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Thai women push for greater protection in the sex work industry

Women's rights groups are calling for a range of broader measures to support women

Women in skimpy outfits wearing face masks dance inside the XXX lounge at Thailand's legendary Patpong nightlife and sex trade district.
Women's rights groups called for the legalisation of sex work in Thailand on International Women's Day (IWD) celebration on 8 March 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

Women's rights groups in Thailand campaigned for the legalisation of sex work and better support for women in the industry to mark International Women's Day on 8 March, arguing that decriminalising the trade would provide greater protection to the industry's workers.

The groups also called for a range of broader measures to support women, including doubling paid maternity leave to 180 days, period leave for workers who suffer from menstrual pains, and monthly financial assistance of 3,000 baht (S$115) for each month of pregnancy. They are also demanded for safe, free, and easily accessible abortion service access, and recognition of 8 March as a public holiday.

Sex work is still illegal in Thailand

Thailand is a popular destination for tourists who want to explore its infamous Red Light District filled with go-go bars, brothels, massage parlours, and other x-rated activities. However, despite this openness, sex work in the country is still illegal, and sex workers face danger without the basic rights and protections afforded to workers in other industries.

In a recent interview with Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Supachai Sukthongsa of the Service Workers IN Group (SWING) said that the move to legalise sex work in Thailand is not just about money, but also about the health effects on sex workers, noting that many of workers in the sex trade experience stress symptoms and anxiety attacks related to their survival.

Meanwhile, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha sent his “well-wishes” to women and emphasised the government's efforts to empower women and promote attitude change towards women’s roles in society in his message commemorating IWD.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and lifestyle writer who focuses on politics, the economy, and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.

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