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Is Prostitution Legal in Thailand? (Thai Law & the Reality)

Is Prostitution Legal in Thailand? (Thai Law & the Reality)

is prostitution legal in thailand

Is prostitution legal in your country? Many nations prohibit all actions associated with prostitution, but some give you complete freedom in buying and selling such services. So, which side is Thailand on?

Prostitution is illegal in Thailand. This law is primarily influenced by the role of Buddhism and Thai people’s traditional views on sex. However, prostitution is common and accepted in Thailand as part of its famous sex tourism industry. Those offering or soliciting such services are unlikely to face prosecution due to a loophole in the law.

But this is not to say that prostitution law has no impact on Thai society. It definitely does. Read on and discover the tale of the struggle between Thai prostitutes and the rule of society.

Is Prostitution Legal in Thailand?

As mentioned, prostitution is illegal in Thailand.

Thai law forbids all actions associated with prostitutes. Buying, selling, or running related businesses are punishable by fines, imprisonment, or both.

So, all the brothels and prostitutes you see are “underground.” In theory, they aren’t supposed to exist.

Now, here’s the question. Why? 

What makes prostitution illegal in this renowned nightlife country?

2 Key Reasons Why Prostitution Is Illegal in Thailand

You can say that 2 factors give birth to this law: religion and Thai attitude.

1. The Role of Buddhism

As you know, Buddhism is the primary religion in Thailand. It has so much influence that Thai people pass laws following its teaching.

Buddhists believe that there are 5 cardinal sins no one should ever commit.

  1. Killing (including animals)
  2. Stealing
  3. Sleeping with multiple partners
  4. Lying
  5. Drinking alcohol

As you can see, prostitution is the opposite of what the 3rd sin says. And since Buddhism’s influence in Thailand is so strong, most people agree that prostitution should not be legally approved.

2. Thai Views on Sex

The 2nd factor is the Thai general opinion towards sex. Or more specifically, towards virginity.

In the old days, locals thought women should reserve their virginity only for their husbands. If she failed, she would be marked as a… shame. 

Of course, most prostitutes couldn’t preserve their virginity before marriage. So, they were automatically a shame to society. Wherever they went, they met with disdain and insults. The only people who treated them “relatively” fairly were their customers.

This negativity towards prostitutes has survived the test of time to this day. Even though most Thai people don’t insult prostitutes as much as before, it’s still awkward to converse with one as if nothing happened.

But, Why Are There So Many Prostitutes?

As mentioned, prostitution blooms in Thailand as part of its famous sex tourism industry.

For various reasons, the law is not aggressively enforced. Even though the law says prostitution is illegal, the authorities don’t do anything to abolish them. Or more precisely, they can’t.

Why? Because technically, there’s no prostitute in Thailand at all.

But how? Well… There’s a loophole in this law.

Most brothels operate under a different front — like a spa or a massage parlor. This is enough to cover their real identity and hide from the police in plain sight. And the prostitutes are just workers in these “legal” establishments. So, nothing is punishable.

As a result, these spas enjoy a lump sum of profit from their customers who pay extra for the “special” service. Their business only grows and prospers. And the authorities cannot do anything about it.

And besides, Thai people understand that sexual desire is natural. So, they’re willing to overlook these shady businesses.

After all, brothels exist because there is a demand for prostitutes. If nobody bought their service, they wouldn’t survive.

However, this doesn’t mean Thai prostitution law is insignificant. It still affects society in various ways.

Looking for more info on why there is so much prostitution in Thailand? Check out our article: Thai Prostitution Culture: Why It’s Well-Known & Accepted

The Impact of This Law

Since the law forbids prostitution, prostitutes are considered unemployed in Thailand. This means the brothel owners can use various tricks and deceptions to reap more profit from their “employees.”

This includes hideous wages, zero job benefits, extended working hours, and massive quotas (minimum number of customers prostitutes need to find per day/week/month).

Some prostitutes are even forced to work. They were kidnapped or sold by their parents into this shady business.

As a result, most prostitutes struggle with poverty without any support. They cannot run to the police or any authority for help since they are illegal. And since they don’t have any health benefits, many are fighting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) too.

Most of their customers would turn a blind eye to their circumstances. Only wealthy clients would tip them a lump sum. And that is only when they have gorgeous looks or perform outstanding service. The run-of-the-mill prostitutes are doomed to struggle forever.

In a way, this law causes more problems in the country than it solves. It fails to prevent the existence of prostitutes. And it blocks all benefits from reaching these prostitutes too.

Many young Thais think that they should abolish this law and legalize prostitution. They claim that the country could profit from it. And the prostitutes would be well-treated too.

Need to know about the age of consent in Thailand? Check out our article: What Is the Age of Consent in Thailand? (Law on Minors)

Will Prostitution Become Legal in Thailand?

There’s a chance that prostitution will be legalized.

As mentioned, the younger generations understand how they can turn prostitution from an illegal business into a new form of tourism.

The potential is always there. And if the Thai can abolish this law, they can change Thailand’s economic concept. But it won’t be easy to accomplish.

What Would It Take to Change This Law?

First, young people must convince the elders that prostitution is just another job, not an evil incarnate.

Remember how seniority is a big tradition in Thailand? Whatever the elder says, most people would accept it and obey. So, if the young Thais want to make a change, they should start from the top.

But that’s easier said than done. 

You see. Most elders in Thailand are religious and conservative. They aren’t likely to listen to new ideas, especially those that contrast with Buddhism teaching. So, it might take super charisma to accomplish this.

Second, they must convince the nation that those prostitutes need help. 

Not only do Thai people turn a blind eye to their prostitute’s existence, but they also overlook their struggle. 

Moral or not, prostitutes need fair wages, social security, and benefits. Young Thai must point out these issues to the public and change their views towards the industry.

Finally, they need to gain enough political power to change the law. 

No matter how brilliant, without the power to realize it, an idea will remain just an idea. So, young Thais must play their cards perfectly in this complex game called politics.

What Will Happen if Prostitution Becomes Legal? 

If the new prostitution law were passed, these things could happen. (Keep in mind, these are just speculations.)

The Good:

  • Improved life quality for prostitutes. The new laws would protect prostitutes as labor.
  • Better tourism on the national scale. Thailand can now fully promote prostitution as a tourist attraction.
  • More investments in the industry, both from abroad and within the nation.
  • Better health security for all. They need better health care to control sexually transmitted diseases.

The Bad:

  • The internal conflict between the religious and the liberals. Since this law goes against Buddhist teaching, there might be a fierce confrontation between the two sides.
  • Increase in illegal entrance to the country. Prostitutes from neighboring countries might trespass into Thailand to enjoy all the benefits.

Law Is Relative

Now, you should understand the situation of Thai prostitution regulation. You might agree with the current law. Or you might not. But anyway, you can still experience prostitution in Thailand as is.

It’s illegal by the book, sure. But you won’t get arrested for it. 

Is that a good thing? That’s hard to argue. But still, you can’t deny that Thailand is famous for this.

Like always, if you want to learn more about Thailand, stay with ThaiGuider. You might learn something you never knew about this unique country.

Want to learn more about prostitution in Thailand? Check out our article: Thai Prostitution Culture: Why It’s Well-Known & Accepted

Jordan Sully

I'm a Thailand fanatic who has been traveling to the Kingdom since 2017. The country has given me so much, this is my small way of giving back. I hope the articles on this site help you to learn more about Thailand and inspire your next adventure to The Land of Smiles. Thanks for checking out ThaiGuider!

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