about 6.7% to Thailand`s GDP. The rapid growth of tourism has led to the expansion of both the industries i.e. retail industry and hotel industry. In Thailand, Bangkok is one among the famous tourist places in the world. As per the website of Euro monitor, in 2006 Bangkok has occupied the second place with large number of tourists wherein London is in the first position. There were 1.7 million Chinese visitors who made their travel to Thailand in 2011. Hence it is expected that by 2012 it may reach to 2 million visitors and may generate revenue of about 50 billion baht.
By taking into consideration the culture of Chinese, Lao, Cambodian, Indian and Burmese, Thai culture has been introduced. Theravada Buddhism which is the national religion of Thailand is recognized as a modern Thai culture. As the people of India and Nepal use `Namaste` to greet one another, in the similar way Thai people uses `the wai`. Five fundamental tastes will be involved in the food of Thais. They include salty, sour, sweet, and spicy and bitter. Rice is the staple food in Thailand and it is jasmine variety rice also termed as Hom Mali rice. There is a generosity and hospitality as well as a social hierarchy among the Thais. Thai culture has a vital concept of seniority.
Thailand emerged as an economical and industrial country in the world. The annual economic growth rate was 12.4% high from 1985 to 1996 and this led to the decrease in the economical growth rate of 1.9% in 1997, exposing the weakness of the financial sector. In the year 1999 the economy of Thailand begun to recovered gradually by expanding from 4.2 to 4.4 per cent in 2000. In the year 2001, alleviation of global economy further reduces the growth by 2.2%. In the year 2002 to 2004 a growth from 5 to 7 per cent was attained on the annual basis. But in the years 2005-2007 growth was seemed to be lingering around 4 to5 per cent. In the year 2008 with the lowering of value of US dollar and increase of Thai currency, the dollar was found to be floating to 33 baht mark.
Sex Tourism
Among the controversial industries, sex tourism is considered as one of them in the world. Due to the trafficking of women as well as children, the industry was condemned as enough revenue was provided for the destinations of sex tourism by it. According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO, 1995), sex tourism has been defined as “the trips for the destination where a sector i.e. of tourism or outside one with its structures and networks being used, organize with an intention to primarily effect the commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with the residents”. This study anyhow opines the sex tourism, as “the phenomenon of the involvement of Western tourists and Thai sex workers activities and also the sexual relationships, both commercial and non-commercial in Thailand”.
As to relieve from the “anomie” society, where the significance of their norms governing the interactions have been lost the tourists adopt the travelling (Ryan & Martin, 2001). The affect of social situation on an individual refers to an anomie. People are forced with a need to travel, due to the disorders and changes in the world that lead to the weakness in human`s feelings. The tourists need to travel due to the factors like “push” and “pull”. Here, in this case, the factors like “push” factors are meant to predispose the tourists to travel that reflect to anomie while the destinations or resorts that show an attraction towards them refer to the “pull” factors. The superiority feeling involves the wish for the enhancement of ego whereas the requirement of the humans which is fulfilled by travelling. When a person visits other places in which his achievement or failure background is unknown and in those places only he/she feels good. People in their home environment behave as alive and normal since they have the desire for the vacation.
Based on the above discussion, the safety needs are being subsequent by the requirements of belongingness and love (Snepenger et al., 2006). A man becomes ravenous i.e. hungry for affection from other people, when the physiological and safety needs are achieved. For example family or people in the workplace. After the accomplishment of the physiological and the safety needs, the desire to obtain the love as well as possession is prevalent.
The esteem needs are of two types such as: esteem for oneself and that of others. The desire of humans for the feeling of mastery, competency and strength are known to fulfil the needs of esteem for themselves. But on other side, the esteem needs of others are being built by the reputation and recognition from others. The acceptance of the legal prostitution progresses in few countries and may definitely affect the sex tourism. However, still the term sex tourism cannot be defined exactly by the researchers even though they have some knowledge and understanding about prostitution. Yet, it is unknown regarding the sex tourists who, on his/ her own, travel for sex in other countries. It is necessary for finding the answers to these questions. As per the understanding of sex tourism and its perception regarding the exploitation of women and children, this phenomenon (sex tourism) needs to be discovered and explored. The researchers are enabled to deal with this phenomenon, by understanding the reason for the sexual relationship practiced by the sex tourists at sex tourism destinations.
