Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Thai prostitutes


Okay, now the Thai prostitutes in the Netherlands. There wasn't much information about this group of prostitutes until in 2006 the Red Thread published its report "Rechten van prostituees .....". I already knew from the reviews on that there were many Thai parlours in the Netherlands, with many Thai prostitutes (also in the regular brothels), and that Thai prostitutes are on average quite old, and that the Foundation Against Trafficking in Women registers relatively few Thai women.

ABC of the Red Thread (translated from Dutch into English):
Many massage parlours have a name which refers to Thailand. Many of those can be found in Rotterdam for example. Incidentally we can visit those businesses with a Thai fieldworkers.
In these case we encounter many older Thai women who can barely speak Dutch. They are waiting in all sadness for clients who pay 20 euros at most. In some of the businesses in Rotterdam paid employment is enforced. That means that they have stand-by contracts where they are paid for only one hour – contrary to the legally established minimum of three hours. They are so entangled with their (Thai) female boss that they don’t dare to claim their rights because they desperately don’t want to get into more trouble.

The Red Thread on Thai prostitutes in the Netherlands, in the report “Rechten van prosituees .....” (October 2006 ,translated from Dutch into English)
page 86:
One of the most remarkable conclusions from our fieldwork is the striking growth of the number of Thai massage parlours in our country. (One sixth of the known sex businesses known to us is Thai. [According to the Red Thread there are app. 500 brothels in the Netherlands {~2005/2006}, not including the window brothels]) (…)
page 88:
In the middle of the eighties the Netherlands was confronted with a second wave of global women trafficking. The first was around the year 1900. That second wave got the attention through the rise of sex tourism, especially to Thailand. After the end of the war in Vietnam one sought a new destination for the rest and recreation facilities – read Red Light Districts – specially created for American servicemen in Thailand. There the first Thai women for the European sex industry were recruited. Already in 1976 the first Eastern ‘pamper princesses’ [verwenprinsessen] were put to work in Dutch sex-clubs. In some clubs the clients got them freely with a bottle of champagne, as if the women were a tray of cocktail snacks. They were the first generation of victims of human trafficking. (…)
During our business-visits we often encounter women who arrived in the Netherlands during that period. They tell us, that they had to pay back debts and that it has taken years to buy themselves free. Many of them have once been married to a Dutchman, by which they acquired a residence permit, but they also ended up in a divorce. After all, they could only get a residence permit through a marriage. (...)
page 89:
Human trafficking is sometimes mentioned. One female boss told that she found out that she was punishable when she wanted to bring over women to the Netherlands (356). The operator of another business (286) complained that he wasn’t allowed to bring over his Thai girlfriend to the Netherlands. For that reason he also couldn’t lend any money.
Some victims of human trafficking from Thailand, who came to the Netherlands in the eighties, play a role in this trade. They are rumoured to be tapping from family-contacts to get new women to the parlours. The women who come the Netherlands, were recruited with the argument that they were only supposed to massage and not that they were to have sex. In many of these businesses it is therefore denied that there are erotic services. One such owner said that he is not responsible if they do and the women who do that will be fired immediately (319).
page 90:
We have the impression that in the majority of the Thai massage parlours the women also live there. Almost everywhere we encounter them while cooking. They often answer the door in their pyjamas. (…)
Concerning accommodation, the Thai women depend on the operator or his wife, mostly a Thai woman. Herein there’s a remnant of patterns of patronage to be discovered also observed by several researchers in Thailand. It concerns an unequal relationship, where the boss offers services in exchange for political or other influences. This means in this case that being an employee also means obligations towards the boss in the private-sphere. This counts in the loyalty to the business, especially in difficult times, where the tax department observes paid employment. (…)
Not always the door was opened for the Red Thread, even when the women were present (296). And sometimes we were not welcome (259). After we repeatedly heard that “boss not here” we gave the Thai parlours no more priority when no Thai woman accompanied us (580, S 417, 188). In one business they didn’t stop with ‘boss not here’. The women ran off at full speed when we tried to give them some fliers (175). It occurs to us that we especially make the ‘boss not happy’ with our visit (…) (translated from Dutch into English)
a client (3 November 2006 & 3 December 2006)
Through the years I have, by building a relationship of trust with a number of Thai women, gained insight into how the Thai prostitutes have come to their ‘choice’ of going to work in the Netherlands. (…)

