Jane Haile replied 8th Jan '14:
This is a very complicated question to which there is no easy answer and which requires a whole thesis. I will take a shot anyway & provide some pointers for further reading.
If a country has an image of having a flourishing sex trade there is usually a factual basis. I have spent many years of my life in Bangkok so I will draw on examples from there. A flourishing sex work sector reflects both poverty and social and economic disparities. There may be additional factors as in Thailand where the influx of large numbers of American troops on R & R during the Vietnam war boosted the already flourishing business.
Whether sex work is stigmatized depends on a large number of things like expectations of monogamous marital unions; and the influence of religious and other cultural values. Thailand is unusual in the relative lack of stigma and the mobility of workers in and out of the sex industry. It has to be noted that prostitution is illegal in Thailand so the police force have a nice line in protection payments! What is interesting recently is that as the Thai economy has been booming fewer of the sex-workers are Thai and a larger proportion come from neighbouring poorer countries. I notice also that official promotion of Thailand now stresses that Thailand is ‘the kitchen of the world’ – a reference to its amazing cuisine- rather than focussing on its extensive night-life.
The question as to what is the proper way for a government to address a flourishing sex sector is one preoccupying all of Europe right now. Should countries adopt the Swedish model which criminalizes the buyer of sex but not the seller; or the Dutch model which treats purchase of sex as just another commercial encounter & provides legal protection for the sex-workers & through training offers other avenues of income generation.
I hope I have provided a partial answer and would invite you to my blog at http://www.gendercentric.org/16-newsflash/67-prostitutionpoints-to-ponder and my Facebook page https://www.Facebook.com/gendercentric (14 December 2013) for more discussion.