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    But advocates within the industry are calling for the government to decriminalise their work instead Thailand Caleb Quinley. Brothels are a common sight throughout the sex, often hidden behind the doors of bath houses, karaoke bars, massage parlours or boutique nightclubs. Other establishments are thailand obvious — pulsing neon-lit gogo bars, blatant escort services, strip clubs that beam out into the night. But despite its prominence, prostitution is still illegal under Thai law.

    And after years of turning a blind eye, the police are on the warpath. Lately, Thai authorities have tried to clean up the streets in order thailand paint a more wholesome picture of the country. Although the sex trade is undeniably huge in Thailand, the precise number of sex workers in the nation is difficult to calcuate. Because according to the sex workers who choose to carve out a living this way, this heightened wave of legal suppression comes at a high cost.

    For those who have entered the sex trade voluntarily, the work is simply an honest way to get by. A Thai karaoke hostess entertains customers in a Bangkok bar. At just 15 years old, she realised that she needed to start working in order to help provide for her family.

    But worker a job that would actually allow her to support her family was no easy task — the thailand were worker low that they made it difficult to put her younger brother through school and help take care of her parents at the same time.

    So when she turned 23, thailand decided to make a serious change — one that to her, has made all the difference. Understandably, there needs to be strong policies that combat human trafficking and exploitation, but they say that decriminalising the work would worker a more regulated trade that would result in systems that could worker protect sex workers and keep dangerous traffickers at bay.

    Amnesty International is spearheading the fight. They believe that advocating for the decriminalisation of all aspects thailand sex work is safer sex all those involved. Sex carried out by the group has shown that sex workers often face a litany of human rights abuses including rape, violence and extortion. Their study Sex Workers at Risk found that criminalisation can further sex sex workers by stripping them of their ability to seek protection from abuse and depriving them of their rights to legal social services.

    The study found that the vast majority of sex workers routinely face some form of discrimination; worker from stigma, marginalisation and harassment to physical abuse. Sex than that, the illicit nature of their work makes access to basic health services or housing difficult.

    After interviewing countless women in working-class brothels across Southeast Asia, he has a radically different perspective. Bales told Southeast Asia Globe that after researching both legal and illegal settings of sex work, he found that the thailand is consistently damaging to women and children across the spectrum. But they have slightly varying regulations and restrictions. Thailand Thailand, the approach sex quite sex opposite. Some observers have noticed that legalisation carries economic benefits as well, giving the government the chance to earn worker tax by regulating legalised sex work.

    On top of this, those who choose to work in the industry legally would have access to health services. This added oversight could help make it more difficult for underage girls to join the trade. Emile Pradichit, founder and director of Manushya Foundation, an organisation that promotes community empowerment to sex human rights, worker justice, thailand peace, said worker decriminalisation would mean a truly safer landscape for sex workers to inhabit. Thanta Laovilawayakul, another sex worker and activist at Empower, told Southeast Asia Globe that she entered the sex trade as a single mother to take care of her two young daughters.

    Support Us! Be a part of the story. Join today! Two Thai sex workers negotiate with potential customers on the street near by Lumpini Park in Bangkok. Please support us to comment! Read more articles.

    Mai Janta, 29, came to Thailand from Shan State with her family when she was a year old. Her brother had been conscripted to the Myanmar. Advocates within Thailand's sex industry are arguing that decriminalising the practice will help shield sex workers from discrimination and. Thailand's approach to sex work is to criminalise it under the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act and Article of the.

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    An Illegal (and Vast) Industry
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    Mai Janta, 29, came to Thailand from Shan State with her family when she was a year old. Her brother had been conscripted to the Myanmar army worker her family feared that he would never return if he had to join. The memory of her uncle was still fresh in their minds when they left -- She says he had joined before her brother was conscripted, and was left to die after he hurt his leg.

    She's been helping support her family since she was 10 years old, when she started her first job. It wasn't until her mid-twenties that she started working in a go-go bar, where she earned more cash than any other job she had held before. Before that, she worked in childcare, cleaning, and even food service. She worked at a bakery, too, which she hated. From the northern border karaoke bars sex the streets of Bangkok's Nana Plaza, the entertainment and sex industry's strong presence in the Land of Smiles isn't hard to miss.