As is (probably) known, the group of Thai prostitutes in the Netherlands consists primarily of, according to Thai standards, somewhat older (28+) women from the North and the Northeast (Isan). (…)

Then to be physically able to work at all, soft drugs is used and/or medicaments abused. Easy to be sent from Thailand and free for sale without recipe. That often goes wrong because self-medication by unskilled people is asking for trouble. Don’t forget the alcohol abuse and smoking. All to be able to block off mentally the pain and stress of this existence. Pain and stress that is caused by loneliness, the conviction that the work is condemned by your faith, that your status in Thai society has been reduced to zero, mostly bad news from the home front about derailed daughters because of the lack of mama and/or sons who make nothing of their lives, parents or your husband who ask for even more money. And because you are forced by your home front and your culture, you publicly and at your work put your happy mask on and you behave like a ideal sexy and promiscuous exotic woman.

But when you get to know such a woman a little better as a friend; and ask her straight; if when she is alone she sometimes cries, if she is happy? Then you find out that the always laughing and cheerful woman is deeply unhappy. Usually the same answer that I got from multiple women to this question has radically changed my life… By the way, I sometimes think ‘ignorance is bliss’…


I also have to mention that I also managed to take a glance on the human trafficking trajectory. Those people make sure that the women come to the Netherlands for a lot of money (10-25.000 euros) where a Dutch ‘partner’ awaits them. Mostly a local loser c.q. drop out with a predatory attitude.

Also I have literally heard a number of women I know say independently of each other that when their ‘debt’ was not yet paid off it was expected from them that they should keep on working even during their period. Special tampons made this possible. (Those big pink nappy’s)

By the way, you can make a lot of money as a successful Thai prostitute. Especially without condom. (…)

It is certainly true that concerning the Thai women there is no physical violence during the debt period though there certainly is mental intimidation. Mostly by a mamasan who herself has lost it completely because of her involvement in the business. And there’s always the threat of a couple of (payment in kind) thugs who every now and then refer a difficult customer to the dentist. (…)

I also found a study of Thai women in massage parlours in the Netherlands, done by a Thai woman herself ("Thai Massage in the Netherlands - A study of a group of Thai migrant women" by Panitee Suksomboon, 2004). She interviewed 14 Thai masseuses who worked in 4 different parlours (Sunflower Thai Massage, Mai Thai Massage, North Thai massage and the [traditional] Phaen Boran) , among them also some traditional Thai masseuse (6 women), not prostitutes. She gives a somewhat more positive image of Thai prostitutes, the women interviewed often came here through chain migration and played a very active role, but some had to pay off debts. Many don't like the work.
page 11:

The data show that the ages of the interviewed Thai migrant women fall into the category of thirty-five to fifty-five. Only two women, Wong and Mon, are younger than thirty. Most of these Thai migrant women --ten out of fourteen -- came from the Northeast of Thailand and the rest of them are from Bangkok and Northern Thailand. Considering from a macro level, several scholars have explained that the Northeast of Thailand is the poorest of the four major regions of Thailand (Pasuk1982; Cook 1998; Jeffrey 2002).
page 84-85:
On the topic of women's migration I present four arguments. Firstly, some academic researchers have frequently considered that women are dependent and passive agents following the migrant men or left behind. Many of these Thai women, rather, moved to the Netherlands as initiating, independent migrants and left their families behind in Thailand. It should be stressed that the social networks providing migration generally involve women relatives and women friends. Pioneer migrant women play a key part in giving information, providing the migration opportunity or helping the migration process. This shows the specific role and active social actors of women who build the social networks in supporting international and chain migration.

Secondly, the migration of the interviewed Thai migrant women was a multi-step migration from a village in Thailand to Bangkok or other big cities and later to the Netherlands. As a consequence of their experience in internal migration, it makes these women's adaptation easier in international migration. I also argue transnational migration is not necessary being the last phase of the many steps of Thai women's migration. They still move back and forth within the European Union whereas others expect to move back to Thailand in the future.

Thirdly, the lives and experiences in international migration of these Thai women challenge the anti-trafficking discourse which viewed women as naïve, passive and forced/lured to migrate. The Thai migrant women in contrast intended to migrate, knew what their work would be and adapted themselves to the new society. Making a decision to work in Thai massage parlors demonstrates these women's adaptation and role as an active agent. They evaluate themselves that because of their limitations of low-working skills, low education and lack of proficiency in English or Dutch, the working in a Thai massage parlor offers them a certain degree of autonomy and independence. They can earn their own (large sum of) money which they are unlikely to experience in other forms of employment. One should not generalize that all Thai women migrating overseas face hardship and finally end up as victim of trafficking.

