There is good and bad to everything. Light and dark. Wrong and right. That’s just the way of the world.
There are so many beauties to Thailand. There are places here where the sky and the mountains meet to form bindings like book covers, and it seems as if the different levels of the world are folding over each other. There are places in Thailand where the sweat of the ordinary Thai worker can be seen in the water that the rice crops float in. There are smiles here, there is a flow to life that cannot be found somewhere else, but there is also darkness in flashy lights.
I recently started a class called “The Economics of the Sex Industry in Southeast Asia.” I knew that the topic of the sex industry would be an interesting one, yet one that may cause much shock and heartache when looking at the exploitation of women and children. But I thought the class might give me a different view of life and a much needed awareness. Without awareness no solution would ever come to pass. I have only attended three classes so far, and I must say that the awareness and the sadness of many situations has already kicked in.
There is a huge contrast between the two pillars of Thai society. The day time pillar is seen as reserved, conservative, and dignified, while the night time pillar is opened, sexual, and corrupted. At night you can go down streets in red light districts that are lit up like Christmas, and the prostitutes in their outfits of string and skin are the presents there to please whoever has sexual needs. In certain markets they advertise and walk around with menus of sex show options in order to get people to come out to the bars. I have been pestered many times to come out and after seeing one strip club I just felt pity for the women. There were flashy neon lights in their darkness, but the lights were used to draw in evil, not to guide them home.
This past class we recently watched a movie that fictionally depicted what is real life to many women and children in Southeast Asia. There are many young girls, who live in villages, being sold by their own parents into prostitution. The families do it to survive because they live in poverty, and the girls who are sold many times feel an obligation to help their families or feel that karma (an idea found in Buddhism) has caught up with them. They believe that they were bad in their past life and therefore in their current life, they are being punished. This is the thought that many young girls have in order to justify their place and cope with their hardships. The girls are then taken to brothels and their virginity is sold for a high price if they are young. If the girls try to run they are dishonoring their parents, or putting their family in danger because the people running the brothels threaten the girls and their families. Therefore escape is usually not their options. Imagine a ten year old girl losing her virginity to a sixty year old man. Or imagine a seven year old girl performing oral sex just because she is expected to bring home money, and if she doesn’t she will be punished. A seven year old who should be playing jump rope is in some place doing sexual acts to men eight times her age. Innocence is being sucked out of children in many parts of Southeast Asia and then, once the girls have so many men, they are seen as tainted and of less worth.
I am not an expert on this topic. I am not pretending that I have facts, I am just presenting some of the issues that came up in my class this week that made me think about life and how being grateful for the life you have and being empathetic for others with less is a must because most likely their is someone out there who has it worse off than you do. They may be in some distant corner of the world with bruised bodies, robbed of their childhood, or they may be twenty minutes away in a ghetto. There is hardship in this world, there is hardship in America, Haiti, Ethiopia, Iran, Cambodia, Vietnam, Cuba, Columbia, and Yugoslavia, but if people are not aware what can be done?
I witnessed my professor’s eyes tear up last class period when he told us a story of how an obnoxious American guy sat next to him on a plane, and when he made conversation with him and asked him what he was doing in Thailand, the man pulled out his phone and showed him a picture of a very young Asian girl and the man said “As many of these as possible.” My professor is Vietnamese, so one, the man was being completely rude and disgusting and two, any decent person should have cried inside or said something to make him feel ashamed. I don’t think people like that should be considered a part of the human race. Humanity comes with compassion and it’s hard to believe someone who would say that is really someone who has this quality. The exploitation and abuse of woman and children is not a thing to be smiled at, it is a thing to be changed. Innocence is is right that every child should have and the idea of young girls having it stolen from them everyday should be a hurtful topic to everyone.