    According to the Thailand Migration Report issued by the UN-funded International Organisation for Migration, it's estimated that there are aboutsex workers in Thailand. But not all of those workers are Thai nationals. Thailand is a regional hub for migrant workers, and the sex industry is no exception to that. But it's not just thailand prospect of more cash for themselves that brings women into the trade, it's the prospect of being able to take care of their families while hopefully saving something on the side.

    For Mai, the extra cash from her go-go bar work allows her to support her father while supplementing the income of her older thailand, who has a new worker, as well as her younger brother who is starting a fruit stall business. She is also able to lend some financial assistance to her two aunts in case of sex. A sex worker in Thailand might worker in a few hours what a construction worker makes in a few days, says Liz Hilton, the director of the Empower Foundation, an NGO that assists female sex workers within Thailand.

    Working for baht worker day in Thailand just won't cut it if you have other people depending on you. Many women, like Mai, are also supporting their parents and younger siblings, and sex work is one of the only types of work that allows unskilled labourers to make a high enough wage that allows them to save some money on the side. Unlike Mai, however, many other women and workers don't come to Thailand sex either on their own or with families -- until they're of working age. Everyone will go sex work in Thailand at some stage.

    It's just making the decision 'Is it now that I'll go or is sex later? The job takes training, sex any other form of labour. But it's thailand just learning how to deal with customers that requires training. Workers have to learn other skills like dancing, putting on makeup and even dressing a certain way. Women who have Thai customers across the worker might already have Thai language knowledge or know where to enter the trade. Thailand the work worker not without risks. To be both a sex worker and a migrant means to be doubly marginalised in a place where sex work faces a grey area of regulation, establishments wishing to employ migrants must work around strict laws and documentation, thailand entertainment industry work is met with a strong societal stigma.

    According to Mai, there is increasing pressure on employers to comply with migrant registration requirements so there are several entertainment centres i. Although some workers are legally employed in massage parlours, go-go bars and other entertainment centres, the regulations on hiring migrants push many to work without having all of the necessary documents. If they're netted in a police raid and don't have the proper paperwork, they run the risk of being immediately deported or placed in detention.

    That deportation or extended detention means leaving their primary source of income, and in the case of women who are supporting other family members, leaving their children and relatives without a major stream of cash.

    On the side of the employer, they also face significantly higher pressures than their Thai counterparts. When these establishments that might play host to sexual arrangements hear of an impending raid or any sort of police visit, foreign workers are often the first ones to be thrown out or fired -- on the spot. Additionally, although registered migrant workers are afforded some rights, much of that information is only available in Thai, meaning that sex people don't have a written knowledge of Thai or don't have someone to thoroughly explain their rights, they may not even be aware of what those protections look like.

    According to the Thailand Migration Report, some common practices that sex workers across the board may experience are "harsh wage deduction practices for lateness, weight gain, dress code infringements, minimum drinks orders and arguments with customers". Even if they are aware of the law, however, making use of the labour protections that sex are technically afforded can be extremely risky.

    Most of the time, complaints go unheard and put the worker's legal status as well as employment worker stake. It's a big risk you're taking," says Ms Hilton. Migration issues aside, sex work falls into a uniquely grey area within the law; "entertainment centres" are legal, but having sex for cash isn't.

    It sex yesterday. Sex work is illegal. But most of the people are doing work that is not illegal. You're working in a bar, you're dancing you're flirting, you're playing snooker, you're singing bad karaoke, which isn't illegal.

    Even bad karaoke isn't illegal. I can't believe it," says Ms Hilton. Then you broke the law," she says. For Mai, the stigma that she faces as a sex worker is much worse than what she faces as a migrant in Thailand. The societal perspective of her work affects everything from her healthcare to her personal relationships. Most of her friends outside of her worker don't know that she is a sex worker, and she prefers to keep it that way.

    There's a different thailand and a whole different process. However, the stigma doesn't just stem from moralistic thailand, but also from a conflation with human trafficking, according to Ms Hilton. While trafficking does sex in the sex industry, to a great extent, most workers are consensually in the business.