Fourthly, international migration is not only involved with geographical movements of people from the sending country to the receiving country. It is significantly related to the social and cultural reconstruction, interpretation and negotiation of gender and sexuality of both sending and receiving countries. On the one hand, the bodies of these women are related to Thainess, Thai gender and sexuality. Owing to a discourse of Thailand as a place for westerners to search for sexual service and prostitution, some clients have such stereotypes that they think they can have sex with all Thai migrant women in massage parlors in the Netherlands and look down upon them if they refuse their request. These women negotiate with these customers that they should not apply this label to every Thai woman and that there are many beautiful and attractive places in Thailand. On the other hand, Dutch culture and 'Western' gender and sexuality are also reconstructed by these Thai women to negotiate with their farang [Western] husband on the issues of working in Thai massage parlors. Their farang husband does not give them money is defied as the irresponsibility, so they have to work in Thai massage parlors. Some assume that their farang [Western] husband is openminded and can tolerate their work in erotic massage parlors.
page 85:
Thai migrant women have to work many hours per day, 12 hours and they have a day-off only on Sundays. The income of masseuses bases on the agreement with the parlors' owners, the type of the massage, and the number of clients they get. Having a prior experience with work in a massage parlor is not a sufficient factor to explain why these Thai migrant women choose to work in massage parlors in the Netherlands, especially in the case of the erotic ones. Economic incentives, influence of social networks, the popularity of erotic massage and extra income from offering sexual service are other important factors why these Thai migrant women choose and keep working in erotic massage parlors.
page 59:
Wong explained her feeling when she started working: "Before I did it, I thought a lot. I cried and thought of my son and my mom. If they knew what my work here was, how would they feel? Maybe, they would think that I am not a good daughter and mother." I also asked Mon what she thought about her job. "Don't ask me how I feel when I have to take off my clothes while I give massages to clients. If you were me and you had to be naked in front of a male stranger, what would you feel? Would you feel ashamed? I feel the same.", Mon replied.
page 49:
The work rules and the kind(s) of services the masseuses have to give are also established by the owners. The women who would like to work in the parlors have to agree with these rules. The strictness of the rules depends on the relationship between the owners and employees as well as the size of the establishment. If a parlor has many masseuses working there and the relationship between the owner and employees is formal, the working-rules are stricter than in the parlors with fewer masseuses.
page 71:
Interesting enough, both traditional and erotic masseuses also consider the client's touching their body as an act of sexual harassment. Although the women in erotic massage parlors take off their clothes, give body to body massage or hand jobs, they feel uneasy if the client always keeps touching their bodies, especially their private parts.
page 71:
"Before I take off all of my clothes some clients already touch my body. Some clients stare at me when I am naked. I was shy, especially with the young and handsome farang [she means Western] clients. Very often some old or crazy customers always touched my breasts and hips. If I faced this situation again, I thought I was unlucky. Sometimes I was very angry, but I had to be patient and try to control my emotion. If I exposed my anger to the clients, it would damage the reputation of the parlor".
page 75:
Some masseuses tried to enjoy their work telling themselves that it is their job, similar to people of other professions, and that they also have a responsibility to do their job. Wong explained how she felt about her job: "I am sometimes ashamed to take off my clothes, but I think, it is my work. Whenever I meet nice and polite clients, I feel that I enjoy my work". Mali is another example: "When I took off my clothes the first time, I was shy. Sometimes I have to give showers to the clients. I don't like it. Anyhow, this is my work".
page 79:
Son has nearly finished paying her debt of 6,520 EURO to an agency and a bank after one and a half years.

