Poor Thais Sell Daughters

Paritta C. Koanantakool (paritta@IPIED.TU.AC.TH)
Fri, 18 Nov 1994 10:02:09 +0700

Selling daughters, especially in the northern region of Thailand, is a
complicated issue. I think it is largely to do with the economic
development policy since the 1960's which favoured industrialisation at
the expense of decline in the agricultural sector. Today income from
farming alone is not enough to support a family. Prostitution is a quick
way of making money.

Traditionally, children were expected to repay the debt of gratitude to
parents who had given them life. Sons did so spiritually by entering
temporary monkhood. This was considered a great act of merit making from
which the parents benefited most. Daughters repaid materially by
contributing labour and cash. In this age of consumerism, parents'
expectation has risen. What their daughters earn from prostitution goes
into building a new house, buying refrigerators, motorcycles, color TVs etc.

Foreign market and tourists are big customers but there is also an
internal market. There are also less explicit forms of prostitution - I
have heard about school girls, teachers, office girls earning extra money
from it. Male prostitutes in the form of dancers, waiters are also

Several government departments have projects trying to stop girts going
into prostitution and training programs for those leaving the
profession. Several NGOs are also active. But as long as income
disparity between urban and rural areas is vast, consumerism continues to
be the new religion, there is little chance of stopping daughters selling.

Paritta C. Koanantakool
Thammasat University