Bangkok: The Difference Between Victim and Victimizer

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Source: Wikimedia

Today, Dawn and Tara are in Bangkok, a city known not only for beautiful architecture and vibrant culture but also for a thriving sex trade. Thailand as a whole is rated by the TIP report as a Tier 3 country, the worst classification. This means that not only is the nation a source, destination, and transit country for men and women who are trafficked, but it also means that the government is not taking sufficient steps to prevent and eradicate trafficking. 

We've seen in KolkataBangalore, and Phnom Penh that poverty, gender inequality, danger, and demand are involved in making people vulnerable to trafficking. Now let's look at what issues come up with rescue and restoration.

When NGO workers (usually the ones to identify brothels through undercover work) discover a brothel, they will work with the police to plan a raid. The TIP report mentions a large amount of police corruption in Thailand. Sometimes the police officers are customers at the brothels and protect them from being targeted. This is a trend among law enforcement, unfortunately. 

In many cases, brothel owners will bribe officers to let them know when the police are planning a raid. If the owners know the raid is happening, they will either hide the underage prostitutes, mask any drug abuse or beatings that are happening, or completely clear out of the area. That last situation is particularly difficult because planning a raid is complicated and requires cooperation from multiple groups of people in order to happen. When the rescuers arrive at a brothel that has eliminated any trace of their existence, the NGOs and police officers involved (whether the officers are corrupt or upright) seem to be unreliable and uninformed.

What about when law enforcement actually busts a brothel and rescues those inside? How do they determine which women and girls are there by choice and who are not? How do they determine which of those found inside are victims and which are the ones who have perpetrated the injustice?

In most countries, prostitution of minors is illegal, and in some, prostitution in general is prohibited. In Thailand, brothel ownership, pimping, and prostitution are illegal, so it's important that law enforcement are able to prosecute those who have bought and sold others, provide resources and safety for those who have been bought and sold, and determine who heads up each brothel.

The prosecution process is not usually an easy, simple one, unfortunately. As shown in the quote above, many women are either convinced that they actually owe a debt to their trafficker, have been frightened into lying about their situation, are afraid of retaliation against their families if they testify, or are afraid of everyone involved and unwilling to admit that they were coerced into the life of prostitution.

Women need another option when they are rescued. If facilities like Destiny Reflection (in Kolkata, read Dawn's introduction to them!) can partner with law enforcement to tell those rescued that there is a way that they can earn a dignified wage and be free from anyone's ownership, imagine what a transformation can occur!

We're excited to see who Dawn meets in Bangkok and the ways that we can partner with them to empower survivors and provide an alternative life.