2023 Conference
All Conferences
TSVC | Tourism Students Virtual Conference

Child sex tourism in Thailand and ways to prevent it

Child sex tourism in Thailand and ways to prevent it
Author: Jussi Kemppainen
1 Commentries
Prostitution is a side effect of Thailand and other low education, poverty filled and politically unstable countries. One may think it is caused by the craving of those who buy, sell or procure women and children but sometimes it is a choice and an opportunity for unprivileged people in the Third World countries. Especially in the border region of northern Thailand there are approximately 800,000 to 900,000 hill tribe people who are outside the system without health care and primary schools and sex tourism is one of the common solutions for making a living. Recently governments and media has been requiring answers about trafficking and child sex tourism from the tourism industry.

Sex tourism involving adult women is still open for debate but sex tourism involving children was immediately condemned in 1990s even by the people supporting adult prostitution. There are only few documented researches about child sex tourism industry and they are mostly small-scale studies. In addition, the speculations and drama around the subject are mostly from a few cases where the men have been prosecuted for child abuse.

The prostitution in Thailand started during the Vietnam War as US servicemen were off duty. From there started the reputation of Thailand as a sexual paradise as well as the organized business including the sex bars and brothels. Thai prostitutes were concerned stereo typically beautiful, flexible and tame who gave more than just sex. The 60 000-200 000 children in Thailand's sex tourism end up there by force or after trying other options i.e. begging or working in sweatshops. Sex tourism pays them more than these jobs and most of the time it is not so physically tiring. Many children are also lured into sex trade by their older friends. By Lau (2008) and Montgomery (2008) the biggest reason for them to join this occupation is their sense of responsibility for their parents and keeping the family together which means that they do not feel as much moral pressure for what they do. In the field work made by Montgomery (2008) most of the children did not like prostitution but said it was easier than other jobs. Also the customers let them to stay in good accommodation, eating better and getting higher payments. When asked, the children ignored the possibility of sexually transmitted deceases and sexual abuse but the impacts on them are, claimed by Lau (2008), immense and the victims are psychologically and physically scarred for life.

The clients in child sex tourism have two definitions used by academics; a preferential user and the situational user. The preferential user especially seeks for prostitutes who are certain age and gender as the situational user can have sexual relations with a child if it is on offer but does not specifically seek for that service.

Most of the initiatives preventing child sex tourism are from NGOs, multi-stakeholder partnerships, inter-governmental organisations and actions from governments. The programmes needed today against child sex tourism have to be innovative public policies. In Thailand child sex prostitution is mentioned as a prohibited act allowed by parents or brothel owners but it is prosecuted only in formal sex markets.

Organisations such as World Vision and End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism are one of whom fight against child sex tourism and raise awareness about child sex tourism with campaigns. By making alliances with governments who support adult prostitution but condemns child prostitution and dealing with child sex tourism separately from the other economic development and adult prostitution purely as a cruel act against innocent children differentiates their activism to child prostitution which, in local level, does not involve their male friends, relatives and other public officials who are involved with the adult prostitution industry.

Over 600 tourism industry operators from 23 countries have already agreed to fight against child sex tourism in the industry driven multi-stakeholder initiative Code. The governments can join the fight by policy making and legislations and educate the industry for building skills to identify and respond to situations where children could become victims of sexual abuse. The media pressure and actions from local communities can force destinations to take actions but child sex tourism is an undisputed part of Thailand and it is going to take time before these models reach their full potential and the local policy making fully acknowledges the problem.


Lau, C. (2008). Child prostitution in Thailand. Journal of Child Health Care. 12 (2), p144-155.

Montgomery, H. (2008). Buying Innocence: child-sex tourists in Thailand. Third World Quarterly. 29 (5), p903-917.

Tepelus, C. (2008). Social responsibility and innovation on trafficking and child sex tourism: Morphing of practice into sustainable tourism policies?. Tourism & Hospitality Research. 8 (2), p98-115.
Commentry on the topic of Child Prostitution in Thailand
Author: Emily Carter
The discussion paper raised some interesting points on the case of child prostitution with particular reference to Thailand. Some insight into why the author chose this destination to focus on instead of other sex capitals would have been interesting just as a starting point; otherwise the author does address the key reasons as to why children end up in the sex trade, and recognised organisations that could help to prevent child prostitution.

The topic that was chosen by the author portrays just what risks are out there in the world of tourism. Those travelling in the world of uncertainly don't fully become aware with the issues that affect the host country and its citizens when the tourist comes and goes.

Baking up my previous comment about why the author selected Thailand, in the brief introduction to the linkage between child prostitution and tourism, it could have been mentioned about how child prostitution is unfortunately present in a high percentage of Third World countries, a comparison between opposing destinations would make for further discussion too. Although thorough research was evidently carried out on the country in focus. The use of recent articles in this article has assisted in portraying a more up to date argument on the situation, through personal research on other topics I have found that there are various published books on the subject of sex tourism, but journal articles have helped to give Kemppainen a more academic view on the topic.

As discussed, Kemppainen outlines organisations that could possibly prevent child prostitution but there is some confusion in one part of the paper that mentions how these government organisations condemn child sex tourism but then support adult prostitution. However much prostitution including both children and adults does economical benefit the country more investigations into the adverse health effects of prostitution could have been beneficial to understand this statement, and data on the contribution of sex work to local the economy. Willis and Levy (2002) provide an empirical investigation into the effects of child prostitution, whilst mentioning that prostitution among adults still has adverse effects but the adults in the industry can be more assertive to not be violated in such ways as children.

Overall this paper was engaging and obvious interest in the subject was portrayed, investigations into the deeper topics of prostitution, especially child prostitution can be a sensitive area but Kemppainen has approached the matters with finesse professionalism. It would have been appealing to get the authors individual opinion on this topic though.


Willis, B, M and Levy, B, S. (2002) Child prostitution: global health burden, research needs, and interventions. The Lancet. 359 (9315)pp 1417-1422