A social justice issue that is a global issue is human trafficking. Human trafficking is a wide spread issue that is affecting many third world countries and developing countries. Human trafficking has become an international concern. One country in particular that is affected by this issue is Thailand.
Human trafficking is the trade for woman and children which is similar to slavery. The woman and children can be fooled into human trafficking and can be forced to work for low wages and forced into prostitution. Human trafficking of woman and children started during the Vietnam War (Women's International Network News, 2003). Beginning in the 1980's Thai women began moving to European countries to get involved in the entertainment business which shortly transformed into the trafficking of woman for sexual exploitation (Women's International Network News, 2003). Women and girls were being trafficked all over Europe for prostitution and for the mail order bride business. Woman and children trafficked into Thailand were from Burma, Cambodia, South China, and Laos (Women's International Network News, 2000). During the 1990's around 400,000 woman and children were being trafficked in and out of Thailand (Women's International Network News, 2003).
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Thailand's most known universal problem is prostitution. Thailand's Public Health Department estimates that there are about 75,000 prostitutes in Thailand (Women's International Network News, 94). The majority of women involved in prostitution come from poor rural areas. These women have little to no economic opportunities in their home villages and turn to working as prostitutes in urban areas as a way of fulfilling obligations and improving the standard of living for themselves and their families (Women's International Network News, 94). Majority of northern Thai girls turn to prostitution because they feel that they need to repay their parents for giving birth to them and providing them with what they have so far in their lives.
The religion that most Thai citizens practice is Buddhism. The Buddhist belief system in northern Thailand is part of the reason for the approval of prostitution. "Thai Buddhists believe that each person's soul inhabits many physical bodies over time, with the quality of each life influenced by the soul's store of merit" (Bower, 2005). "Prostitution performed out of the need to aid one's family builds up merit, despite the nature of the job itself" (Bower, 2005). In Thailand the first born daughter commonly stays home to help her parents in the home. The second born daughter is traditionally the family's financial helper who turns to any job that they can get. The last born daughter generally receives a higher education than her other sisters (Bower, 2005).
Thai Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) estimate that about twenty thousand Burmese women and girls are involved in forced prostitution and half are new recruits that are brought in every year (Women's International Network News, 1994). They women and children normally end up being sent back to Burma after a year or two because they want new recruits. Burmese women and girls make up an estimated 800,000 to 2 million prostitutes that are working in Thailand (Women's International Network News, 1994). Thailand government is guilty of complicity in the trafficking of Burmese women and girls into Thailand for forced prostitution. The Thai government has been failing numerously to punish their own officials and others who are engaged or profit from sex trade (Women's International Network News, 1994). In 1993 the royal Thai government began wrongfully arresting and sending back hundreds of Burmese victims, in violation of Thailand's obligations under national and international law instead of punishing officials who are involved. "The Burmese women and girls work ten to eighteen hours a day, twenty-five days a month with anywhere from 5-15 clients a day" (Women's International Network News, 1994). The women and children were receiving little information pertaining to health care and birth control. Most of the women and girls are virgins when they enter and become HIV positive when they leave. Majority of the prostitutes clients are Thai police officers. Some of the brothels are located near police stations and witness brothel owners paying protection money to local police (Women's International Network News, 94).
In 1992 The Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai declared that they would become stricter with official involvement in prostitution (Women's International Network News, 94). Unfortunately this did not include brothel owners, recruiters and pimps from punishment. Authorities were arresting the victims of prostitution and were detaining and abusing them before deporting them. Few women and girls have been rescued and housed by local NGOs prior to their return to Burma (Women's International Network News, 94). The people involved in sex trafficking view women as a cash crop to be exploited and they help with foreign exchange dollars and help pay on the foreign debt. In 1996 an estimate of 6 million sex tourists from all over the world brought in almost 30 billion dollars which is thirteen times more than they make building and exporting computers in Thailand (Leuchtag, 2003). The United Nations has reported that an estimate of 5 to 7 billion dollars a year the sex trafficking business makes. The United Nations believes that about 4 million woman and children and moved illegally from country to country annually. They also estimate that thirty percent of the children being trafficked are minors and a large number may even be under the age of thirteen. During the 1990s, Thailand laws declared that fifteen was the age of consent. A child of the age of twelve to fifteen years old who got paid for sex was viewed as acceptable to abuse them, with or without their consent (Arnold, Bertone, 2002). Italian, Camorra, Chinenese, Triads, Russian Mafia, and Japanese Yakuza are criminal syndicates who are very powerful and have much involvement in the sex trafficking trade of woman and children (Leuchtag, 2003). . These criminal syndicates operate globally and traffick woman from all over the world and bring them in and out of different countries (Leuchtag, 2003).
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In 1996 a bill was passed on suppression and prostitution of adult woman. Women who were found to be involved in prostitution would be fined. Minors found to be involved in prostitution would be rehabilitated and their parents who were involved would get punished as well (Women's International Network News, 2003). A new bill was passed in 1997 the anti-trafficking bill. This bill protected woman and all children. The bill also protects woman and children of other nationalities who are trafficked into Thailand. Even though the bill was passed traffickers found new ways to recruit women and get them across borders and into work (Women's International Network News, 2003). An international law was enforced that began in 1999 and took enforcement in 2000. The law was an agreed definition of what human trafficking is that took place between 120 countries. The countries wanted to separate issues of trafficking and issues of prostitution (Leuchtag, 2003). The countries also came to an agreement on how to prosecute, protect women and children from partaking in trafficking and prostitution, and prevention mechanisms. Once the law was decided the Thai government introduced a memorandum of understanding for the treatment of trafficking of woman and children. It was for the government to take responsibility and legal actions against trafficking and supply assistance for those that have been involved in trafficking (Women's International Network News, 2003). There is a government assistance bill that covers woman who are migrated from another country into Thailand (Women's International Network News, 2003). In 2000 The United Nations created the first legislation to put an end to international human trafficking (Women's International Network News, 2000). The protocol asks for states to cooperate against international organized crime, and for the victims of trafficking to stay in the country they were trafficked to and to enforce laws against sex trade (Women's International Network News, 2000). The law defines trafficking "as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms coercion, of abduction of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power, or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation" (Leuchtag, 2003).