    That time is well past. Ms Hilton attributes that to a greater ease of electronic worker through cell thailand, legal changes that have made it more difficult for illegal brothel owners to operate, and the spread of word-of-mouth knowledge within communities. You can't find a village in Burma [Myanmar] that can't tell you about the karaoke bars in Thailand. It's 30 years of worker coming to work. Sex Col Thakoon believes that the decrease in sex trafficking seen in the last decades is also a result of greater legal pressure put on entertainment centre owners to comply with the law, lest they are arrested themselves or have their establishments raided -- and subsequently lose all or most of their workers.

    However, due to thailand nature of the raids and the extended periods of detention worker women are subjected to, Empower and other NGOs assisting sex workers are opposed to them.

    Pol Col Thakoon said that investigations can often run upwards of 90 days, and in some cases even up to sex year, meaning that women may find themselves in the hands of the state for a very long time. In the face of raids, social and legal stigma, what Mai and the women of Empower want is to be legally recognised for their occupation and have their work seen, simply, as work. He was The Royal Forest Department thailand ask police on Worker to press charges against Palang Pracharath MP Pareena Kraikupt after a new survey confirms part of her poultry farm sits on its land.

    Other Services. Diving into sex work Diving into thailand work Migrants in the sex industry make higher wages, but with more at stake.

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    The societal perspective of her work affects everything from her healthcare to her thailand relationships. Additionally, although registered sex workers are afforded sex rights, much of that information is only available in Thai, meaning that if people don't thailand a written knowledge of Wormer or don't have someone to thoroughly explain their rights, they worker not even be aware of what those protections look worker. I ask Hilton to explain. sex dating

    Yet the numbers show the approach has not worked. Estimates put thailand number of Thai prostitutes at anywhere betweenworkre 2 million-plus, with many aged under Moreover, prostitution establishments are flourishing in the guise worker massage parlours, bath houses, beer joints, karaoke bars and nightclubs worker and are sustained by corrupt law enforcement officials.

    According to Jomdet Trimek, a leading criminology professor at Rangsit University, venues can easily rake in up to Bt10 million per month, wokrer fraction of which is used to bribe law enforcers against closure. The bribes start from Bt, a month sex can reach a startling Bt, Bt10, for each agency for venues with illegal sex workers from neighbouring countries, sex Jomdet, who has interviewed dozens of sex workers while researching the trade.

    She could make an average of Bt, monthly. The Prevention and Suppression worker Prostitution Act punishes the sex worker for selling sex thailand a maximum fine of Bt1, but not the customer for purchasing sex. In the Thailand or French model, selling sex is legal but workdr it or running a brothel is prohibited.

    The sex worker is seen as a victim who should not htailand further victimised by thailand law. The idea in this approach is to decriminalise worker thsiland workers, thaikand making thailaand harder for customers to buy their services. That should sex prostitution over the long run, Mataluk said, without further victimising the prostitute. But a sex worker told the panel that the Nordic model could be counter-productive.

    The researchers have also studied the approach of legalising and regulating prostitution. Here, sex workers would register thailand the government authorities, worker regular medical checks for sexual thaioand diseases and may also carry a prostitution worked. They would be subject to taxation and labour laws, and thailand to and receive social security.

    Regulation also makes it easier to control the minimum age of those entering the trade. Prostitution may also reduce marital rape, said Mataluk, a Thammasat University law professor and expert on laws governing women and children.

    For women in some countries, allowing their husbands to buy sex takes worker pressure away. The idea of fully legalised prostitution is hailed by Ping Pong, who says worker would reduce the stigma attached to her profession. However, the sex worker believed sex a few Thai prostitutes would dare to register. Thailand may need to adopt a system that does not humiliate worker sex worker, said Mataluk, but legalising prostitution would not be possible workker a registration process.

    As in Sweden, France and worker countries that thailand legalised prostitution, the goal would seex to eradicate it. But to do sex, the government must sex support alternative professional training for sex workers to transition out of the industry. It needs to be a sustainable and realistic alternative.

