"Modern day slavery". Prostitution in Thailand

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“They say my shell is too small
I shrug it off with a smile
For I take pride in my shell
A frog can dream once in a while” – Paiwarin Khao-Ngam
“Under a Coconut Shell”

To every one of us being a child means playing, laughing, eating ice cream, being surrounded with loving and caring parents. For children in Thailand however, this is just a mere image of the impossible. Thousands of them are tricked, drugged and then sold or abducted into prostitution. Trafficking in human beings for the purpose of prostitution is described as “the modern day slavery”. As Orlando Patterson, a Sociologist at Harvard University defined it, “slavery is the permanent, violent domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons”. It robs the individual of her honor, self respect and self consciousness.

We might ask ourselves why would this modern form of slavery exist today? One of the major reasons it still functions and generates tremendous profit is the fact that the poor parents sell their daughters and in some cases even young boys into prostitution or nicely put debt bondage to afford basic necessities like food, land or tools. It’s very simple and looks quite innocent; a well dressed Thai criminal playing a rich broker arrives in the small poor village to “hunt” for new fresh bodies, preferably young and innocent virgins because they bring higher price and pose less of a threat of exposure to STD’s. He lures parents into selling their daughters by bribing them with few hundreds dollars or pretends to represent a factory worker from far off a land who is not related to sex trade and who recruits new workers for his factory. The parents sign the debt agreement (with a mutual understanding that the daughter may only return once she has paid her debt through the labor). Many of the girls being sold believe that they are going to work as housemaids, in beauty salons, shops, bars, or restaurants. (“A Modern Form of Slavery: Trafficking and Child Prostitution in Northern Thailand”)

In reality they are transported southern brothel where they are beaten, raped, and put to work servicing 10 to 20 men a day. They have only few days off a month for their period, and a daily allowance of about $1.20 must pay for their food and all other expenses. Those children undergo sexual, physical and mental abuse, are forced to serve customers “The immediate and forceful application of terror is the first step in successful enslavement” (“Women Refugees Face Sex Slavery in Thailand”)

Another type of slavery is the illegal confinement and forced labor where most of the children enter into prostitution forcefully. Their abductor uses a combination of physical and mental abuse, threats of revenge and even death. Often most of the brothels are surrounded by electrical fences making it impossible for the girls to escape. This harsh treatment causes a tremendous psychological trauma for those young children. Just within few hours of being brought into the brothel those girls are still in pain and shock. The youngest of children who have a little
understanding of what is happening is overwhelming and causes a horrible trauma
At first as they resist sexual encounters, they’re badly beaten and some might be killed. Many children forced into prostitution however are often constantly raped to degrade, humiliate, and to break down their resistance by destroying one crucial thing, their sense of self worth. (“Women Refugees Face Sex Slavery in Thailand”)

According to the online article titled “Slavery in Thailand Today” another reason why child prostitution still exists is because of the corruption of the government and political system which causes the issue of sexual slavery to be overlooked and minimized. Many police officers are paid of by pimps or brothels’ owners and are themselves regular customers, thus not only overlooking the problem itself but also participating and supporting it. Also the Thai culture regards sex not as sin but as a normal, every day “leisure” activity depicting women as sex objects for the pleasure of men. Wives often send their husbands to brothels because they view this unattached form of sex as not threatening to the martial stability.
What are the statistics on child prostitution and its spread?

Well for one Thailand is currently called “Disneyland for pedophiles” and has up to 600,000 AIDS cases and a huge sex-for-sale industry, driven mostly by European and American tourists who come to rent what they want. It is estimated that the number of prostitutes in Thailand ranges from 800,000 to 2 million. Among which 20% of Thailand Prostitutes are 18 or younger.(“Disneyland for Pedophiles”)
Why is this multi million dollar industry still functioning?

Currently it is illegal under Thai law to have sex with girls less than fifteen years of age. Many Thai politicians and community leaders want the age limit raised to sixteen or eighteen and include boys as well since there is no mention of them in the law. However the corruption stands in the way of improving the conditions and punishing those responsible. Police officers or even politicians are bought to help protect those who are being prosecuted for sexually exploiting children. In some parts of Thailand prostitution became a fastest and most convenient way of making good money and many are not willing to give that up even if it means hurting the innocent. (“A walk on the Depraved Side”)
While I was writing this paper I encountered few very touching stories of some young individuals. One is about Nang Hom who was sold into prostitution by her father when she was just seven years old. The money from the transaction went into financing father’s heroin addiction. She was drugged and forced out of her home in Burma to one of Thai’s brothels where she lived for over five years. She was serving mostly 20 men a day and engaging in various distorted sexual activities for no pay. She was finally rescued by police however too late, some time after she was tested HIV positive.

Another story is about a Thai girl named Fon who dropped out of school at the age of 12 and who was lured into a big city where imprisoned and forced into local brothel she was forced to have sex with many different men every day, and
each of her attempts to escape ended up in severe beatings. Because of the beating she became very sick and couldn’t perform daily sexual services, thus the owner of the brothel seeing no profit realized her out on the street. Later on she had a baby who died of AIDS related illness.
Listening to those stories makes me wonder about all the children who were affected by this cruel money hungry industry. Nobody worries about the psyches of these kids, about their needs, wants. Most of them are on the verge of post traumatic stress disorders. They experience images of trauma like beating, rape or screaming ever day, often crying at night. Those children might constantly think of reasons why
their parents sold them, why their pimps mistreat them and keep blaming themselves for all the pain in their lives. “What is wrong with me?” is the question they often ask. These thoughts always haunt them causing those kids to sink into depression even deeper, “until it causes an incredible darkness and worthlessness”. To those children suicide may be the only way to set their minds and souls free and to end their suffering.

“The body’s filth cannot touch the pure soul, and snowdrifts cannot destroy living seeds. This life is but a threshing floor of sorrows in which souls have their adversities sifted out before they give their yield…You are oppressed, Marta, and the one who wronged you is the owner of mansions, the possessor of great wealth and a small soul” - Kahlil Gibran

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