Draft bill would protect, legalise sex work
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Draft bill would protect, legalise sex work

Minimum age, minimum wage and other protections, along with licensing of operators

Clay figurines depicting an aab ob nuad (bath house). (File photo)
Clay figurines depicting an aab ob nuad (bath house). (File photo)

A bill to protect sex workers is being drafted to legalise the profession in a bid to prevent them from exploitation.

The bill, drafted by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, would legalise sex work and set a minimum age for providing or buying such services, said Narong Jaihan, a lecturer from the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University.

The ministry will submit the proposal to the new government for approval after the election in May. If passed, it would lead to the scrapping of the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act 1996.

The highlight of the law is that those who provide sex services must be willing to do so. If anyone is forced to provide sex services against their will, it will be considered human trafficking, Prof Narong said.

The draft bill prohibits people aged below 18 years from taking part in the sex trade as sellers or buyers. If any business violates the rule, it will face legal action, as will as the parents of the minors involved.

The draft stipulates that payment for such services must be at an appropriate rate — not based on the minimum wage law — and that sex workers are required to regularly undergo physical checks to ensure their health and safety. They can also apply for the social security scheme, he said.

Businesses that employ sex workers must register for licences. Operators in Bangkok would be required to register with the Metropolitan Police Bureau, and those elsewhere would have to register with provincial governors. They would receive three-year licences, renewable if they abide by the law.

Aside from legalising sex work, the bill calls for a protection centre to be established to prevent violence that may occur against sex workers.

“This bill will prevent sex workers from being exploited and ensure they will be given protection,” said Mr Narong.

Jintana Chanbamrung, director-general of the Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development, said the draft bill was the product of collaboration by several agencies, including the police, as well as sex workers. It will focus on protecting sex workers, and not regard them as people who commit crimes, she said.

Tanta Laovilawanyakun, a representative of sex workers, said she and her colleagues have been exploited and paid unfairly for years. Since sex services are illegal today, many providers pay bribes to police officers, she said.

Sex workers have been fighting for their legal rights for decades in order to receive fair treatment and earnings like people in other careers, she said.

“Although we are sex workers working in nightclubs, massage parlours or brothels, we are mothers too,” she said. “We have to raise our kids and we need legal rights.”

Sex workers had taken part in developing the draft bill, she said, and they now hope to see the day when paying taxes will be cheaper than paying bribes.

“When the bill is put in place, the number of sex workers may not rise, but many will come out of the shadows as the bill will make them feel safe and recognised,” she said.

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