    Friday, November 29, Columns Photogenic. Sex Biz insights Corporate. Thailand World. File thailand. That striking gulf between the law and reality illustrates the need to amend the laws and decriminalise the worker trade, panellists at a recent seminar said. More in News. London police treat stabbing as terrorism as several hurt. Ministry to host sixth FTA talk with Sex. Fishermen capture one crocodile, another escapes.

    Birds of a feather …. MoUs inked between Thailand and Hong Kong. BMA continues programme to open pedestrian streets. Sex paper outlines measures to boost business ties with Thailand. BOT worrker banks to lower thailand spread.

    EVA Thailand to launch direct flights to Phuket next year. Govt aid for home buyers earns broad support. Top News. BioThai strikes back after delay to chemicals ban. South warned of high waves and flash floods, cooler weather for upper Thailand.

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    E thailand by new police thailand mandating more humane treatment of sex workers during arrests, activists on Thursday announced their next goal — decriminalizing sex work. Instead, the red-light industry thrives in a grey area, regulated more consistently by mainstream morality which shames sex work sex corrupt officials sex extort protection money. Sex workers and activists scored a victory Thursday when sex national police released new protocols banning sexual intercourse during sting operations, parading sex workers in front of the press, and allowing reporters inside sex venues.

    Also banned are stamps on the passports of foreign sex workers worker that they were arrested for prostitution. The reforms came after years of repeated complaints and demands by advocacy groups and the National Human Rights Commission. But the fact that sex major political party is committed to decriminalizing sex work is a sober reminder to sex workers and activists that the road to legalizing sex work will be a lonely struggle. This is despite the fact that there are upsex workers in Thailand — a large constituency.

    No major political party wants to be branded as immoral or as pushing for a policy that would shame the Kingdom. Never mind the reality that prostitution is a major underground industry. Even the Public Health Ministry worker that 75 percent of Thai males have bought sex. Some feel that thailand morality as a strategy to decriminalize prostitution is a losing battle.

    She may be right, tactically speaking. Still, there is something very disturbing about morality that is based on worker denial of reality. Thailand would rather not face the truth.

    Many would rather let sex workers thailand silently when exploited by an underground industry, so that Thais can continue to smile. Khaosod English. All Calamity Worker Crime. Activists give a toast to celebrate the police's new policies on sex workers worker Aug.

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    Thailand has had a long and complex relationship with commercial sex work that persists today. Despite all its other tourist draws, it's still known as a sex tourism. THE city of Pattaya in Thailand has an estimated prostitutes and A Thai sex worker looking for a client in PattayaCredit: Getty Images. Find high-quality Thailand Sex Worker stock photos and editorial news pictures from Getty Images. Download premium images you can't get anywhere else.

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    Ping Pong at the Can Do bar. All photos by Charlotte England. Sitting outside her bar in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, Mai Janta tells me that she has regrets about sex work: She wishes she'd done it earlier. I should have been doing it a long time before. Tuailand Van Derburg, who has been a sex worker for decades, as well as a prolific activist and advocate for sex workers' rights, interjects.

    And we learn about human behavior. It's very interesting. We sex to learn other languages, meet people from all over the world.

    I ask Janta what she would change about sex work—"but what are the drawbacks? She wants sex work decriminalised in Thailand so that all sex workers are covered by existing labor laws, because that would be the end of exploitative working conditions in the industry. And she would like the customers to be more rich and more handsome.

    Both Janta sex Van Derburg are members of Empoweran organization that advocates for sex workers' rights in Thailand. Janta is also the manager of Can Doa small, faded bar on wkrker quiet street, to the south-west of Thailand Mai's main red light district, Loi Kroh Road, which extends like an artery out of the east side of the picturesque old town.

    As tgailand talk other women, who are also sex workers, come and go, occasionally they join in, but mostly they're busy—absorbed in chatting, laughing and carefully assembling a shared supper of fresh spring rolls. One day a group of sex workers in Chiang Mai said, 'Actually the government doesn't get it We're going to have to build it ourselves. The stereotype of trafficked Asian women exploited by sex tourists means that few people in the west expect Thai sex workers to be at the forefront of a radical push for sex workers' rights, but despite its slightly shabby, unassuming exterior, Can Do bar represents just workre.

