HEART OF THE STREET (HOTS) is a community based organisation in Chiang Mai, Thailand. HOTS was established in 2005 to campaign against the commercial sexual exploitation of vulnerable street children in Northern Thailand.
Sexual exploitation causes the most trauma and destruction to the lives of affected children well into their adulthood therefore, HOTS is committed to raising awareness on the issue, mobilising the public to report offenders and helping develop effective child protection measures at schools and children’s institutions.
In 2006 HOTS began coordinating with various government and non-government organisations, law enforcement agencies, universities, schools, media, community groups and individuals in the public and private sector in Thailand. This was in preparation for the launch of the first HOTS campaign, 'Stop the child sex trade. Take action…..report offenders.'
This highly visible campaign aimed to raise awareness amongst the residents and tourists about the problem of the child sex trade and to provide reporting details to the public. In an effort to curb the problem and to help protect street and cross-border children from entry into the sex trade, HOTS also conducted media and educational activities to mobilise community action.
HOTS recognises the numerous intricate factors that help perpetuate the commercial sexual exploitation of vulnerable children and children living and working on the streets of Chiang Mai. Poverty in combination with social factors, gender relations and cultural norms keep many children trapped in a high-risk situation and make them vulnerable to child sex tourism and other forms of sexual exploitation. The primary ways in which children are treated as commodities for sexual purposes are through child trafficking, child prostitution, child pornography, child sex tourism and early marriages.
Thailand has a reputation of being 'the sex capital' of the world and also serves as a key nexus in the child sex trade within the region. Consequently, this attracts many child sex offenders seeking access to vulnerable children in countries with limited child protection measures and weak law enforcement. Although there is a local demand for children for sex, the growing trend of foreigners coming to Chiang Mai seeking sexual favours from disadvantaged children and vulnerable children in schools and institutions is most alarming and unacceptable.
In response to this problem, HOTS is committed to raising awareness and increasing the capacity of local people to report offenders, and to take effective child protection measures to keep children safe from abuse and sexual exploitation.
HOTS collaborates with TRAFCORD (Anti-Trafficking Coordination Unit for Northern Thailand) the Chiang Mai Coordination Centre for the Protection of Women's and Children's Rights, FACE (Fight Against Child Exploitation) and ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Child Trafficking for Sexual Purposes).