More on Thai prostitutes in the report "Illegaliteit, onvrijwilligheid en minderjarigheid in de prostitutie een jaar na de opheffing van het bordeelverbod" (by Drs. Marjolein Goderie, Dr. Frans Spierings and Drs. Sandra ter Woerds, Juli 2002, Verwey-Jonker Instituut/WODC, ministry of Justice, also see this post, translated from Dutch into English):
Massage parlour in Rotterdam
We spoke with a (female) manager of a Thai massage parlour and with two women who worked there.
It is a licensed business, where social workers and police step visit regularly. All women work there legally. They have a residence permit, usually via a marriage with a Dutchman. The owner tells that she gets her personnel indirectly. It is a Thai circuit, she explains, indirectly you get your personnel and indirectly you’ll hear you can work somewhere. It is difficult for Thai women to find a job. Some women don’t speak Dutch and that decreases their chances for a job. They often have family in Thailand who need money. Therefore some women ‘choose’ to work in an erotic massage parlour, so says the manager. At this moment three women aged 29, 33 and 43 work in the parlour. Also on the same day there’s a woman who comes to inform about work.
In the past the women not always had the right documents, but since the new law the manager doesn’t take risk anymore. She only works with persons who are legal. That sometimes results in having too few personnel. This happens more often now. Then she has to send away clients.
She has asked for help with applying for the license and believes the amendment of the law is difficult. She has to know everything, keep updated, renovate (interior of the building). She told the prostitutes that from now on, they get half of what the clients pays. The women pay the VAT themselves and they rent a room at her place. When she tells how things are working in her business, it turns out that it is not only massage, but the same activities as for instance in a club.

The two women we spoke with, worked on their own free will, so they said. But they did it to make money and to send it home. Because of their lack of Dutch they shouldn’t be able to do other work.
One of them has been in the Netherlands for four years now. She is married to a Dutchman she met in Thailand. Previously she had worked in a factory and in a hotel. When she became ill she stopped doing that work. She became a housewife for a while, but she became bored and also needed money for her family in Thailand.
The other one has also been in the Netherlands for four years. She came to the Netherlands to visit family members. Then she met somebody in a discotheque, whom she is now married to. At first she worked as a cleaning woman, but she didn’t make enough money from that to support her family in Thailand. By working in the massage parlour she earns more. She doesn’t like the work. Her husband doesn’t like it too that she does this work, she says, but he cannot support her whole family. If she could earn just a little bit more, she could go back to Thailand. She is saving money for that now. There never are problems, she tells. Sometimes she is mentally burdened by the work. She then talks with colleagues, but about some things she cannot talk with them. She feels uncomfortable about how she is forgetting the Thai language. She sketches a situation which gives us the impression of disattachment. Sometimes she doubts she has to stay, or if she should go back to her family, who by no means are supposed to know she’s doing this work.

"VOGELVRIJ - Prostitutietoerisme en vrouwenhandel" (1984) ["Outlawed - prostitution tourism and women trafficking"] by Els Bransen, Liet Gaikhorst en Gery de Wolf. (translated from Dutch)
page 64:
On the basis of information we collected about Thai clubs in Amsterdam we can state that there are women (for instance Thai women) being recruited for work in the sex industry in the West. The women involved are more or less familiar with the content of the work.

