U.S. Policy Towards Thai Women Sex Trafficking Term Paper

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Sex Trafficking of Thai Women and the U.S. Response

The Incidence of Sex Trafficking of Thai Women in the United States and a Review of Relevant Governmental Policy

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In many ways, Thailand continues to be a mysterious and idyllic region of Asia for many Western observers. The primarily Buddhist kingdom of Thailand remains a sociological jewel in many ways among many Southeast Asian nations by virtue of its progressive social policies and egalitarian approach to human rights. As the only Southeast Asian country to escape occupation by the Japanese during World War II or colonization by a European power (the country's name means "Free-land," after all), Thais appear to possess the natural ability to persevere psychologically and economically even during the worst of times, and their national motto of "never mind" (Mai pen lai) seems to sum up their carefree attitude about the periodic downturns that characterize the universal human condition. In spite of these many blessings, Thailand remains a center of international sex trafficking and the adverse impact on the young Thai girls involved has been profound with lifelong implications. While authorities debate precise figures, it has been estimated by the United Nations that between 700,000 to 2 million women, with some estimates as high as 4 million women and children, are trafficked across borders to work in the sex industry each year (Cwikel & Hoban, 2005). To determine how this combination of eventualities could emerge in an otherwise peace loving and progressive country, this study provides a review of the relevant and peer-reviewed literature to identify current sex trafficking issues in Thailand, and what the U.S. government has done in response from a policy-making perspective, including the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. A critical review of the literature is followed by a discussion of the issues involved and a summary of the research and salient findings are provided in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Background and Overview.

TOPIC: Term Paper on U.S. Policy Towards Thai Women Sex Trafficking Assignment

Today, Thailand enjoys a well-developed infrastructure, a free-enterprise economy, and pro-investment policies, and the kingdom seems to have completely recovered economically from the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis (Thailand, 2006). In fact, Thailand enjoyed one of the most impressive economic performance records during the period 2002-2004 in all of East Asia; increased domestic consumption and exports fueled further growth in the Thai economy in 2003 and 2004 in spite of an otherwise rocky global economy (Thailand, 2006). The country's leadership has pursued preferential trade agreements with a variety of neighboring trade partners as well as the United States in an attempt to further boost exports and to sustain these patterns of high economic growth (Thailand, 2006). In sharp contrast to these glowing economic reports are more troubling accounts of the growing incidence of sex trafficking practices in Thailand today. Worldwide, the number of women and children who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation during the last 15 years already equal to estimates of the number of Africans who were enslaved for sale in the United States during the 16th and 17th centuries: "The minimum number of African slaves transported here was between 5 million and 6 million. There is no doubt that world trafficking [in sex slaves] now is around that number" (Edwards & Harder, 2000, p. 14). According to Nelson (2002), at least 700,000 people, mostly women and children, become the victims of sex trafficking within or across international borders. "Many of these persons are trafficked into the international sex trade," Nelson adds, "often by force, fraud, or coercion.... Traffickers primarily target women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by poverty, the lack of access to education, chronic unemployment, discrimination, and the lack of economic opportunities in countries of origin" (p. 551).

A number of factors have been cited concerning why children in countries throughout the world continue to be victims of sex trafficking, and these reasons differ from country to country (Matthews, 2005). According to this author, "The common variable for all victims is that they are exploited, whether by a family member, their community, or even a corrupt government. How and why this exploitation permeates young lives is found in varying explanations in countries around the world" (p. 649). For example, researchers have suggested that the fact that the paucity of a consensus even concerning the definition of "child" has contributed to the problem of sex trafficking; clearly, if the international community is unable to achieve a common definition as to who is a child, many observers caution that it is impossible to determine who is being victimized (Matthews, 2005).

Indeed, although the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a working definition for "child" as being an individual under the age of 18 years and therefore, child sex trafficking laws should protect children age 17 years and under, some countries may consider the age a person can consent to sexual activity to be less than 18 years and the respective country's laws assume precedence over the international conventions (Matthews, 2005). This problem is further exacerbated in countries where births are not recorded officially or where a false identification card is readily obtainable on the black market. Therefore, to the extent that countries are unable to even agree on who qualifies as a child is likely the extent to which a significant percentage of sex trafficking victims remain unidentified and unprotected (Matthews, 2005). Furthermore, as Kuo (2000) points out, "The fear of criminal arrest needlessly pushes many abused women to the underground sector, where the cycle of abuse is even more unaccountable and hence even more brutal" (p. 42). Likewise, there is a lot of money to be made in sex trafficking and countries that have the practice fully entrenched in their culture have elaborate infrastructures in place to ensure their continued operations (Matthews, 2005). According to Matthews:

Victims are often unable to support themselves and have no means to escape their plight, thus making them easy prey for traffickers. Although these victims become the property of brothel owners, their basic needs of survival are being met. On the flip side, patrons from wealthy nations have the ability to travel to countries where laws to protect children from sex crimes do not exist, or are not enforced. These perpetrators also can afford to change venues if a country begins to enact or exercise child sexual exploitation laws. (2005, p. 650).

The increasing gap between developed and developing countries further complicates the problem of sex trafficking; the financial disparity among countries leads to the victimization of children from poorer countries by perpetrators of wealthy nations. Moreover, economically unstable countries victimize their own people to receive some of a prosperous nation's wealth. While poverty contributes to the trafficking problem, it is only one factor. In fact, Matthews emphasizes that the governments of some desperately poor countries are fully complying with provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 minimal standards for eliminating sex trafficking (2005). According to this author, "Trafficking prospers when local law enforcement condones it, whether implicitly or explicitly. Traffickers cannot conduct their activities in private -- customers must also know where to go to access victims. It only stands to reason that if customers know where the brothels are, local police must also know" (emphasis added) (Matthews, 2005, p. 650). The reason trafficking prospers in these types of locations in Thailand and elsewhere throughout Southeast Asia is two-fold:

Law enforcement is overwhelmed, and lacking in resources, and police corruption has led to involvement of officers in the sex ring;

Trafficking is especially prevalent in countries involved in armed conflict or civil unrest due to instability because it displaces women, and children become victims under corrupt or powerless governments (Matthews, 2005).

More specifically, a recent study of trafficked women conducted in Thailand and the United States identified nine factors that have contributed to the worldwide increase in sex trafficking:

Under economic policies of globalization, many services that used to be state-supported, such as education, health care, and social welfare, are now being transferred to private hands, increasing the economic burden on families who must pay for these services.

The sex industry is becoming more globalized, with recruitment and transport being conducted in larger and more sophisticated trafficking networks. Sex industry advertising is accomplished over the internet, offering further opportunities to provide international sex business.

The male demand for sex services is a hard market to saturate, suggesting that "the way in which sex has been tolerated as a male right in a commodity culture is all part of this demand."

The social structure in most of the world is built on women's inequality and economic dependence on fathers and husbands and male relatives. This inequality has allowed an almost endless supply of women who are desperate to earn money, particularly in developing countries and emerging industrialized countries.

The commodification of women's bodies as sexual objects, and therefore for sale, is common.

Child sexual abuse, in particular, puts young women in a vulnerable state that may be exploited in order to pressure women to work… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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