Sex services offered at all Helsinki Thai massage parlours visited by HS
An investigation by Helsingin Sanomat suggests that sex services are available at all parlours offering Thai massage in Helsinki.
A team of journalists visited 30 Thai massage businesses in Helsinki over the past two weeks, and were offered sex services in every one.
Thai massage parlours began appearing in Helsinki in the early 1990s. The exact number is not known, because some of the businesses are not registered. In Helsinki alone there are dozens, and more have been opening up all over Finland.
A team of seven journalists from Helsingin Sanomat went to investigate what services are available at businesses offering Thai massage.
All the journalists observed the same ground-rules. They all appeared at the locations on a walk-in basis without reservations. None of them asked about what services might be available - they simply asked the price of a massage and went inside to have one.
They waited for an offer of sex services, and when offers were made, the reporters declined.
The massage cost EUR 20-25 and the quality of the massage varied considerably. In only a few of the places was it up to standard.
Sex services were never offered right away. The masseuses would suggest the "extras" for an additional fee at a later stage of the massage.
The service offered varied from intimate massage, usually with the possibility for oral sex or intercourse, or both. Only in one place were the the additional services not offered at the initiative of the personnel, but even there, they said when asked that sex services were available.
At the conclusion, the masseuses were asked for a receipt. A receipt was given only in one place, and even there, the customer had to write it himself. In two places they said that a receipt would be available if the customer came another day.
Police in Finland know that sex services are generally available at businesses that advertise Thai massage. The sale of sex services is not illegal unless the soliciting takes place in public, such as on the streets or in a restaurant, and even then the activity has to cause a disturbance.
Selling of sex services on private premises becomes illegal only when pimping is involved - that is, if a third party gets direct monetary benefits from the sale of sex services. In such a case, the pimp and the customer can be prosecuted. Police have no evidence of this in connection with the Thai massage business, and getting evidence is difficult.
Police in Helsinki put a higher priority on what they consider the more serious procurement crime - particularly prostitution imported from Russia and Estonia, which is known to be linked with organised crime.
Police believe that there are several hundred prostitutes working in the Helsinki region.
Executive director Jaana Kauppinen of Pro-tukipiste, which promotes the rights of people involved in sex work, says that taking action against the Thai massage parlours would further erode the position of many Thai-born women living in Finland.
Thai massage parlours have been allowed to operate in Helsinki with little police interference. However, just over two years ago, police did investigate a loan-sharking operation in which money was lent at high interest rates to 60 women of Thai or Vietnamese origin. Many of them paid off their debts by working at Thai massage businesses.
The focus of that investigation was on loan-sharking and not prostitution.