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On air from Bangkok: The rights and wrongs of the Thai sex industry

Nuala McGovern Nuala McGovern | 13:45 UK time, Wednesday, 9 February 2011

This topic was discussed on World Have Your Say on 9 February 2011. Listen to the programme.

Hi this Ros on Nuala's log in. Today we're turning our attention to the sex industry here which, to the frustration of some Thais, has become well known the world over.


Thousands of people come on holiday to Thailand specifically because sex is readily available, and relatively safe and cheap.

In turn thousands of Thais work in an industry which actively seeks to attract foreigners. The money that's spent brings millions of dollars into the economy from the prostitutes who earn more than they would working as a waitress or a labourer, to the club owners whose takings are far greater.

What we're going to discuss is whether either side of the sex tourism equation is behaving in a morally suspect way.

Is there anything wrong with holidaying somewhere where you can pay to have sex with a consenting adult?

And on the flip-side, is there anything wrong with a country using its sex industry, and in particular prostitution, to increase visitor numbers?

Of course the Thai tourist board would say that it never markets Thailand as a sex destination. In fact some people argue that the whole sex industry is at odds with being Thai. But is indisputable that it exists, that it's allowed and that all Thais reap the economic benefits.

Professor Ferrara argues that the amount of money that sex workers send back to the countryside allows the government to keep taxes as low as they are.

Another issue is whether Thailand's flourishing sex industry is a manifestation of its economic subordination, and that as such it should be rejected. We're told that more and more Chinese use the sex industry, something which mirrors the growth of their economic power.

Also, all of this is made more complicated by the fact that some tourists and some sex workers would say that for their very different reasons they are looking for a long-term partner and that the sex industry allows them to connect with people they would never otherwise meet.

Does that make you uncomfortable? Or if it works for those involved, would be best off reserving judgement?

Rachel Harvey and I are going be sat on the top floor of a bar in one of Bangkok's red light districts and we'll be joined by a range of people with a keen interest in this (from a woman who runs a sex workers co-op to a man who's worked in the porn industry here).

Please join us.


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