Justice Conference NZ
 
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One thing that keeps us inspired in our work is the dedication and commitment of others around the world in the fight against human trafficking, exploitation and injustice of all kinds. LIFT will be at the upcoming Justice Conference New Zealand on 2-3 November 2018 at Victory Convention Centre in Auckland. The Justice Conference is a Biblical social justice conference that joins together diverse practitioners, artists and pastors. This year, their theme is Whakahoungia: Joining God in the Renewal of All:

In the midst of a fractured and crumbling world, we could be forgiven for following a narrative of failure and hopelessness. But God is writing a different story. Every single moment God is pulling creation towards His intended purposes to restore and renew. We're invited to join in this prophetic act.

Our Strategic Partnerships Manager Carter Quinley will be hosting a workshop on Ethical Storytelling and a Justice Talk entitled All Things New. We are excited and honored to join together with other leaders, activists and artists to engage with the theology of justice and its creative and practical applications.

You can buy tickets and join us here.

 
 
 
 
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History of Response to Sex Trafficking
 
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This addresses Thailand's response to sex trafficking. You can read part I of this series here.

Part II

 As the international community continued to pressure Thailand for new laws, there was a growing need for an anti-trafficking response. As Thailand is a “source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking,” the need for improved legislation, and a collaborative anti-trafficking response was dire.

Over two decades ago, prostitution was criminalized under the 1996 Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act.  The law said that anyone who sells themselves could expect fines as high as 1,000 baht (US $27). It also mentioned pimps too. It said that they could also face a 20,200 baht (US $555) and possibly ten years behind bars for prostituting women. More importantly as well, the act highlighted serious offenses for child trafficking. It underlined that those found to have had sex with underage children could expect even greater fines and lengthy prison sentences, some as high as six years. The new law enabled rights groups and NGOs to more effectively assist the Thai government in identifying sex trafficking within the country. The legal framework and conditions still needed strengthening and improvement.  

"The anti-trafficking movement has evolved since the early days,” says Carter Quinley, the Strategic Partnerships Manager for LIFT International. Carter’s been living in Thailand for almost two decades. She’s long had an interest in human rights, though she’s specifically driven to combat sex-trafficking in sustainable and ethical ways.

“The sector has needed to grow and mature as policies and laws have been written and strengthened. From the early days of the TVPA through to the development of the 3 P’s — Prevention, Protection, Prosecution — the sector has learned what works best to support survivors and hold offenders accountable.”  

In 2008, Thailand shifted gears in combating sex trafficking. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act extended the definition of trafficking in persons to include trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation and the trafficking of male victims. This was a huge win for rights groups and the anti-trafficking sector—as rights groups for years looked to include men in the definition of trafficking to increase awareness and protection from exploitation.

Today, despite or perhaps because of Thailand’s growing economic prosperity with its per capita GDP significantly higher than its neighboring countries like Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, the country still has the highest levels of sex tourism in the region.

 The Thai Ministry of Public Health reports that there is currently around 120,000 people in Thailand’s sex industry. Although it’s impossible to know the exact figures, the numbers are likely higher when taking into consideration those who are trafficked internationally into other countries around the globe.

The country’s leaders have committed to stepping up the fight against human trafficking, with Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, stating that he intends to raise the bar. It’s also important to recognize the value of collaboration between Thai authorities and committed international NGOs. It’s clear that working together is the only way to effectively combat sex-trafficking in the region.

Identifying, prosecuting and protecting people from sex-trafficking is complex and incredibly challenging. But, according to Carter Quinley, the sector has made progressive steps towards changing Thailand’s landscape of sex trafficking in truly positive ways.

“Perhaps one of the most important learnings was the addition of a 4th P, for ‘Partnership,’ to the anti-trafficking framework,” she said. “This was in recognition that no one organization, government, or individual can combat this injustice alone,” she concluded.

“It takes a network to combat a network."


 
 
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History of Sex Trafficking in Thailand
 

Part I

How Thailand became a sex tourism hotspot that in part contributed to the rise of organized crime sex trafficking and the evolution of the anti-trafficking response. This overview addresses the Western-facing sex industry and not local demand. 

 
 

When thousands of U.S. military personnel began docking on Thailand’s shores during the Vietnam War, hundreds of desperately impoverished women needing to provide for their families saw an opportunity. Many rural families suffered due to lack of jobs and non-livable wages, and, as Thailand’s population grew within the country’s cities, they saw their financial prospects vanishing before their eyes. As American troops started filling Thailand’s streets and local bars, they searched for companionship and sex. Many women were left with a choice -- they  could either cope with the poverty gripping their lives and continue to hope for what was sure to be low paying jobs, or, enter sex work. Many women chose the latter. Some were pushed by their parents and families to do sex work so that they could send money home and change their family’s fortunes and status. With that decision made by many women in Thailand’s local towns, inner cities, and further throughout the sprawling streets of 1960s Thailand, sex tourism suddenly exploded in Thailand, Southeast Asia’s most thriving economy.

U.S. Navy ships first docked in Pattaya, a coastal city that is now essentially the capital of Thailand’s sex tourism industry. Today, Thailand’s sex industry is larger than ever. In Pattaya alone, roughly 6 million tourists flock to the city per year. It’s no coincidence that the majority of the tourists visiting the beachside city are also mostly men. Bangkok, Phuket are other “hotspot” destinations that are glowing neon beacons of the sex industry, promising sex to anyone with $10-50 USD.

 
 
 
 

 

Not long after the Vietnam War, the sex industry, and the effects of sex tourism, took a sinister turn with a sharp increase in sex trafficking. In the 1980s, various crime syndicates began looking to benefit from the urban demand for sex. It didn’t take long for them start trafficking young women from their rural villages. According to research by Thai Law Forum, sex trafficking was likely occurring before the 1980s, but the journal states “It was only in the 1980s that the recruiting and trafficking of young women and girls became industrialized.” They started mainly in northeastern Thailand, the country's poorest region, where they first offered young girls the promise of honest work, only deceiving them later to sell them into modern-day slavery.

 
 
 Meechai Viravaidya led successful condom campaigns.  Photo   source

Meechai Viravaidya led successful condom campaigns. Photo source

The issue was exasperated by another serious problem. In 1988, HIV/AIDS swept across the country like a raging fire. The epidemic was largely sparked by the country’s boom in prostitution. It became urgently apparent that the country needed a solution, and it needed one fast. In response to the crisis, NGOs working in collaboration with the Thai government reacted with campaigns that widely encouraged the use of condoms. The programs not only educated the public on the importance of protection in general, but they additionally emphasized the need for condoms in transactional sex. Almost immediately, the programs proved massively successful, and within a few years, the chances of contracting the virus started to significantly decline.

While the fight against HIV/AIDS started showing positive results, organized sex trafficking continued. NGOs first looked to combat the problem by pushing for new laws that would not only prohibit human trafficking and prostitution, but legislation that would actively work to pursue and hold perpetrators accountable. Despite the new attention from rights groups and NGOs, trafficking continued to play a dangerous role in Thailand’s sex trade.

 
 
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