Term Paper: Sex Tourism in the Vietnam

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[. . .] Otherwise faced with poverty, such women are said to be doing a service to themselves and their families. For instance, Bart Croughs states, "in general sex tourists act rather feminist: most of them practice a private form of affirmative action ... This way the disadvantaged women in third world countries are given the opportunity to advance their economic position and catch up with the men." Such astounding spins on what is a genuine problem are prolific. Sometimes, the excuses are more subtle. They range from denial of intent to lack of direct payment to lacking restriction, promiscuity, or amorality (Gunther 1998, p. 72-73). Nineteen-year-old Gareth, who did not come to Thailand in search of sex, could easily claim denial of intent. "I didn't seek out sex; it just sort of happened." Gareth could also claim lack of direct payment. Like many sex tourists, their financial exchange was more subtle than it is depicted in the movies. Most, if not all, sex tourists, rely on the lack of legal restrictions as a prime excuse for their behavior, and also tend to point attention to the lack of seeming amorality surrounding the sex trade in countries they visit. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. In most cases, prostitution is both illegal and frowned upon in the countries that host sex tourism.

Were nations like Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines more dedicated to women's rights and women's education, the sex tourism would be less likely to thrive. Therefore, one of the main ways sex tourism can be eradicated is to strongly and ceaselessly promote female education and job training in all nations at risk for sex tourism. A myriad of non-governmental organizations such as the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) can and should get involved in the systematic education and job training programs. Furthermore, if the nations that host sex tourism were offered significant debt relief and other aid packages, then the economic conditions that force families to find sex tourism an attractive option for their daughters would be ameliorated. However, such ideals remain exactly that: dreams.

A Solid Program for Action

Thus far, it seems that more has been done over the past several decades to promote sex tourism than to prevent it. However, more and more people are becoming aware of the problems with sex tourism and public policy is beginning to change. In 2004, Canada passed a ground-breaking law that "allows police to prosecute sex offences committed by Canadians in foreign countries even without a formal complaint from a foreign country," ("First man jailed under new ... " 2005). The first man prosecuted under the new sex tourism law was a man named Donald Bakker, who pled guilty to ten sex crimes committed in Cambodia. Such legislation is a step in the right direction on the part of wealthy nations, those that sex tourists usually hail from. While governments normally do not issue transnational legislation, in cases of sexual abuse such legislation is absolutely necessary to safeguard the well-being of women, children, and male prostitutes. In many cases, host nations do not have adequate law enforcement bans on the sex trade. Law enforcement officers in countries in which the sex trade is a lucrative business deliberately choose not to enforce anti-prostitution measures because of the impact their actions would have on the local economy, because of organized crime, and because of inter-governmental corruption. Because of the shortcomings of law enforcement in host nations, the nations from which sex tourists hail should take bold legislative steps like Canada has.

Sexually-transmitted diseases are one of the most severe problems associated with the sex tourism industry. Therefore, international and domestic health organizations need to take a stand toward preventing sex tourism. Sex tourism permits deadly diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis B to flourish. Clinics in host countries must provide up-to-date literature regarding such diseases, and schools in host countries need to educate their students to the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. The governments of host countries should be pressured by international bodies to step up their education policies to at least increase awareness of the spreading of infectious diseases so that even when prostitution is allowed to continue, the diseases themselves can be minimized. Local, state, and federal governments also need to ensure that their young girls are well-educated, offered the same opportunities for work and livelihood as boys. Businesses need to receive funding that enable them to contribute positively to their local economies so that more vocational options are open to girls, so that families no longer have to sell their girls into the sex trade. Eliminating the poverty that drives the sex trade is next-to-impossible, but small steps can be done to improve the status of women in third world nations.

In addition to these large-scale measures, sex tourists and the tourism industry at large share the bulk of the responsibility for eradicating sex tourism. Individual sex tourists should cease denying the impact of their actions. Men like Hans and his buddies should take care to ponder the implications of supporting the sex tourism industry. However tempted they are, Hans' friends should refuse to follow in his footsteps. Individual tourists can read about the impact of sex tourism and stop justifying their actions by false beliefs such as those espoused by Bart Croughs on his web page "In praise of sex tourism." However, it is unlikely that people like Hans and Bart Croughs would alter their personal value system. Therefore, tourists who are not personally attracted to the sex tourism industry can be alert when a potential prostitute approaches them. Men like Gareth, now aware of the motivation behind the bar girls' flirtations, can tell his friends what to expect when they visit Thailand. Making sex tourism 'uncool" instead of glamorizing it can be a key to eradicating the practice. One of the ways to change tourists' attitudes toward sex tourism is by increasing awareness about the underlying gender, ethnic, and cultural biases that fuel the industry. So much sex tourism is founded on the lure of being with "exotic" women who are from certain ethnic groups, and many people do not realize that beneath their tastes might lie sexism or racism. Individual tourists need to keep their personal biases in check. Individual tourists can refuse to patronize hotels or bars that support the sex trade, and refuse to do business with travel agents that support it too.

Travel agents and other businesses associated with the tourism industry also share some of the responsibility for eradicating the sex tourism industry. Travel agents can insert literature that debriefs their clients before they travel to countries like Thailand, warning them of the dangers of sex tourism. Scare tactics such as warnings about getting arrested or contracting diseases can help.

One way to begin eradicating the sex tourism industry in host countries is to promote the creation of local business organizations. Hotels, bars, restaurants, and massage parlors can register with the organizations, which periodically inspect them for suspicious activities. Tourism agencies abroad should have access to the lists complied by the local business organizations and make sure to only support the hotels and services that are registered.

However, host countries cannot be entirely exempt from their responsibilities toward their citizens and need to help eradicate the sex tourism industry. Sex tourism has been an integral part of the economies in nations where it flourishes. Countries like Thailand should take care to instill solid values into their citizens through educational programs that promote positive views toward women, and through programs that stimulate business growth in areas other than massage parlors and Patpong bars.

Works Cited

Croughs, Bart. "In praise of sex tourism." Online at .

"First man jailed under new Canadian sex tourism law for abusing Cambodians." 2005. Online at .

Gunther, Armin. 1998. "Sex Tourism Without Sex Tourists." Sex Tourism and Prostitution: Aspects of Leisure, Recreation, and Work. Ed. Martin Oppermann. New York: Cognizant Communication, p. 71-80.

Haney, Dawn. 2001. "Prostitution and Sex Tourism." Third World Women's Health. Online at .

Iverson, Thomas J. And Dierking, John C. 1998. "Massage Parlors: Clandestine Prostitution." Sex Tourism and Prostitution: Aspects of Leisure, Recreation, and Work. Ed. Martin Oppermann. New York: Cognizant Communication, p. 81-86.

Thorbek, Susanne and Pattanaik. 2002. Transnational Prostitution: Changing Global Patterns. New York: Zed. [END OF PREVIEW]

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