New bill to legalise sex work proposed

PHOTO: A new law has been proposed to legalise and protect sex workers.

The Thai government is drafting a bill to legalise sex work to protect sex workers from exploitation. The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) has proposed the bill, which will also limit the minimum age to provide or buy the service.

According to Narong Jaihan, a lecturer from the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University, sex workers under 20 will not be penalised, but legal action will be taken against business operators who employ them underage, as well as their parents.

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

The proposed bill would afford some regulation and protection of a swept-under-the-rug industry that thrives as one of Thailand’s worst-kept secrets. Fair compensation will be protected, with the payment for sex services required to be at an appropriate rate that does not violate the minimum wage rate law.

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Regular physical examinations will be mandatory for sex workers to ensure their well-being and safety. Furthermore, a protection centre will be established to prevent violence that may occur against sex workers.

Operators of sex-related businesses will receive a license that is valid for three years. And, in Bangkok, businesses will need to register with the Metropolitan Police Bureau and provincial governors.

The draft bill comes after a committee agreed earlier this month that voluntary sexual service without criminal penalties should be allowed from the age of 20. Jintana Chanbamroong, head of the Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development at the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, chaired the committee drafting the new law.

The proposed law will draw a clear distinction that laws and regulations that will protect voluntary sex work. Any business or individual forcing a sex worker to provide services against their will is still considered human trafficking and will be aggressively prosecuted as such.

If the new draft is passed, it will be a complete reversal of the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act 1996 which would have to be discarded. The MSDHS plans to push for the bill after the upcoming election in May, with the new proposal then going in front of the new government for approval.

The debate over reforming the sex work industry has carried on worldwide, with proponents saying legalisation will bring sex workers out of the shadows and provide protection and safety. Opponents say it lends credibility to the world’s oldest profession which will encourage exploitation and human trafficking.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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