Credit: Phillip Martin

Human Trafficking: The Origins of Sex Tourism & Trafficking in Southeast Asia

January 16, 2013

Addendum to an eight-part series

The long war devastated civil society in Southeast Asia: millions were dislocated; poverty increased, vast amounts of farmland were made unusable; prostitution proliferated as a means of survival for tens of thousands of women and children in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as South Korea and Okinawa. "Jim," the limo driver in Queens, recalled the conditions that led to his self-described addictions during the war.

“1968 was right when the war escalated -- it was right after the Tet Offensive,” Jim said. “The firefights were 13 hours at a stretch, and it was nonstop. And it was just hardcore, in the dirt, in the mud combat. And it just went on and on and on, day after day. So the two things that were really open to you as a way of getting away were the women and the drugs, and both were incredibly cheap.”

Human trafficking resulted from demand, said Melissa Farley, a San Francisco based psychologist, who has studied the intersection between human trafficking and prostitution.

“In the minds of some people, trafficking is one phenomenon and prostitution, consenting prostitution, is fully completely another phenomenon,” she said. “That is not the experience of survivors of prostitution.”


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