The Child Prostitution in Thailand
Thailand is a country in South East Asia that is often associated with images of jasmine flowers, orange-robed monks, bargain shopping haven, and Buddhist temples. With its temperate climate, tropical dishes, endless temples and shrines, Thailand is considered a favorite vacation destination. Despite its booming tourism industry, the country is also home to human centered- developmental gaps, i.e. education and child prostitution.
Following World War II, education and its importance has been put at the forefront towards human development. In fact, education is seen as a tool in eradication “human misery and social injustice” (UNESCO, n.d.). Furthermore, education is viewed as vital instrument in defeating poverty. It is seen, as “a force that leads to the empowerment of human beings” (n.d.). In Thailand, there exist four educational levels: pre-school, primary, secondary and higher education (SEAMO, 2006). Pre-school education, geared towards children 3-5 years of age, serves as the initial step in promoting “physical, intellectual, emotional and social development” (2006). Child care centers, nursery and kindergarten schools are the basic examples of pre-school education in Thailand. This level of education is optional, hence majority of those that cater to such come from the private sector (2006).
On the other hand, primary education is integration of the curriculum focusing on the following areas of learning experiences: “basic skills developments, life experience, character development, work oriented education, and special experiences (SEAMO, 2006). This level is not only compulsory but is also freely available. Children from 6-11 are required to attend primary education. Moreover, there are government primary schools, demonstration schools and municipal schools to facilitate regional flexibility diversification (2006).
After this level, students move up to secondary education. This level, is split into two (called lower level and upper level) – each comprising 3 years (SEAMO, 2006). Five areas are covered in secondary education- language, science and mathematics, social studies, character development and work education (2006). The lower level is created to enable students to look at their options through general academic and vocational subjects (2006). The upper level is more specific as students learn apt skills and knowledge depending on their interest and capacity (2006). Credit system aids in the teaching-learning process (206). Public and private sectors comprise the organization of this level (2006).
Higher education is the premier level of education in Thailand. This is where “development of human intellectuality” is achieved to the utmost (SEAMO, 2006). Higher education is organized in various structures, form colleges, institutions for specialized studies and universities (2006).
Thailand faces challenges with regard to its educational system. Based on a UNICEF study, an estimated 900,000 million primary school-aged Thais are not going to studying, despite the fact that primary education is free of charge (UNICEF, 2005). Secondary education does not fare good, either, with only 69% of those who had gone to primary school, enrolled in secondary schools (2005). One major reason for this is late enrolment. Late enrolment results in many Thai children lagging behind in development. Additionally, children from ethnic groups, offspring of migrants and seafarers, and those who are homeless and afflicted with HIV-AIDS, are often with discrimination, unable to attend schools. HIV-AIDS is a major problem of the country (Cumming, 1999, p.65). Another problem that is associated with Thailand’s educational system is the inequality given to women. Gender disparity is prevalent the country. A UNESCO study reveals that even at primary levels, the ratio of boys to girls is unequal, with more male students than females (UNESCO, n.d.). This implies that female students are given less chance to education. This is appalling for girls, once in schools, are likely to stay than male students, who are prone to “drop out” (n.d.). Thai history says that education has always been geared towards men. In fact, formal education was viewed as a “privilege for Thai men” (Costa, 1997). Studying at the local wat (temple) was an opportunity granted only to men (1997). They studied sacred languages, Buddhist texts and did religious hymns (1997). In other words, the men had the chance to gain knowledge in various academic filed like medicine, law, astrology and poetry (1997). The women, aside from being bared entrance at the wat, only had limited access to education. They were restricted to learn on areas concerned with “home and child rearing, the marketplace, the rice fields” (1997). By virtue of their sex alone, since women could not be monks, they were denied vital knowledge and doors of opportunities. It was only by 1915 when the Thai government tried to change the scenario by providing more opportunities in terms of education to the women. However, the cultural standing was still hard to do away with. The cultural attitudes hamper the growth and development of Thai women. However, according to a United Nations Development (UNDP) Human Development Report, Thailand has started to lessen the gender imparity (Cummings, 1999, p. 67). Government organizations, developmental bodies and non-government agencies in Thailand and abroad have also helped tremendously in advocating for gender equality.
Another situation that has put Thailand in global quandary is the increasing sex tourism in the country. Prostitution is said to be brought to the country by Chinese immigrants in mid-19th century (Cummings, 1999, p. 53). Then, during the Vietnam War, prostitution became rampant due to the presence of American military (ECPAT, n.d.). What is worse is that the number of sex workers is not only limited to legal-age women. The number of Thai children engaged in child prostitution is alarming. A report by the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons state that the country “encourages trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation” (n.d.). Since 1992, Thailand has been part of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has legislated against Child prostitution (n.d.). According to the Prostitution Prevention and Suppression Act, anyone convicted of having sex with a child between the ages of 15-18 faces prison time to up to six years while those convicted of procuring, seducing and trafficking children may spend up to 20 years in jail (n.d). Yet, child prostitution still exists in the country. Children coming from poor families are likely the ones thrown into it (Pusunrinkham, n.d.). Parents are unaware of the consequences their actions have put them too while the children simply want to help their families (n.d.). What they do not know are the dangers that accompany them. It is not surprising that HIV-AIDS is prevalent in Thailand. Based on a UNAID Statistics, out of the total 60 million population of Thailand, around 755,000 are afflicted with the deadly disease.
Thailand is a hot tourist spot, no doubt about that. From the Buddhist temples, exciting markets, wonderful and exotic cuisine, to tropical climate, the country is exploding with so many amazing discoveries. But Thailand is also a country flooded with so many roadblocks, slowing it down to development, particularly human development. The traditional culture may be the root for this and while culture cannot exist in a vacuum, it is every individual’s hope that cultural differences and modern adoption may finally reach a country that is touted as Amazing Thailand. Only then will Thailand be truly amazing, inside and out.
Costa, L. (1997). Exploring the History of Women’s Education and Activism in Thailand.
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Cummings, J. (1999). Bangkok.
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ECPAT. (n.d). Child Sex Tourism in Thailand.
Retrieved November 16, 2008, from http://www.ecpat.org.uk
Pusunrinkham, S. (n.d). Child Prostitution in Thailand.
Retrieved November 16, 2008, from http://www.thewitness.org
SEAMO. (2006). Thailand National Education System. Retrieved November
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UNESCO (n.d.). Girls and Women’s Education in Thailand
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UNICEF (2005). Overview and Challenges. Retrieved November 16, 2008, from