Sex Work Museum in Thailand

by Admin on May 29, 2017

Empower is a foundation that works to educate sex workers in Thailand

This video was sponsored by Chaninat & Leeds, one of Thailand’s leading family law firm

Prostitution, a profession technically illegal in Thailand but that which remains largely unregulated and some might say, encouraged due to the amount of capital it brings to the nation.  As open as prostitution is in Thailand, many Thais are very conservative and tend to shy away from mingling with women in the sex industry. One small group of people hoped to change this mindset and set up a foundation called Empower.

Empower stands for “Education Means Protecting Women Engaged in Recreation.”

It was founded 30 years ago with the intention of educating women in the sex industry. The founders and its members fought for legalization of prostitution in Thailand and have set up workshops for prostitutes.

Thailawforum set an appointment with one of Empower’s co founders, Khun Noi to talk about Empower and visit the famous Sex Work Museum run by Empower.

The museum is set to tell a story about the history of sex work in Thailand.

The first record of prostitution was in Ayudhaya in the 1600s when the region was given an official license to run an elite brothel. The fee ranged from 50 satang to 4 baht. 50 satang could buy 15 kilograms of rice at that time and would be equivalent to approximately 750 baht today. Most of the women who worked at these brothels were daughters of esteemed officials and customers ranged from foreign dignitaries to travelers and locals.

Prostitution continued to flourish in the region. However it was a US and Thai treaty during the Vietnam war that stamped Thailand as a destination for sex. The governments signed an agreement to provide R&R facilities in Thailand for one week every 6 months of their deployment. One of the places the GI’s favored was Pattaya, not only for the women but also the beautiful beaches, clear waters and coral reefs. In the early days a hotel room cost 50 satang, a lady companion not more.

After WWII ended in early 1947 came the evolution of go-go bars. The first successful go go bar was established in Patpong called The Grand Prix Bar and Restaurant. Dancers wore bikinis and usually danced in bare feet, flip flops or tennis shoes. About 4 dancers would dance each dance about 3 songs before changing to another team.

The next area of the museum showed the evolution of massage parlors. Young GI’s coming to Bangkok in the 1960’s enjoyed getting Turkish baths with addition of body massages, a business that is popular to this date.

Empower believes in educating women in the sex industry and to protect their rights as individuals of society. They work to empower them by promoting workshops to help women contribute to a society that normally shuns them.

As such the foundation runs workshops and it was during such a workshop that a woman Lek, designed the bar of her dreams, a dream realized when it opened in Chiang Mai in 2006. Can do Bar is the first sex workers cooperative bar. All the workers are covered by government social security and work 8 hour shifts, effectively cutting the middle men.

The sex work museum also dedicates one side of the wall to “condomology” and has a selection of condoms that the foundation gives to prostitutes during their work-shops. There is an array of sex toys, both for men and women including a tool box which Khun Noi told us is necessary for work in the sex industry.

It’s hard to ignore the Muay Thai boxing ring occupying the biggest area of the museum. Khun Noi informed me that the ring symbolizes the philosophy of Empower. It teaches the women to have courage, to fight against exploitation and to combat prejudice that is rife in society.

Empower has and is working towards offering support to women working in the sex industry. They are committed to promoting opportunities, equality and human dignity for sex workers in Thailand.

Related articles:

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Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act Takes Effect this May

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