Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Sex Industry in Asia, another perspective

Global exploitation of women – an alternative perspective

Women In Danger - Under Protection is a global charity that has worked for three decades to combat sex tourism and other abuses of women throughout the world. From our London headquarters we work tirelessly to identify the countries where women are most at risk from these pernicious practices. Thailand continues to appear at the very top of our list, alongside a number of other South East Asian countries. The problem, however, is certainly a global one. One of the most heart-rending cases we encountered was of Pam from the poor north-east.

Pam is the oldest of three children born in an area where there are few opportunities and families live a hand to mouth existence. Her father was an abusive alcoholic who left the family home when she was just nine years old. Still a child herself, she rapidly became a proxy parent and had to make endless sacrifices to give her younger siblings a better chance in life. She was unable to help her family and remain in school. With no qualifications she had few prospects of securing one of the few jobs that were available in the poorest part of a country which was already riven with inequality, injustice and heart rending poverty.
Shortly after her sixteenth birthday she was sent to work in the City, it’s a decision that no mother wants to make for her daughter but it was the only way the family could stay together. Her mama had got involved with loan sharks who were preying on the poor across the country, but especially in the north-east. A short-term loan to pay for rent and food had become a debt that would be impossible to repay.  Pam had no choice but to make the ultimate sacrifice. She had little difficulty finding work, she was a very pretty girl.

We met her after three years starting work at 8 p.m and rarely getting home until the early hours, in between she had no choice but to do anything demanded of her by a ruthless employer and customers she described to us as being despicable, vile and disgusting. “Most of the men were incredibly fat and I don’t think they had washed for weeks, they just treated us girls like we were dirt. It was awful.”

Women in Danger – Under Protection took Pam under its wing. We reminded her she was an important person in her own right and she was entitled to a life too. She was still determined to take care of her family but she knew there had to be better ways of doing it than working the nightshift at a Sainsbury 24-hour Superstore in a London suburb. She told branch manager Tony Johnson that she had stacked her last shelf and quit on the spot. The last time we spoke to Pam she had decided to become a lap-dancer, some of her mates had done it and were making an absolute fortune.Pam's mother, Sally Smith, who still lives near Newcastle told us, "Our Pammy has always been a plucky lass, we're proud of her."

If you want to help girls like Pam, please send your donations to Women in Danger – Under Protection, Pattaya, Thailand. Make your cheques out to WinDUP, please refer to the Author's note for further details.


Author’s note – I am not really asking for you to write cheques. This is intended as a piece of satire, so please take it in the spirit in which it was written. I am not trying to trivialise the issue of people trafficking nor do I dispute that many women who work in the sex industry do so under duress.  The fact is that there is a huge amount of media coverage that paints Thailand as a third world cess-pit of sexual exploitation. It’s all a bit more complicated than that. This brief piece is supposed to entertain and make people think that some of the clichés that appear in the media about Thailand are just that, clichés from journalists too lazy to dig a bit deeper.

If you would like to support an amazing charity that works with women involved in the sex industry please check out - EMPOWER

Matt Carrell