Conservative Thai party looks to woo voters with promise to legalize sex toys

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Thailand’s conservative Democrat Party has come up with a novel strategy to try and win votes ahead of next month’s national elections – a campaign pledge to make sex toys legal should they win power.

Ratchada Thanadirek, executive member of the Democrat Party, said the party plans to promote the sex toy industry “for the safety of users.”

In a statement posted to Facebook Monday, she argued that legalizing sex toys would help reduce the rate of sex crimes and the number of products illegally smuggled from overseas, which lack quality control and can sometimes cause infections among users.

“Looking at the medical angle, doctors are even recommending [sex toys], instead of buying a sex service or cheating on partners,” Thanadirek told CNN.

The party wants to decriminalize the sale of sex toys, which are considered “obscene” under Section 287 of Thailand’s Criminal Code. Those who make, publicly distribute, or sell sex toys can face up to 3 years in prison, a fine of up to six thousand baht (around $175) or both.

Custom officers confiscated at least 500,000 Thai baht ($15,000) worth of goods, including sex toys, e-cigarettes and products made of ivory in February 2015.

Instead, the Democrat Party proposes that sex toys should be “a specially controlled product under governmental regulations and with age limitations, where the buyers must be older than 18 years old.”

The party, which has historically been one of the kingdom’s more conservative political forces, is projected to win between 20-30 seats nationwide at the May 14 elections, according to the latest poll.

To change the law, they would need support from other parties to reach the minimum 251 votes required.

While statistically it may be a long shot, the party’s proposal has sparked a conversation about sexual pleasure and taboos.

Sex toys are considered “immoral” in some parts of Thailand, but are also freely available at many street stalls in Bangkok, Thanadirek noted in her statement.

She acknowledged that some people may have religious or moral concerns about legalizing sex toys but insisted that doing so could have a positive health impact. It could also help the economy, she told CNN.

Thanadirek said the Thai government could collect taxes on imported sex toys, and the country, as a major global producer of rubber, has the potential to become a sex toy production hub.

Thailand is largely a conservative society and there is stigma associated with actions perceived as defying traditional family values, especially in rural areas. But there is often a disconnect between what the law says and reality on the ground.

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