Prostitution in Burma is a major social issue that particularly affects women and children.
Burma is a major source of prostitutes (an estimate of 20,000-30,000) in Thailand, with the majority of women trafficked taken to Ranong, a location that borders Burma at its south, and Mae Sai, which is located at the eastern tip of Burma. The majority of Burmese prostitutes in Thailand are from ethnic minorities. Burma is also a source country of sex workers and forced labourers in China, Bangladesh, Taiwan, India, Malaysia, Korea, Macau, and Japan. Internal trafficking of women for the purpose of prostitution occurs from rural villages to urban centres, military camps, border towns, and fishing villages.
Women are often lured into prostitution with the promise of legitimate jobs, substantially higher pay, and because their low educational levels makes it difficult for them to find jobs elsewhere. In many instances, such women come from remote regions.
In Yangon, prostitution often occurs in hotels that also operate as brothels. The recent appearance of massage parlours began in 1995, with ethnic minority groups such as the Wa running such businesses in particular. Nightclubs in Yangon are also frequented by prostitutes who work independently.
Prostitution was banned in 1785, during the early Konbaung dynasty period.
Under the Suppression of Prostitution Act, which was enacted in 1949, the act of soliciting or seducing in public is illegal, as is forcing or enticing women into prostitution or owning brothels. The Penal Code guarantees protection of female children from sexual abuse, with any persons found having sexual intercourse with a girl of under 14 years charged (with or without consent) charged with rape. The Child Law, enacted in 1993, raised the age of consensual sex to 16 and illegalizes prostitution. The Child Law also makes it a punishable offence to use children in the creation of pornographic materials. However, no laws currently protect boys.
Burma has the third highest HIV prevalence rate in Asia, after Cambodia and Thailand. Sex workers are particularly at risk, with 32% infected with the disease.
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