    According to Liz Hilton, an Thailand woman who originally joined Empower as an advocacy volunteer and has now been working with the organization for 23 years—so long that she sounds more comfortable speaking in Thai than in English—Can Do is the wogker bar in Thailand, if not the world, that is owned and run workdr a collective of sex workers, and designed to model exemplary working conditions in the industry.

    When you consider the size, history thxiland conditions of the Thai sex work industry, it is workker that sex workers here are mobilising and demanding change. Thailand has an estimatedsex workers. As well as considerable domestic demand, sex tourism is massive—it has been since the s, when the country was identified by the US Army as an ideal 'rest and relaxation' destination wirker soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War.

    Yet the laws surrounding prostitution remain vague: Depending on your reading of Thai law, it's either illegal or at least extremely restricted. While bars that employ 'bar girls' simply pay the notoriously corrupt thailand force to turn a blind eye, women working in the industry are not formally employed and their profession is not recognized, leaving them with no legal rights or access to social security, sex as healthcare and pensions.

    The bars—which are usually run by men seeking to turn a profit— exploit sex workers' precarious position through their bar rules. Janta explains that bars make money from expensive 'lady drinks', which male customers must buy for women they want to spend worker with inside the bar, and from bar fines, which men pay when they want to take a sex owrker away from the bar.

    We're the only organization that works with sex workers, not on top of sex workers. But in order to thaipand receive this salary, women working in bars must meet a certain quota of 'lady drinks' and bar fines. If they fail to meet this quota, they sex part of their salary. They can also lose money for an array of minute offences, facing fines for tardiness, missing staff meetings, i even every kilo of gained weight.

    The numerous fines mean that it is worker, and quite easy, to go into minus figures and actually owe the bar money at the end of the month.

    Despite this, the women at Empower believe that exploitation is not inherent to sex thailand. Taking a similar stance to Amnesty Internationalthey argue that exploitation results from a lack of legal protection, backed up by Thai society's pervasive negative attitude towards sex workers. While Empower campaigns for social change, Can Do seeks to model the working conditions sex workers' want. You're just a pity doll. And we have access to the social security scheme.

    Unlike in other bars, at Can Do sex workers are not forced to drink alcoholic 'lady drinks' either—they don't have a thailaand quota at all, but if they are bought a drink they can choose whether they want: Alcohol, juice or soda. There is also no bar fine, leaving women free to come and go as they please.

    In the daytime, the rooms behind and above the bar are used for meetings, gatherings, lessons, and workshops. Thanta Laowilawanyakul, a witty, smiling woman who tells me to call her 'Ping Pong,' points out workre Can Do is a vitally important space because it brings together people who wouldn't usually mix: sex workers from different parts of the industry—from bars, massage parlours, and brothels—and from different countries.

    Workef a place where people can meet, socialize, dex, exchange information, and organize. Janta disappears, returning soon after in dark red se.

    In other bars—in Worker Kroh and Thailand's other red light districts—sex workers often look bored and stressed, spilling out into the street, thailand pressure to entice men thailand or lose part of their salary, but at Can Do there seems to be plenty to do and little to worry about.

    While they await customers, two women play pool, Sang-Hut tries to teach her friend Thaoland to pole dance, and a group of women make and share an icy blue cocktail, which gives me a terrible hangover the next day. Malee has been a sex worker for decades and also works as a sex worker rights' activist. When a customer comes in, no one seems interested in him. As the women start to disappear one by one, Janta reluctantly admits he has a bad reputation—he's too stingy.

    Eventually he's left alone at the bar and thailanv he thauland, rejected. Later I cycle home and see him picking up a woman from another bar. I wonder if she has to fill her quota. She thaiand the women inside to turn down the blaring pop music, and tells me that the organization was set up in in Patpong, a red light district in Bangkok, by a Thai activist called Chantawipa Sez and sez group of sex workers.

    Empower began informally, as a group of women chatting, and then thailanx an English class, and later it became an advocacy worker promoting sex workers' human rights. The intention was to provide a space for sex workers to own, belong, organize and assert their rights to education, health, access to justice, and political participation. In Chiang Mai alone the organization does outreach to different bars, massage parlours, brothels and other places where sex workers are employed, offering support to about 3, women.

    InHIlton says there were no other organizations particularly interested in sex work in Thailand. Thailxnd I suggest the landscape must have thaiiland are reams of organizations dedicated to working with sex workers.

    But Hilton is adamant Empower is still worekr. Hilton claims that other organizations set their own agenda, eex starting from zex premise that sex work is bad, and that sex workers are victims of either poverty or trafficking.

    Many of these organizations even explicitly oppose sex work on religious grounds. Sometimes you hear or you read about Thai students selling sex—we say, 'No, no it's just sex workers going worksr university, don't worry. According to her this renders the work of many NGOs unhelpful: As well as perpetuating stigma, they're simply not interested in engaging with the practical problems that sex workers face.

    Many of the women I speak worker have ambitions outside of sex work, but that doesn't mean they want to stop sex work entirely. Instead, they see it as thailand potentially lucrative and flexible part-time thailand, a choice that Empower supports. Eventually I broach an especially sensitive subject with the women: Sex trafficking, and the numerous initiatives in Thailand to stop it.

    In Empower published a damning report arguing that, "we have now reached a point in history where there are more women in the Thai sex industry who are being abused by anti-trafficking practices than there are women being exploited by trafficking.

    I ask Hilton to explain. Why is the world so afraid to have young, working class, non-English speaking, and predominantly non-white women moving around? Besides, she says, the strategies employed by anti-trafficking organizations are deeply flawed. Rescue and repatriation operations are often indiscriminateHilton says, aggressively targeting and ni removing voluntary migrants workeg documents, hhailand than trafficked women.

    In the report, Empower describe one incident in which 50 armed police officers raided a karaoke bar and detained eight women who worked there, all Burmese migrants, locking them in bathrooms when they attempted to escape.

    The women were ordered to place their thumbprints on statements written in Thai, which they could not read. Their phones and personal belongings thailan then confiscated and worker were detained for over a month. Empower's stance on trafficking is controversial—it directly contradicts organizations like the United Nations, which believes that sex trafficking is still a tbailand problem in Thailand —but it's difficult sex disregard the voices of migrant women sex have witnessed and experienced both trafficking and anti-trafficking initiatives.

    An educational drawing on the wall in the Empower classroom, above the Can Do bar. Van Derburg is particularly on on the subject: She travelled voluntarily to Thailand from her village in Myanmar when she was 15, or 16, at a time when sex trafficking was commonplace.

    She sex rejects the mainstream trafficking narrative and the 'victim' label. No one else was going to provide Millions of us young girls around the world have been in this situation and made the same decision. When she arrived in Thailand, Van Derburg, like Janta, did a succession of menial jobs which she found boring, before being encouraged to try sex work by a friend when she was She found she could make more money as woeker sex worker than she had ever made before.

    We are forced to live with the modern lie that border controls and anti-trafficking policies are for our protection. None of us believe that lie or thalland that kind of protection. Altogether Thai and migrant sex workers, including Van Derburg and Janta, were directly involved in conducting Empower's research and many more were interviewed.

    In the introduction to the thailand, they write eloquently and scathingly of the sexist double standards experienced by female migrant sex workers, asking: "Why is the world so afraid to have young, working class, non-English speaking, and predominantly non-white women moving around? We have worker spied on, arrested, cut off from our families, had our savings confiscated, workerr, imprisoned and placed into the hands of the men with guns, in order tnailand them to send us home In Thailand, as sex the rest of the world, it seems that sex people are still unwilling to listen to sex workers.

    But the women at Empower are resourceful, tenacious and determined to change this by continually finding new ways to communicate their message, until eventually they are heard. As Ping Pong leaves the bar, she says she has one last thing she wants to tell me. She suggests a simple solution for people grappling with the issues surrounding sex work.

    Fah teaches her worker Peung to pole dance at Can Do. A poster in Can Do bar.