Legal Corner: What Are The Prostitution Laws in Thailand and Proposals for Fully Legalizing the Industry?

Recently, prostitution in Thailand is back in the news, primarily due to a report by the International Sex Workers Union, seen here, that states that Thailand is in the top ten countries worldwide for the number of sex workers.

This has caused significant discussion online and some confusion about what the current laws are and what proposals are in place for potential change to the laws. With the assistance of our friends and partners at Issan Lawyers, here is a brief overview of the current situation:

Prostitution in Thailand is a complex issue with a legal framework that is not straightforward. Here’s a summary of the current laws, legal penalties, and future proposals regarding prostitution in Thailand:

Current Laws:

– Prostitution itself is, surprisingly to many, not fully illegal in Thailand, but public solicitation for prostitution is prohibited if it is carried out “openly and shamelessly” or “causes a nuisance to the public”.
– The legal framework governing prostitution is based on three acts: the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, the Penal Code, and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
– The Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act of 1996 explicitly forbids prostitution in public places and brothels, introducing fines for providing sexual services. This essentially makes any bar or club that has prostitutes illegal.

Legal Penalties:

– Individuals who solicit sex in an open and shameless manner or cause nuisance to the public are subject to fines.
– Those associating in a “prostitution establishment” for the purpose of prostitution face jail terms or fines or both.
– The Penal Code stipulates that anyone over the age of 16 who subsists on the earnings of a prostitute shall be punished with imprisonment of seven to twenty years and fined, or imprisonment for life.

Future Proposals:

– There are recent proposals to fully decriminalize prostitution in Thailand to ensure higher standards of safety for sex workers.
– A draft law, the Sex Workers Protection Bill, has been proposed to replace the existing Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act from 1996.
– The new law aims to grant fundamental labor rights, healthcare support, and social security to sex workers.

These proposals are part of a broader discussion on how to manage the sex industry in Thailand, which is a significant economic sector but also a source of social and legal challenges. The outcome of these proposals may depend on political developments, including national elections and the legislative process.

Sex Workers Protection Bill Draft Details

The Sex Workers Protection Bill in Thailand is a significant legislative proposal aimed at legalizing and regulating sex work. Here are some key details about the bill:

– Legalization of Sex Work: The bill seeks to legalize sex work, allowing it to be recognized as a fully legal profession. This would help in preventing exploitation and ensuring that sex workers are given legal protection.

– Minimum Age and Wage: It sets a minimum age for providing or buying sexual services and stipulates that payment for such services must be at an appropriate rate, not based on the minimum wage law.

– Health and Safety: The draft requires sex workers to regularly undergo health checks to ensure their safety. They would also be eligible to apply for the social security scheme.

– Licensing of Operators: Businesses employing sex workers must register for licenses, with different registration requirements for operators in Bangkok and elsewhere. Licenses would be valid for three years and renewable if the law is abided by.

– Protection Center: The bill calls for the establishment of a protection center to prevent violence against sex workers. Identifying problem customers and prosecuting them would be part of the process. Customers may be required to provide ID like going to purchase a SIM card or using a currency exchange.

– Penalties for Violations: The bill penalizes customers who buy sexual services from minors aged 15-17 years old, with a jail term of one to three years, as well as a fine of 20,000 to 60,000 baht.

The bill is drafted by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and is expected to be reviewed by the Thai government sometime later this year, 2024. If passed, it would lead to the scrapping of the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act 1996.

This bill represents a collaborative effort from various agencies, including the police, and input from sex workers themselves. It aims to shift the perspective on sex work from a criminal activity to a profession deserving of legal rights and protections.

However, there has been opposition to the Sex Workers Protection Bill from conservative and religious groups in Thailand. Past efforts by women’s rights groups to decriminalize prostitution have met with strong resistance from these quarters.

The mostly conservative Thai government and some religious organizations have historically opposed such measures to legalize prostitution, citing moral and social concerns.

The opposition argues that decriminalizing sex work could lead to an increase in the industry, which they believe is morally wrong and harmful to the social fabric. They also express concerns about the potential for increased human trafficking and exploitation, despite the bill’s intention to provide protection and legal rights to sex workers.

However, it’s important to note that the movement for the bill is gaining traction, and sex workers, along with advocates, are more vocal than ever about the need for their work to be decriminalized and recognized as a legitimate profession. The debate continues, and the outcome may depend on the political climate, public opinion, and the legislative process.

Consider reaching out to Issan Lawyers, contact information below, for assistance with any problems you may have had or questions regarding legal matters, including criminal case related problems like prostitution.

Isaan Lawyers specializes in providing legal services for expats and overseas nationals in Thailand.

For more information, visit Issan Lawyers here or reach out to John Spooner below.

*Disclaimer: This article provides general information and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with a qualified attorney for personalized guidance.*

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Adam Judd
Mr. Adam Judd is the Co-owner of TPN Media since December 2017. He is originally from Washington D.C., America, but has also lived in Dallas, Sarasota, and Portsmouth. His background is in retail sales, HR, and operations management, and has written about news and Thailand for many years. He has lived in Pattaya for over nine years as a full-time resident, is well known locally and been visiting the country as a regular visitor for over a decade. His full contact information, including office contact information, can be found on our Contact Us page below. Stories please e-mail About Us: Contact Us: