Green light for red lights

Green light for red lights

The arrest of "Nong Khai Nao", or Miss Rotten Egg, for uploading sexual content on an internet content subscription service has put Thailand's sex industry back in the spotlight.

The 19-year-old was arrested on Sept 21 and charged with violating computer crime laws by uploading on the internet a pornographic video clip featuring herself and her boyfriend.

She has earned good money from showing erotic clips on OnlyFans, a social media site where people share erotic clips and photos with paying subscribers.

The arrest has triggered a debate on traditional values versus liberal views, whether such sexual activity should be shown, as well as the welfare and rights of people in this controversial industry.

The brouhaha over Miss Rotten Egg ironically coincided with opinion gathering on the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act 1996.

The Ministry of Social and Human Development is seeking public feedback over one month. Unlike Miss Rotten Egg's case, this exercise was proceeding quietly without much media attention. Those who knew what was going on did not know what the ministry intended to do with the opinions gathered.

Hopefully, the ministry will get serious about rewriting this archaic law after failed attempts to do so two years ago.

The authorities have been playing around with this law since it was first drafted in the late 50s, guided by a desire to eradicate prostitution. It was enacted in 1960.

Legislators during Chuan Leekpai's tenure as premier amended the law in the 1990s to add a degree of rights protection to it.

Even so, the 1996 version was criticised for doing the opposite of what was intended.

There have been many calls, mainly from civic groups and sex workers, to abolish this 60-year-old piece of legislation once and for all.

Their argument says it is contradictory with loopholes that allow sex workers to be victimised rather than protected. The law and policy on sex workers and this industry is contradictory.

In Thailand, paying for sex is not illegal if it is consensual. But under the law, sex workers can be arrested for approaching potential clients, advertising their services or working in brothels. However, clients are left alone.

This reality proves this law's flaws.

Over the past 60 years, the sex industry, especially the part using people supplied by human trafficking syndicates, has thrived.

The exploitation and violence used against workers is still rampant.

Meanwhile, despite the sex trade generating huge sums of money for the country, sex workers do not have access to state welfare simply because they are not recognised, nor legally acknowledged.

It is an open secret that Thailand has benefited greatly from the sex industry.

Covid-19 has laid bare the injustice directed against sex workers since they have not received any help from the government.

Over the past six decades, society has become more open. The debate on Miss Rotten Egg's freedom of choice illustrates this and shows society is more open and ready to have a healthy discussion about sex workers too.

It is time for policymakers to respond by changing the way it looks at this industry and make reforms.

If this anachronistic law remains, members of the world's oldest profession will never see better days.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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