Many clients will use the service of prostitution for some reason which is not found exactly though various countries involve the prostitution. There are many presumptions which are included while there is no prevalence of actual research. The service being used fulfils the sexual desire of the clients rather than the one`s regular sexual partners. The sexual excitement is not reached with only one same partner. Since the wives or girlfriends do not accept such bizarre activities, men desire to perform the sexual-related activities with the prostitutes.
According to Re (2002), gender difference is the cause for the men to have sexual drive rather than women. So the men have this dissimilarity of being in the prostitution. The real men are those who show “manliness”. In other words, the men who manage the sexual intercourse activity with other women even in the presence of their wife are referred as the `real men`. This concept is managed by the people who use the service of prostitution.
In furtherance to the above Tepanon (2006) informs that the sex tourists have been pushed by mostly the two drives: physical and physiological needs, considered as personal needs. The physical needs include the “physical problems” and “unmet sexual needs” whereas “hedonistic drive” and “modernity” are involved in the psychological problems. As per the studies of Tepanon (2006), the sex tourists are being attracted towards the sex tourism destinations by the physical gains (tangible attributes) and the psychological gains (freedom and excitement, power reestablishment and sense of belonging).
The older men as per the studies of Rao (2003) are among the typical group of `sex tourists` who during their mid life come across crisis. Generally, sex tourists have respectable jobs such as the position of a manager or self employed that enable them to meet the expenses of distant destinations. While the other side of sex tourists include young women possessed with proper education and good jobs for example a female sex tourists of Jamaica (Pruitt & LaFont, 1995). From the studies it can be state that sex tourists can be anyone whose age, gender and education does not matter at all. Hence for the tourism academics, it has become a challenge to define the demographics of the sex tourist.
Sex Tourism in Thailand
Thailand in view of sex tourism is one of the few emerging countries in the world. It is undeniable fact to state that most of the tourists visiting Thailand are for sexual intentions and have no relationship with the arrival of international tourists. However, the evidences of propensity of sex tourism revealed out of the websites such as and Though an act of prostitution declared illegal in Thailand, the earlier research stated that a key role was played by the government in stimulating such an act in the industry of sex tourism by remaining “quite open in support of prostitution” (Agrusa, 2003, p.173). The famous areas of sex tourisms such as Patpong or Pattaya are allowed to have sex tourism as well as prostitution in Thailand.
The Thai society possesses exclusive set of sexual practice (Sarah et al., 1998). There, it is a common fact to visit paid mistress or prostitute although such behaviour is not necessarily acceptable by men. Most of the Thai women are of the belief that having prostitution would help in reducing the cases of rape and other mischief acts. Also it is prevailed among Thai people that prostitution was there and will always exist as a part of social fabric across Thailand.
The research of Tepanon (2006) that inquired to find the causes of sex tourism adapted Thailand as a case wherein tourists from different global locations arrived. The prime focus of the researcher was in Pattaya beach of Thailand. The research found that sex tourists visit Thailand with an intention to acquire psychological and physical benefits which are considered as pull drives. The physical benefits are relevant to physical attributes for instance expended amount for the trip and accessibility of women.
The psychological benefits of sex tourists involves of wild pleasure, excitement, freedom, reestablishment of power. These are the requisites resulted out of modernity that consequently ascertains implicit effect on the personal necessities.
According to research study conducted by Tepanon different factors affecting sex tourism in Thailand were found to have different motivational factors. Depending on such findings, a conceptual model has been proposed by the author (figure-1).
Figure 1: Motivational Factors of Sex Tourists
Source: Tepanon (2006, p. 107)
The above presented model is “the refined model of sex tourist motivation is derived from real experiences and motivations of sex tourists who visited Pattaya Beach, Thailand in the summer and winter of 2005” (p.107).
In contrast to the above findings the more recent research of Turner & Turner (2009) found that Thais usually believe themselves lenient to others and particularly the perceived were deemed to be exploited ones. This led the prostitution to prosper without intensifying the social stigma.
Normally the people of Thailand will not approve prostitution however stigma for prostitutes may not last longer since most of the prostitutes are supported by their parents. Also there are some men who may not mind or object for a marriage with prostitutes. From the study of prostitutes well being, in the year 2009 it was observed that the practice of sex had reduced and reach to normal levels.