In early 2000 a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Project Hope International was created. The NGO is based in Washington, D.C. Project Hope International fights against child sexual exploitation and trafficking of girls and women into the international sex trade (Arnold, Bertone, 2002). The goal of Project Hope International is to communicate between the Thai NGO's and the U.S. government, and American NGO's and the Thai government (Arnold, Bertone, 2002). The organization also would like to facilitate the flow of accurate information. In Thailand there has been a steady decrease in the numbers of Thai women and girls in the sex trade, and an increase in the numbers of females from neighboring countries (Arnold, Bertone, 2002). The reason for the decline is because of positive economic development in Thailand (Arnold, Bertone, 2002).
In 2003 investigators entered into one of the provincial capital's brothels searching for women and children trafficked from neighboring Burma (Montlake, 2003). The officials found the owner/owners of the brothel and they were taken into police custody. Six of the 29 women rescued were minors and more than half had been forced into prostitution (Montlake, 2003). Some of the women didn't feel like they were rescued because the money they made was lost and this prevented them from making more money. The U.S., other countries and nations are lending support to anti-trafficking initiatives in Thailand (Montlake, 2003). Since 2000, the U.S. has spent an estimate of atleast $100 million on anti-trafficking aid. Thailand's has been improving the way they approach and treat women from other countries caught in trafficking raids. Anti- trafficking organizations next focus will be to bring to justice criminals who profit from human trafficking (Montlake, 2003). The traffickers who don't get caught or do and get away with it without any punishment will turn to finding new women to replace those rescued. Activist report that majority of the women who are rescued return to Thailand and that it is not uncommon for the women or girls to be rescued several times (Montlake, 2003).
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There are two steps to trafficking. Step one is village to foreign country and step two is town to foreign country. Currently sex traffickers are using the one step pattern to traffick woman and girls (Women's International Network News, 2003). The Thai government has set up a national committee of government organizations and non-government organizations to make policies on trafficking. The Thai government has been working with international and regional agencies to compose against trafficking (Women's International Network News, 2003).
Human trafficking is an issue that goes against the feminist theory. The feminist theory involves the liberation of women and girls from discrimination based on gender (Kirst-Ashman, 2008). The main goal or purpose is self-determination for women and girls. There are major themes that follow the feminist theories such as, gender lens, patriarchy, empowerment, consciousness raising, personal is political, importance of process, unity in diversity, and validation (Kirst-Ashman, 2008). Thailand does not follow this theory at all. Women are mistreated and not given much of an option of whether or not they want to become a sex slave or prostitute. In most areas of Thailand women don't have many economic choices for work or their family expects them to turn to sex trafficking/prostitution. It seems like in Thailand they are not educating citizens in school or in general about empowerment and equality of women. It seems that it is a norm for women to turn to sex trade to make money for themselves and to repay their families. The government and other countries have been trying to enforce and initiate laws to stop trafficking and for women to have human rights as men of Thailand have.
Starting in the mid 1990s Thai women wanted to get involved and work closely with non-governmental organizations because of the trafficking of woman and children movement. Women have been getting involved to protect themselves but other people need to jump onboard to help make changes and to make laws permanent and to reinforce them. Women in Thailand in most cases have equal rights in the areas of education, matrimonial property, and the right to choose habitation and employment, and child custody. Laws against prostitution in Thailand continue to not be effectively enforced (Women's International Network News, 94). In majority of the cases of prostitution brothels will pay off local government representatives and police. Poor legislation, police corruption, and cultural norms are commonly blamed for the lack of necessary measures needed to be taken against prostitution (Women's International Network News, 94).
Women in Thailand face discrimination and harassment because of their work as prostitutes. International cooperation is an essential component between government agencies and between non-governmental organizations to ensure that agents and brothel owners involved in trafficking across national borders are arrested and prosecuted, and that women who have been trafficked are given the proper assistance and help needed (Women's International Network News, 97). Recommendations to Combat International Traffic in Women is a women's foundation that is involved in preventing trafficking of women and to help the women who have been involved in trafficking (Women's International Network News, 97). From the help from Feminist human rights activist and organizations women have begun to confront their situation and conditions, leave prostitution, speak out against it, reveal their experience, and help other women and children leave as they did ( Leuchtag, 2003).
Sex and forced labor trafficking is considered slave trade of the twenty-first century and the greatest human rights test (Stone, 2005). Since 2003, 150 countries have signed the legislation and governments, international agencies, and local non-governmental organizations continue to introduce and start national and regional programs to stop trafficking (Women's International Network News, 2003). Today human trafficking continues to be an issue unresolved. Governments from all over the world need to come together and come up with different approaches to continue to gradually diminish this global issue. Human rights should continue to grow as sex trafficking is prohibited. Nongovernmental organizations today are well-organized, well-established, and well-respected in and outside of Thailand. They have learned to work together with international organizations and networking (Segrave, Milivojevic, 2005). Putting an end to prostitution and women being sexually exploited will give women more dignity, increase in human rights, and will be more respected by men.