There are two schools of thoughts when it comes to bar girls. One says they are victims of a male-dominated society who need saving. The other says most girls enter their jobs willingly and prefer this lifestyle to one in rural Thailand.
Interestingly, the latter view has been given strong support by something called the Empower Foundation. It says the lives of working girls has improved in recent years and that being ‘rescued’ actually creates more problems than it solves.
In a report in The Nation, Empower director Chantawipa Apisuk commented on a new report named”Hit & Run: Sex Workers’ Research on Anti-trafficking in Thailand”, and said charities have gone ‘too far’ in enforcing anti-prostitution laws.
Empower began in 1985 to safeguard working girls’ rights. Around 20,000 girls use Empower’s contact points in 11 provinces in the North, Northeast and Central region.
Chantawipa said laws that try and stop people trafficking had had a serious adverse effect. The report talked to more than 200 working girls over a year, some of whom worked in Laos and Burma.
Those who transport people are seen by the girls as ‘helpful’ and don’t overcharge, the report claimed.
One worker, Kiaw from Laos, asked for understanding among the Thai public and authorities. “We aren’t criminals. We’re just honest people trying to build better lives,” she said.
Ironically, the anti-trafficking laws are seen as unhelpful by the prostitutes.
One worker, called Nok, said: “Before I was arrested I was working happily, had no debt, and was free to move around the city. Now I’m in debt, I’m scared most of the time, and it’s not safe to move around. How can they call this ‘help’?”
Once “rescued” and detained, foreign workers are deported while Thais have to do vocational training.
It’s an interesting theory and not one that is popular among many charities. Of course, most bar girls do come to Pattaya willingly. Once they arrive it may not quite have the lifestyle they thought they’d have, of course, but they’re not acting under duress. We imagine charities may argue that girls who are helped may have less money in the short-term, but that their long-term prospects are improved. What do you think? Let us know.