Thailand’s crackdown began mostly out of concern for public health, after all, and only when STDs reached epic proportions. Even supposedly do-gooder ventures, like voluntourism and orphanage tourism, “present a new risk of sexual exploitation for vulnerable children,” says Dorine van der Keur, an expert on child sex abuse and tourism at the nonprofit ECPAT International.Meanwhile, the The governments of these developing countries have little ability to track down men like Jono.
And make no mistake: Even when it’s not on the books, sex work can become a vital part of the economy.It is a socially conservative culture where there is no toleration of sex outside of marriage, and little emphasis on sexual gratification."Many are emotionally browbeaten into preserving their family honour by marrying a cousin from their family's village in north-west Kashmir, the part of Pakistan from which the forefathers of Bradford's Asian community originally migrated.These new wives can bring with them "an unhealthy attitude towards sex and sexuality".Indeed, one need spend only a few minutes in the seedier quarters of the Internet to see that the industry is charting new territory.“Burma is the new flavor of the month,” writes a man who calls himself Alejandro. The backdrop to this is tourism’s rapid growth in these countries.In the mid-1990s, well before its peak, sex tourism contributed as much as $27 billion to Thailand’s GDP, according to the International Labor Organization.
Not all of that went to the prostitutes, of course; it also benefited hotels, corrupt cops, restaurants, tourist agencies, beer gardens, saunas, cabarets and, of course, health clinics.
Tourism ministries did not respond to requests for comment, but experts say enforcing laws against prostitution has been difficult enough; busting up trafficking networks would be a dream.
So how can these up-and-coming destinations reap tourism’s benefits without suffering the costs, human and otherwise, of exploitation?
And with the sex trade in the dark, “governments in the region are only ensuring that it becomes more difficult for Yet even legalization doesn’t tackle the root of the problem: demand.
That’s why many charities insist prevention is the only long-term solution.
“It seems everyone is wanting a slice of the [new] cake,” agrees Pak2F. If part of the sex tourism thrill is “finding new destinations,” these Southeast Asian countries, once closed to the world, fit the bill.