Canada Prostitution Laws: What does this mean for Thailand?

by Admin on October 1, 2010

Prostitution in Thailand

There are at least three myths that surround prostitution in Thailand. The first is that prostitutes in Thailand are Thai nationals. In reality, globalization has hit many industries in Thailand and elsewhere.  Reports indicate that an international array of beautiful  and not so beautiful bodies are for sale that include representatives from Eastern Europe, Africa and other South East Asian countries. The second myth is that all partakers are male. In reality, there are rentboys for male and female clientele. There are  even some women who prefer and support rentgirls instead of boys. And the final myth: Prostitution in Thailand is legal.

Thailand does, in reality, have rather strict laws concerning prostitution and the sex trade, despite its reputation as a place for life on the edge. In fact there  are numerous sex laws in Thailand in place.

Canada’s Recent Ruling on Legalizing Prostitution

On September 28th, 2010, an Ontario Superior Court Judge struck down Canada’s prostitution laws on the basis that these laws forced women to into greater danger by having to conduct their activities in secret and often dangerous situations. Specifically, the ruling “decriminalizes solicitation, keeping a bawdy house and living off the avails of prostitution, components of the Canadian Criminal code”, according to an article in The Vancouver Sun Prostitution itself has long been legal in Canada, but the new prostitution ruling in Canada is stirring considerable debate as this will allow brothels and sex workers to openly conduct business in the streets of Canada.

The Legal Status of Prostitution in the Netherlands and Sweden

Due to Sweden’s Sex Purchase Act of 1999, it is illegal to buy sexual services, but not to sell them. This idea was born out of the concept that prostitution was a form of male violence and oppression against women, and therefore should be penalized and dealt with in a more aggressive manner. This law is in large part due to the history of the feminist movement in Sweden, and the debate over gender equality.

In the Netherlands, on the other hand, prostitution is legal and regulated, including the operation of a brothel. Just as Bangkok has its notorious Patpong and Soi Cowboy districts, the Netherland’s Amsterdam has its famous De Wallen red light district. Prostitution in the Netherlands has been legalized since 2000, and in a survey conducted in 1997, 74% of Dutch citizens said prostitution was an “acceptable” job.

The Future of Legal Acts Regarding Prostitution in Thailand

Even though countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, and Canada seem to have taken a liberal standpoint on the highly debated issue of prostitution, does this mean Thailand can or should follow the mold? As a hotspot on the international sex tourism map, it seems plausible that this could be a reasonable solution for Thailand. However, due to the cultural chasm between that of a Northern American country like Canada, and European countries like Sweden and Denmark, could a similar legalization effort really cause any change in the entrenchment of prostitution “norms” generally accepted in Thailand? Non-profit groups like EMPOWER Thailand currently fight for the rights of sex workers in Thailand. EMPOWER is run and maintained by an all female staff.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

BangkokBeck October 14, 2010 at 04:18

Do I think prostitution in Thailand should be legalized? Absolutely.
Do I think Thailand is capable of legalizing prostitution? Absolutely
not. Legalized prostitution works in countries like the Netherlands
and Sweden because their governments took care to draft laws that
would allow for prostitution to be managed rather than ignored and
they impose these laws. It requires much more care and legal oversight to maintain a legalized prostitution market than to turn your eye away from an illegal, and in Thailand’s case, incredibly lucrative prostitution market.

Those who are raking in the profits of the prostitution market in Thailand will have no problem directing the attention of law enforcement elsewhere. Thailand is a well known mecca for purchasing counter-fit goods and child pornography is being sold on some of the most highly traveled streets of Bangkok.

To think that Thailand could follow suit after countries like the
Netherlands, Sweden or Canada and employ a similar level of oversight in the prostitution sector is not realistic. The amount of income being generated by those regulating the prostitution market simply won’t allow for it. They will buy their way through any law imposed and nothing will change. If those in favor of legalizing prostitution think a cultural chasm is what they must cross they are highly mistaken, it is a deep chasm of corruption which is far, far greater.

James Wilson October 14, 2010 at 07:45

I wouldn’t worry too much about Thailand following Canada’s stance: rules and reality rarely go hand in hand over here! It’s interesting that a Canadian judge should decide that protecting women was more important than the type of work they were engaged with. It’s clear that walking the streets at night is a dangerous profession (several prostitutes doing just that were murdered in England a few years ago), but saying that they should be allowed to ply their trade in houses will open the flood gates. You can imagine Niagra Falls will be renamed Viagra Falls before long!

The judge must realize the significance of such a ruling, and I guess you have to applaud him or her for making a stance. Thailand would never admit to having such a problem in the first place, and so there would be no need for legislation. In such a patriarchal country as Thailand, prostitution is technically illegal as this is a Buddhist nation where such things are immoral, but in reality lawmakers, judges and most other males regularly use such services, so there’s never any real demand for change or law enforcement.

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