Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Quandary of Thai Women Prostitutes: Contemporary Situations of Poor and Working Class Thai Women Sex Workers in Thailand and New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-08, 20:24 authored by Menasveta, Piamsuk

As a Thai feminist scholar, I engaged in a study of the economic and social circumstances of a particular group of women, poor and working class Thai sex workers, over the late 1990s to 2001. In this thesis, Thailand and New Zealand are the primary geographical points for the commercialisation of poor and working class Thai women prostitutes. The rational is to present an explanation for why these women engaged both in the Thailand and New Zealand sex trade. In addition, my thesis investigates the causes and consequences of Thai women being traded nationally and globally, as though they were a form of merchandise. The chief assumption underlying this study is that the effects of female poverty, such as the deficiency and inadequacy of education and of work opportunities, influence the numbers of poor and working-class Thai girls and women entering the sex industry. These women are additionally constrained socially by their gender, their poverty and their class position combined. Inequality between males and females in Thai culture is the overriding factor contributing to unjust profiteering by the sex businesses that employ these women sex workers. The causes and consequences of sex work among poor and working class Thai women are investigated by interviewing thirty former and current prostitutes in Thailand and in New Zealand. The hypothesis that their plight is mainly a result of sex discrimination in Thai society is examined by using Thai feminist methodologies. The interviews show that these sex workers initially entered prostitution in order to escape from poverty, and continued to do sex work because of particular controlling factors in their lives such as the obligation to support their families/children. The interviews also implied the misleading belief of Thai women sex workers that sex work would bring them economic security. However, as the findings show, sex work does not always engender such financial security, but frequently begets painful experiences. In spite of this, most prostitutes assent to this situation and prolong their sex occupation. Later, these Thai prostitutes struggle and hope for self-sufficient improvement of their lives in first world regions and countries other than Thailand. The difficulty of avoiding sexual exploitation in Thailand pressurised them into migrating to other countries, including New Zealand. In general, the findings of my research establish that Thai women prostitutes have little control over their economic state in overseas countries. However they had less power over their lives in Thailand and elsewhere than in they had in New Zealand. In addition, gambling and alcohol seem to be used as the primary methods of comforting their personal stress. The negligence of their money discipline is also the cause of Thai sex workers intermittently re-entered prostitution. In particular, the stigma of sex work is an outstanding aspect in their later lives after giving up sex work. I conclude that sex work is a destructive work alternative for most Thai sex workers, though it obviously offers the possibility of making some money. Furthermore, I assert that their individual rights must be upheld as equivalent to those of other women, so that these sex workers are empowered in their 'life situation'.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Gender and Women's Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education Studies


Laurie, Alison; Matthews, Kay Morris; Clark, Margaret