For decades, Thai sex workers have been grappling with the issue of exploitation and abuse, as they “secretly” and “illegally” work in the sex industry. Despite unarguably being one of the country’s major economic sectors, sex workers have been devoid of any legal protection and have been left vulnerable to human rights violations.
Thai PBS World interviewed an anonymous sex worker who has witnessed employers using various unjust means to suppress and ensure the sex workers they are in charge of keep bringing in money.
In her 13 years as a sex worker, the 37-year-old stated that operators of girly bars often impose hefty fines on sex workers who miss work even for a day or two, and sometimes deduct money from the commission earned by the sex workers on drinks purchased for them by customers.
The workers could not seek legal aid since prostitution is still considered illegal in Thailand. The woman also claimed that certain venues have to pay corrupt officials to turn a blind eye to avoid problems, thus leaving her and others with absolutely no choice.
But in what could be a glimmer of hope for sex workers, the interviewee said she is looking forward to the passage of the Sex Workers Protection Bill.
“If the bill is passed, prostitution will become legal, and the stigma against us will also fade,” she told Thai PBS World.
The purpose of the Sex Workers Protection Bill
The Sex Workers Protection Bill aims at reversing the negative effects of the 1996 Prostitution Suppression Act, providing legal protections, and improving the quality of life for sex workers, according to Thai PBS World.
The bill is being pushed by the Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development.
Jintana Chanbamrung, department director-general, revealed that, “the final draft will be ready next month.”
The drafting process includes input from all relevant parties and takes into consideration the laws and regulations of other countries, such as Netherlands and Germany, where sex work is legal.
The goal is to have a bill that is acceptable to the majority, and once passed, it will give sex workers the same state welfare benefits as other white-collar workers.
How it works
The Sex Workers Protection Bill includes a minimum age limit of 18 years for sex workers and their clients.
The bill will also protect sex workers from discriminatory practices and ensure they receive proper payment for their services by mandating that all agreements and conditions between sex workers and venue operators must be set in writing, according to Thai PBS World.
As for the venue, it will be defined as intermediaries who coordinate or procure sexual services for customers, with or without earning a share of the earnings. Additionally, operators will be required to obtain a license, in order to ensure that they have proper protection for their workers.
A national-level committee, chaired by the social development and human security minister, and comprising of various government departments, representatives of sex workers and specialists appointed by the committee, will be set up to ensure sex workers have access to legal recourse.
Penalties and punishment
The Sex Workers Protection Bill aims to address the nefarious issues of child abuse and the trafficking of minors in the sex industry. The bill penalizes customers who buy sexual services from minors between 15-17 years old, with a jail term of one to three years, as well as a fine of 20,000 to 60,000 baht.
Specifically, anyone who engages in a sexual trade with a minor under 15 years old will face two to six years of imprisonment, plus a fine of 40,000 to 120,000 baht, Thai PBS World reports.
In addition, the bill also holds accountable those who procure minors aged 15 to 17 for sexual services, regardless of the minor’s consent, with a severe prison sentence of five to 15 years, as well as a substantial fine of between 200,000 and 400,000 baht.
Meanwhile, parents or guardians who are aware or complicit in such transactions with their child will face a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in jail and a maximum fine of 400,000 baht.
Will legalizing sex trade encourage more people to jump into this occupation?
The bill, according to Thai PBS World, only supports the protection of sex workers against a barrage of issues they are facing nowadays while sex trade is still illegal. It also aims to erase the stigma in society that sex workers are all bad outlaws.
One sex worker told Thai PBS World that providing sexual services does not harm others, and those involved in the industry are simply trying to do what they can to make a living.
She said, “This job allows me to support my family financially.”
It is hoped that the passage of this bill will be a step towards ensuring the rights and welfare of sex workers and reducing the negative impact of the criminalization of sex work in this land of smile.
Original article: Thai PBS World
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