[Stop-traffic] News/Thailand: INSIDE EYE: Frank talk on flesh trade, NATION

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Thailand: INSIDE EYE: Frank talk on flesh trade, NATION
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Sat Nov 11 2000 - 18:58:47 EST


                  INSIDE EYE: Frank talk on flesh trade, NATION

APwo 11/10/00 4:28 PM

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
The information contained in this news report may not be published,
broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of
the Associated Press.

    When non-governmental organization Empower recently announced that a
world conference on prostitutes would take place in Bangkok "soon", the
majority of Thais were horrified. Symposia on oncology, international
finance and even HIV/Aids are acceptable: a debate on prostitutes, it
seems, is not.
       Yet Empower is a respected agency, recognized by society for its
tireless efforts to help develop the quality of life of prostitutes, so why
such an uproar?
       Simply, because many Thais disagree with Empower's reasoning. They
say the conference will further tarnish Thailand's image abroad. "The world
will be convinced that Thailand is the center of prostitution as well as a
sex paradise," they explain. And to strengthen their case, they also point
out that the holding of such a conference here risks encourage our teens to
enter the oldest profession in the world.
       I disagree with their arguments.
       For starters, Thailand is not the only country where prostitutes earn
a living. On the other hand, it does seem that it is easier to buy sex at
any time and at any place here than in other countries. And, for a variety
of reasons, they are more and more young prostitutes in today's Thailand
who are willing to exchange sex for cash. They are not lured or forced into
the sex trade. They enter the profession because they want to.
Unfortunately, many of them lack adequate information on the dangers as
well as the eventual consequences of their chosen career.
       Many Thais do have a certain sympathy for those young girls who are
lured to the big city with promises of a factory job or who are sold by
their parents to the mama-san
       . And all but those involved in the business deplore the trafficking
and sexual exploitation of women and children.
       The Thai public has a very different view of those who become
prostitutes by choice, labeling them as "bad girls" without even pausing to
think why they are in the flesh trade .
       Yet both groups of prostitutes suffer the same fate in real life. I
have never met any prostitute who says she is proud of doing this job and
wants to remain on the game until the end. Sooner or later, the girls
realize that money cannot buy happiness. And as they get older, they lose
clients and have to face the fact that there is no room in such a
competitive field for an old prostitute.
       Personally, I am in favor of the conference. It will be of benefit to
us all. We should accept that there are many prostitutes in Thai society
and the associated problem. By trying to understand the realities of the
situation, we can then try to help those prostitutes who have been lured or
forced into the sex trade. We can also learn what we can do to encourage
prostitutes to realize their worth as human beings, and we will know how we
can protect our girls from the temptations offered by a career that brings
in fast money.
       The Thai attitude towards prostitution is two-faced. On the one hand,
we condemn the girls for selling sex yet we think nothing about shelling
out for a few hours or a night of illicit pleasure. It is no longer taboo
for the media to mention sex, rather they tend to promote it as a fun
activity that need not be limited to one partner. On top of that, the
media, through ads and commercials, convey the message to the young that
the most important things in life are money (lots of it) and owning the
latest CD, DVD player or the top of the line mobile phone. Little wonder
then that the teens are tempted to do anything to get their hands on money.
To their not yet fully mature mines, these commercial communications spell
out that sex is fun, the money is great and that people are happy to shell
out for a roll in the hay.
       To cap it all, we actually have the nerve to express our surprise
that prostitution is an attractive career for young girls. It is high time
for a reality check.
       Rejecting the conference will not help change the situation. Instead,
we should accept that the problems exist and do all we can to help correct
them.
       I can only wonder what Thai society will resemble in the future if we
continue to turn a blind eye to what is going on and carry on telling
ourselves that we are members of an old and civilized country with a
history and distinctive culture of which we can be proud.
       Would we not be better to keep in mind that pride is not a tool for
change? Discussion, no matter how distasteful we may find the subject, is a
far more powerful instrument in the treatment of social woes.

    Copyright 2000 NATION all rights reserved as distributed by
WorldSources, Inc.

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