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Running head: CULTURAL FACTORS PROMOTING SEX SLAVERY IN THAILAND

Cultural Factors Promoting Sex Slavery in Thailand


Lisa Maley
Molloy College

CULTURAL FACTORS PROMOTING SEX SLAVERY IN THAILAND

Abstract
In Thailand, sex slavery and trafficking have become enormous problems due to cultural factors
such as religion, family dynamics, sex norms, and the economy. It is important to note the unique
societal aspects in Thailand that perpetuate sex slavery so that they may be changed. This article
seeks to address societal apathy, which is a huge factor that enables sex slavery to continue
unchallenged by citizens and the government.

CULTURAL FACTORS PROMOTING SEX SLAVERY IN THAILAND

Cultural Factors Promoting Sex Slavery in Thailand


Sex slavery and trafficking have become prolific problems in Thailand due largely in part
to cultural factors such as: religion, family dynamics, and societal norms. Thailands sex slavery
problem speaks to societal apathy and the dangers of preferring one gender over another. Cynthia
Vejar and Andrew Quachs article Sex Slavery in Thailand explores the unique societal factors
that perpetuate the oppression and abuse of women in Thailand.
While prostitution can be seen in most cultures, sex slavery is particularly dangerous
because the victims are coerced or forced into it against their wills. One unexpected perpetuator
of sex slavery in Thailand is the predominant religion of Theravada Buddhism. It is widely
believed that women cannot achieve enlightenment, and this belief in gender inequality primes a
society for oppression. Additionally, beliefs in karma and fate keep women in these roles to pay
retribution for former transgressions (Vejar & Quach, 2013, p.108).
Thai family dynamics contribute to sex slavery because debt is inherited, and daughters
are often offered up to settle these debts. Also, children are expected to financially sustain their
parents once they reach adulthood. Many daughters then willingly enter sex slavery as a
lucrative means to fulfill this task instead of other options such as sweatshops (Vejar & Quach,
2013, p.109). The sexual climate of Thailand began roughly during the Vietnam War (19541975) when Thailand became a spot for off-duty military personnel to engage in leisurely
activities which included sex with local Thai prostitutes. The struggling Thai economy became
dependent on this type of commerce, and the sex industry persisted after the troops left (Vejar &
Quach, 2013). The government often turns a blind eye to prostitution because of the economical
boons the sex industry affords the nation. Another aspect of Thai culture that oppresses women is

CULTURAL FACTORS PROMOTING SEX SLAVERY IN THAILAND

a lack of educational opportunities, particularly for those in rural settings. Young children who
are supposed to go to school may end up as sex slaves.
While this article highlights many cultural factors that promote sex slavery in Thailand, it
focuses solely on the oppression of women. In reality, young boys also are victims of these
heinous practices but are not mentioned in this article. The article also ignores the trafficking of
women and children to other parts of the world like the United States. The authors also ask the
question, Can a person who has had his or her human rights infringed on to such an aggressive
degree develop socially? (Vejar & Quach, 2013, p.120). This is not the right question to ask
because it seems to question whether any assistance to Thai people would be beneficial.
However, while this article mentions steps that the government can take, it does not address how
Thai citizens could help the situation. One positive aspect of this article is the outline of grassroot assistance that should be given to rural areas that may not have access to programs available
in urban locations. Conversely, the article does not mention the benefits of therapy which might
greatly help these women gain self-esteem and self-worth.
I believe that this article serves as an important illuminator for future educators who
might not be aware of sex slavery. As an educator, I believe that it is crucial to be sensitive to
gender inequalities and oppression in cultures that may be represented in the diverse classroom. I
had no idea the harmful effects that religion, particularly one that seems benevolent could have
in perpetuating sex slavery. I was distressed at some of the narrow-minded questions that the
authors proposed because it seems to place blame, in small part, on the victims.
Vejar and Quachs Sex Slavery in Thailand is an important article that addresses some
lesser-known societal causes of sex slavery in Thailand. Religion, family dynamics, sex norms,
and the economy all perpetuate sex slavery in unique ways. Through direct intervention in the

CULTURAL FACTORS PROMOTING SEX SLAVERY IN THAILAND

forms of government crackdowns and education, sex slavery may be lessened over time. Perhaps
the most important aspect of the article is the call for citizen mobilization to combat an issue that
is widely overlooked.

CULTURAL FACTORS PROMOTING SEX SLAVERY IN THAILAND


References
Vejar, C. M., & Quach, A. S. (2013). Sex slavery in Thailand. Social Development Issues, 35(2),
105-123.