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Sex workers left in cold by outbreak

Sex workers left in cold by outbreak

BANGKOK: Thousands of sex workers have been denied access to relief cash amid the coronavirus outbreak despite their contribution to the once-thriving tourism industry, a forum was told.

COVID-19healthsextourismeconomics
By Bangkok Post

Saturday 23 May 2020, 10:28AM


Bangla Rd, the centre of the Patong nightlife area, remains closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Patong Municipality

Bangla Rd, the centre of the Patong nightlife area, remains closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Patong Municipality

Suparnee Pongruengphant, the project manager for Gender Equality and Social Inclusion at the United Nations Development Programme, said an agency survey has shown that up to 200,000 sex workers in Thailand suddenly lost their jobs when the government ordered the closure of nightlife venues in late March to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“It is sad to say that the government is not doing enough to support this group of people and their immediate needs. They are denied support because they are not categorised as [formal] labourers and legalised in Thailand. … [They should be] entitled to the same protections and welfare services as other professions,” she told the online forum on Thursday, reports the Bangkok Post.

The event, “Helping Thailand’s most vulnerable: Sex workers & Covid-19, the fallout”, was held by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.

Ms Suparnee said sex workers are marginalised because many of them do not have access to education or opportunities to seek employment in the formal sector, forcing them into the sex trade. It is even more difficult for migrant and transgender prostitutes to seek community support.

On May 19, CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin said the government will reopen nightlife venues, with adjustments, if the number of new daily cases stays in single digits for the foreseeable future. But Ms Suparnee said when business resumes, sex workers will be put at risk of infection because a vaccine is still unavailable and the nature of their work requires close contact with clients.

“The fact that many of them don’t have enough savings to cover health and medical costs makes the situation even worse for them,” she said.

Assoc Prof Chalidaporn Songsamphan, a political science lecturer at Thammasat University and president of the Service Workers In Group Foundation, said many sex workers cannot gain access to state assistance because prostitution has been “an elephant in the room” despite their contribution to the tourism industry.

“We surveyed female sex workers in Bangkok who applied for the B5,000 monthly cash handout. Those who outed themselves didn’t get any support. There is no place for sex workers. … I don’t think this government will even think about the existence of the sex industry,” she said.

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Kurt | 23 May 2020 - 15:17:18

There are no 'formal' or 'informal' sex workers in Thailand. That is the law ( hello law thinkers, agree?)  'Entertainment' thai girls and boys should be registered and paid by owners of bars and clubs. That is thai government stand. Logic, is itn't?

CaptainJack69 | 23 May 2020 - 11:54:33

The 5000 baht handout was supposed to be for "informal workers". If you're 'formal' then you have social security and you don't need the emergency funds. Unfortunately - as we know - most Thais don't have social security, so the gov. has spent the last 2 months denying peoples claims on any grounds they can think of.

Christy Sweet | 23 May 2020 - 10:56:44

While many men provide sexual services,  it's sexism, pure and simple- that marginalizes this profession. Seems most cultures outside north EU can't have women being independent AND safe. Maybe sex workers should strike...

Nasa12 | 23 May 2020 - 10:39:33

Well, I have seen many reports from various ministries here in Thailand that there is no prostitution and sex workers in Thailand.

 

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