Although Thailand is a conservative country with conservative laws, the underground economy of sex trafficking and sex toys is a thriving, not-so-well-kept secret.
Thailand is known for its LGBTQ acceptance and red-light districts, but many don’t realize that most drugs, gambling, prostitution, sex toys, and even vaping violate Thai law.
Thai customs officers seized more than 4000 sex toys last year, possession or sale of these toys carries a fine of 60,000 baht or up to 3 years in prison. The strict laws are in place to tie in with traditional Buddhist Thai society, but these seem very much at odds with the underground sex industry that Thailand is known for.
The need for sexual privacy rights and relaxed laws governing sex has been gaining popularity for years with the juxtaposition of strict laws and hedonism, creating a highly profitable black market.
Bangkok’s red-light district is valued at $ 6.4 billion, and in districts like Soi Cowboy, Nana, Patpong and Silom, sex trafficking and sex toys are openly sold, even though it’s illegal. The sex industry is believed to make up to 10% of Thailand’s gross domestic product. Then your news bear isn’t even talking about Walking Street in Pattaya, Bangla Road in Phuket, etc. Etc.
Still, Thailand is a Buddhist country with traditionally conservative values, so laws are unlikely to change any time soon. Even sex education in Thailand focuses on the negative consequences of sex and is not open to sexual rights or embracing sexuality, according to a 2016 UNICEF report. Those who oppose the decriminalization of sex toys and the sex industry believe that embracing it legally would lead to an outbreak of sex-related crimes.
Still, others argue that decriminalization would liberate and empower women by reducing the stigma of being sexually free. It would allow for a modernized view of sexual wellbeing. It would also likely reduce the chances of teenage pregnancy by removing the negativity for those who need or use birth control.
Nisarat Jongwisan has been fighting for the destigmatization and legalization of sex toys since 2018 when she appeared in a TV show speaking out against the Ministry of Culture. She now plans to use the Thai parliamentary mechanism to draft a petition and collect 50,000 signatures, which will allow her to submit a bill to parliament for a vote.
With strict laws, the black market will continue to grow. While sex toys and the sex trade can be criminalized, sexual desires are not easily quelled and people will find ways to satisfy them. Without any regulation, black markets can freely profit by selling sex toys without worrying about fair prices or quality control.
The global sex toy industry sold nearly $ 34 billion last year, and with the continued shutdown and shutdown of entertainment venues, these sales will only grow, even in light of Thailand’s conservative laws.