Prostitution in Thailand is comparable to cricket in Australia. It attracts legions of fans and armies of detractors, while an ambivalent majority wonders what all the fuss is about. But the most ardent fans of Thai prostitution are foreigners.
About 10 per cent of visitors arrive to get their rocks off. In 2005 a British journalist used Thai Immigration Department statistics to show between 25 per cent and 30 per cent more men than women arrive as tourists, concluding almost a million single men traveled to Thailand for sex each year.
According to World Vision, Australians account for 9 per cent of sex tourists arriving in the region. This suggests that almost 100,000 Aussies descend every year on Thailand alone.
After watching many Christians campaign hard on this issue (CMS is sending a couple to Bangkok next year) it is nice to see this issue continue to gain attention in the mainstream media. But I can't help but feel that the article ends up follow. After informing us that:
"The trouble is, the No. 1 dish served up by the sex industry is young girls. The 2001 World Health Organisation report Sex Work In Asia revealed the premium age for sex workers in the region to be 12 to 16. According to the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, the average age of girls entering the sex industry is 14. The poorest villages in Vietnam, Burma, Laos and Thailand are ideal recruiting stations for traffickers supplying children for sex. This practice results in children being either kidnapped or sold into the trade, either knowingly or unwittingly, by their families. It happens because their poverty is extreme and the economic incentives are too good to ignore. The high sums paid by foreigners have made the industry lucrative."
Scutt tells us how he he feels when he learns of his friends behaviour in Thailand:
"When I asked my squash buddy whether he slept with prostitutes in Australia, he laughed and said of course he didn't. So why did he do it in Thailand? "Because that's just the way it is over there." As he said this, I felt something in me starting to burn. I wanted to tell him what a lame excuse that was for behaviour he wouldn't accept on his own turf. I wanted to know if it mattered to him what circumstances had delivered these women to his bedside, made them strip off seductively and lick him all over."
But Scutt fails us in his final paragraph:
"But my fire went out in silence and I ordered us another beer. He's my mate. Who am I to tell him what to do? He isn't the first Australian to go to Asia for sex, and he definitely won't be the last. He's merely part of a groundswell of men, and now women, who believe they have the right to exploit the sons and daughters of neighbouring nations."
Although true that the problem is bigger than the actions of one person, it is the failure to name sin as sin that has resulted in our culture of apathy and that allows more and more Australians take part in the "groundswell". I say this, not because of my own smugness or moral superiority, but because of my King, who called sin for what it was/is and was ready to help people find their life/identity freed from sin. He justly can be called the 'friend of sinners':
"Jesus was not ashamed to share company with tax collectors and prostitutes; he was called "the friend of sinners" and invited national traitors to join his renewal movement (Mark 2.13-17). If we would eat with Jesus, we too become friends with the friend of sinners and are revealed as those who are sick, in need of a physician. The company Jesus keeps is not with those who believe themselves perfect, or superior, or pure, but with those who know they need such a friend. The church is a place for broken people." - Byron Smith, Jesus: Friend of Sinners.