‘Sweet, smart, strong and sexy’: the sex workers taking a stand in Thailand

Despite significant expenditure and 60 years of criminalisation, the Thai law has spectacularly failed to end ‘prostitution’ in Thailand. Instead it has filled the pockets of corrupt authorities, who use it as a tool to extort money from the country’s sex workers. It has become an insurmountable wall standing between sex workers and access to justice and human rights. In 2017 Thailand was reviewed by the UN Committee for the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The legally binding recommendations included reviewing the prostitution law to decriminalise sex work, ceasing entrapment operations and violent raids, and extending the Labor Protection Act to all workers in the entertainment industry without exception. The committee’s recommendations reflect the growing acceptance that the criminalisation of sex work fuels discrimination, violence and other social problems. This acknowledgement of the need for decriminalisation began with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s recommendation for decriminalisation in 2006 and has been endorsed by a growing list of UN agencies and leading global human rights organisations.

How Empower argues for decriminalisation

Generally we do not expect that everyone will, or even needs to, condone sex work. We’re not asking Thai society to approve of sex work, but rather to approve of the state giving equal protection to those who do sex work. Supporting decriminalisation means to agree that human rights are inherent and inalienable, and that no one should be persecuted for what they do with their own bodies. It is to take a stand against male violence, especially violence institutionalised by the police and state. It is to want to remove one layer of the stigma which sex workers live and work on top of.

Though many Thai people still disapprove of sex work on moral grounds, it seems clear that the majority of people no longer feel that selling or buying sex is a source of social harm significant enough to deserve its own legal framework. We emphasise that decriminalisation of sex work does not mean there are no laws. Sex workers and sex work will still be accountable and protected under the multiple laws and regulations that apply to all workers in Thailand e.g. the Penal Code, Labor Protection Act, Entertainment Place Act, Migrant Worker Act, Human Trafficking Act, Child Protection Act, Social Security Act and so forth.

We try to remind society and law makers that when they are discussing sex workers they are talking about mothers – the heads of families and the main foreign exchange earners for Thailand. How should we treat such people, as criminals or as valued members of society?

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Empower Foundation | Radio Free (2022-01-19T17:18:52+00:00) » ‘Sweet, smart, strong and sexy’: the sex workers taking a stand in Thailand. Retrieved from https://www.radiofree.org/2020/02/19/sweet-smart-strong-and-sexy-the-sex-workers-taking-a-stand-in-thailand/.
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» ‘Sweet, smart, strong and sexy’: the sex workers taking a stand in Thailand | Empower Foundation | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2020/02/19/sweet-smart-strong-and-sexy-the-sex-workers-taking-a-stand-in-thailand/ | 2022-01-19T17:18:52+00:00
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