Committee proposes law legalizing prostitution over 20

A draft law to legalise voluntary prostitution is under consideration, something the Thai Civilised Party pushed for in 2021. (via Siamrath)

Great news for punters, a committee drafting a new law governing prostitution has agreed 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 new law is a landmark turn in Thailand’s stance on prostitution, the proliferation of which is probably the country’s worst-kept secret. The new law, initially called the Draft Act for the Protection of Sexual Services B.E., would serve as a replacement for the current Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, B.E. 2539 enacted in 1996.

Public and focus group hearings were held in five cities before a proposal was tabled to Social Development and Human Security Minister Juti Krairiksh.

The committee’s main priority was to safeguard and legalise independent sex workers who are at least 20 years old and provide sexual services voluntarily. It would still be illegal to engage in sexual relations with prostitutes under 20 years of age. Also not legal under the new draft, and migrant workers would be barred from engaging in prostitution.

Freelancers will be granted employment rights and welfare benefits, without being labelled as sex workers. They will also have access to fair compensation but are required to undergo health assessments to verify they are free from any communicable illnesses.

The new draft makes clear that it applies only to voluntary services and that the government still takes a hardline stance on forced prostitution. Procurement and trafficking or coercion to force a woman into prostitution would still be a violation of the Human Trafficking Act.

Operators of brothels will be mandated to operate within designated areas, specifically avoiding locations close to educational or religious institutions, and adhering to guidelines for safeguarding their workers who provide sexual services.

Anyone involved in luring or coercing someone under 20 into prostitution would face criminal prosecution. This includes parents being aware of illegal prostitution activities involving their children.

The detention, abuse, torture, threatening, and forcing of people to enter prostitution will still be investigated and harshly prosecuted.

The committee reviewed prostitution laws in various countries to identify an appropriate standard for Thailand to adopt. After careful consideration, they chose to follow the example of New Zealand’s law that decriminalized prostitution. New Zealand lawfully legalized sex work in 2003, allowing any individual aged 18 or above to purchase or provide sexual services.

The committee will push forward with analysing the societal and economic effects of the draft law while keeping a careful consideration of not damaging Thailand’s reputation. The draft law is expected to be completed and tabled to the new government around August this year.

The Thai Civilised Party had requested to create a House committee in December of 2021 to examine and analyse the prospect of prostitution being legalised in Thailand. The push to decriminalise is at least in part an effort to cut down on corruption if sex for money was legal, government officials would not be able to force sex workers and those involved in the industry to pay illegal bribes.

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

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.