From "Migrant Prostitutes In The Netherlands" by Licia Brussa in "A Vindication of the Rights of Whores" edited by Gail Pheterson (1989), based on a pilot study on migrant prostitutes in Amsterdam in 1985:
page 234-236:
The second largest group of foreign prostitutes is formed by women from Southeast Asia, particularly women from Thailand. There is a smaller group from the Philippines and some women with another nationality (Malayan, Indonesian, Taiwanese). About ten years ago Southeast Asian women began to arrive. Philippine go-go dancers and combo-bands began to arrive about eight years ago. During the last few years especially the number of Thai women has increased.
Southeast Asian women are in less visible sectors of the sex industry than South American women and are therefore more difficult to reach. They work in bars and private clubs and they circulate from one club to another and from one town to another all over Europe. They therefore have no contact with social workers and field workers as do some of their more visible colleagues. A large number of them are illegal.
Speaking of Thai women, the trafficking center is West Germany because Germany does not require a visa for travellers from Asia. Once in Germany, it is not difficult to travel to other European countries. The recruitment of Thai women, their journey to Europe and their transference to a certain club is arranged by agents working in trafficking organizations. The German traffickers are organized on a far larger scale than the Dutch. Frequently women are sold from one club owner to another and are forced to circulate between clubs. Some recruiting goes through intermediary agencies under covers like "artist bureau" or "employment bureau."
The women who become Dutch citizens through marriage usually come to Holland directly. The Dutch marriage partner may be found in Thailand among drug addicts, tourists or Dutch people living in Thailand. The marriage is arranged by an agent upon whom the woman remains dependent. Sometimes one Dutch man accompanies several women to Holland; the women receive a tourist visa by showing adequate money and a return ticket. Another circuit recruits mostly Philippine women into the entertainment industry and nightclubs. Regular agents contract the women, mostly under false pretenses, for six months or a year. According to several respondents, all of the above women are forced into prostitution. Resistance is impossible. After three or six months their contract expires but their visa is then invalid; they become illegal and without housing or income.
There is also a small group of Southeast Asian women in prostitution who came to Europe independently through friends, acquaintances,or relatives residing here illegally. And finally, there is a group of women who came to Amsterdam after fleeing brothels in West Germany, Switzerland, Belgium or France. They have the idea that Holland is a better place to live and work than other European countries, and certainly better than Germany. Thai women in particular said that many women who want to leave Thailand to work (whether or not as a prostitute) would like to come to Holland. This makes things a lot easier for the trafficking agents.
Southeast Asian women work in several different branches of prostitution, such as sex clubs, bars, brothels, peep shows, live-show sex theaters and escort services. Only a small number of them work as window prostitutes. In some clubs the women earn ten to twenty percent of profits on drinks and thirty to fifty percent on sex. In businesses where the women dance or act, they get a steady income of three to five hundred guilders per week. Some of their income goes to the club owner for room and board. The women's earnings contrast bitterly with those of the bar or club owner. In some clubs clients pay a fixed fee of two to three hundred guilders. This entitles them to drinks, women and entertainment. Working hours and sanitary conditions vary from club to club. Some women work and live in small compartments. Usually the women work from eleven in the morning to late into the night and often they still have to clean their room and the club afterwards. Exploitation by club owners is common. One respondent told me about small clubs and private houses where Thai women earned only three or four hundred guilders per month; sometimes the wages were not even paid to the women themselves but were sent straight to their families or bank accounts in Thailand. This is a way of keeping them dependent. Some club owners try to convince the women that they are controlled "for their own good"; they forbid them to go out as "protection" from the police and from the dangerous outside world. So the women live essentially in a prison with no outside contacts except the clients.
In Thailand, women are recruited for prostitution in the large cities or country towns, not in the countryside. Mostly the women's motives for coming to the Netherlands are economic; many of them have children, many are saving to buy land for the family, some want to support the education or business venture of a brother or sister. The duty of the oldest sister to support the whole family is an important element of Thai culture. If there is not enough to eat in the family, the oldest daughter will go to town to find a job. Untrained girls find work in the growing tourist industry, often strongly connected to sex businesses. They work in hotels as waitresses, hairdressers, masseuses, dancers and possibly as call girls. Not all Thai women in Holland were working in this circuit back in their own country; some educated women had other jobs. But, European agents seem to recruit especially women within the (sex) tourist sector.
The average age of the women is between eighteen and twentyfive. Some cases have been reported of girls under age but not of child prostitution, something the Thai government has been fighting against for a number of years. In general Thai prostitutes speak little English or Dutch. They are very isolated due to this language barrier, their hidden position in the sex industry and often their illegality. Day and night, they know only the life in the clubs. Unlike the South Americans, they do not operate in groups; social contacts are usually restricted to a few girlfriends. Those few women who have some freedom meet in the new Thai temple in Amsterdam and in the few Thai restaurants. The Thai temple is one of the only outside places tolerated by club owners. Several informants told about the extreme physical and emotional stress under which the women live. They suffer from exhaustion, depression, isolation, separation from their families, racism and constraints within their work. Women who were prostitutes in Thailand experienced nothing like the circumstances in the Netherlands; at home they were working free-lance and could return to their families on weekends. Prostitution is stigmatized in Thailand but as long as daughters support their families and keep good relations, their work is tolerated. The experience in Holland isolates them from their families and produces shame, thereby making them even more dependent on club owners and traffickers.



suphab said...

Sad story, but they might have no choice. It is very difficult if you have no education and have to support family.
But sometime also happen that the girl just want to have easy money and fun with the man
sometime the parent also put the girl like a 'they make a new house why you don't, you stay outside country long time already' because of the modle live, they need to have new house, car, tv, tephone
pitty a girl can not go back and not happy but also some happy here too

suphab said...

Some girl also just want to have #
easy money too
yes, some girl have no choice
because of have to taking care the family
some Dutch man love only the girl no her family
also some just want to have better in the fast way then stop
but pitty some never can get out

rocket said...

some just to have easy money and have fun but also some girl have to take care her parent. some Dutch man just love only the girl
somes also want to have fast money then stop go back home
but pity some never can get out
because to many joy or drug
if you are there, is always some man like you and willing to do anything for you