The growing campaigns against prostitution and the `de-moral` issues related to sex tourism motivated individuals and organization to initiate action against. However the rescue teams and the involvement of police have created more issues than resolutions. This is evident from the studies of Augustin (2011) who states that most of the people are yet unaware of the issues linked with the act of rescue. The explanations presented by the workers of Barn Su Funn brothel stated that disapproving rescue and raids operations will freed them from fixing the lives of the rescuers irrespective of whether they are NGO employees, celebrities or police officers. The sex workers also stated that when anti-prostitution groups or police rescue them from such act they deemed it as more harmful than good.
Findings and Analysis
The extensive research and study conducted to analyze and assess sex tourism with specific focus on Thailand indicate that culturally rich Thailand has never been anticipated to be promoting sex tourism. However, the research indicates that in Thailand sex tourism not only exists but is also flourishing. This is in spite of the fact that the aspects related to sex tourism have never been pleasant for the culturally rich Thailand. This is evident from the fact that in the recent years many NGOs and voluntary organisations are getting involved in curbing the menace. However, the threat of unconstitutional implications on the involved prostitutes has been so influential that the attempts made by anti prostitution groups have been giving negative results.
Thailand like any other emerging economy has been a victim to western patterns luring the innocent girls and children into the prostitution business. The inclusion of technology using internet as modus operand for inclusion of sex tourism is as a part of international tourism. The aspect of sex tourism has escalated to such an extent that in the recent times the European countries are expressing concerns of the spread of HIV. Though sex tourism has been recognized and identified as a threat to the society by the WHO as well as the WTO, little efforts could be seen in case of Thailand wherein the authorities are also seem to have paying a deaf year to the menace if not promoting it. This is a clear indication of giving a broader scope for corruption. Studies indicate that principally there are two drivers for promotion of sex tourism. They are physical and psychological needs. As these relate to an individual`s personal perception resulting in complexity to tackle the issue, more importantly because of the cultural variation in the western and eastern countries as well as developed countries and emerging economies.
The best example as discussed earlier is that a conversation for sexual desires in a bar in the western culture is a very common factor whereas it is termed as negotiation in emerging economies in the Thailand.
Thailand is a country that has adopted rich cultural heritage from China, Burma and India. The national religion of the country representing Theravada Buddhism would never permit to promote prostitution.
However, in the last decade with the growth of international tourism the economic condition of the local people has been forcibly exploited to drag them into prostitution in the disguise of sex tourism.
In Thailand though prostitution is illegal the government seems to be ignoring the reputation of the country as the sex business is contributing good share in the national economy.
Research indicate that the personal needs of the people being unmet due to various reasons in a developed nation, the spending power being high among such people has been the motivational factor for patrons to take the disguise of the tourist and fulfil their physical and psychological needs by participating in sex in a far of locations.
This research further concludes to state that tough causes and reasons have been many the exploitation of the economic situation of a particular sect in a emerging economy needs to be viewed in factors such as power establishment, unethical sex leading to the spread of deadly virus such as HIV, forcing the emerging economies like Thailand into the web wherein they are designated as a degraded country. Various studies have identified causes and reasons under different perceptions. However, the focus has always being the psychological factor.
For example, if some studies indicated freedom, excitement, sense of belonging and power reestablishment as the psychological gains driven by modernity some studies went on to inform that domestic problems in familial relations as the principle causes. Studies have also wanted about the aftermath impact of participating in sex tourism such as change in the familial environment that may slowly spread on to impact the society and the nation.
The principle cause of Thailand being designated as a designation for sex tourism is because of the huge revenue it is bringing in the form of tourism. This research based on the discussions recommends that Thailand being a culturally rich nation needs to consider the reputation of the country as well as the negative impact it is creating on its culture. Instead of giving a free hand to the authorities who can of they want to would curb the menace and slowly infusing ethics among the people involved in prostitution through the NGOs and anti prostitution activists would be a better beginning. This can slowly be transformed into rehabilitation practices by promoting agricultural and industrial growth as results cannot be anticipated overnight a long term plan with policy decisions can give positive results. Prevalence of the present situation may further lead not only augmentation in corruption but also degradation of the nation in the globalised economy. This study also recommends specific research on to find motivational factors promoting sex tourism.
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