Thai sex workers protest shutdown with heels and panties

A sex worker ties underpants at the Government House, at left, and sex workers laying high heels in front of the venue, at right. Photos: Empower Chiang Mai / Facebook
A sex worker ties underpants at the Government House, at left, and sex workers laying high heels in front of the venue, at right. Photos: Empower Chiang Mai / Facebook

A group of sex workers and karaoke bar staff gathered at the Government House this morning to demand financial compensation from authorities. About 20 people lay high heels on the ground while others tied panties to the building’s front gate.

Since their workplaces – massage parlors, go-go bars and karaoke joints – have been ordered shut for months, the group arrived at around 9am Tuesday asking for THB5,000 (US$156) monthly stipends per person. 

One of the protesters, Sirisak Chaited, an LGBT+ activist who recently made waves with their gender-inclusive monkhood campaign, said that the government needs to treat sex workers as any other profession. Since Thailand’s sex trade attracts foreign tourists and brings large amounts of income to the country, Sirisak said, these workers deserve government compensation, especially during times of crisis.

“We’re Thai people and we generate income for the country. Please accept the reality that prostitution exists and it does have value and dignity just like other profession,” Sirisak said. 

Prostitution in Thailand is currently punishable with up to two years in prison and/or a THB40,000 fine. 

“We work with our bodies, just like many other people out there … But the government doesn’t even see us as human,” said another protester, who only identified herself as Yada. 

A group of activists, sex workers lay high heels and file petition to government’s officials on Tuesday morning at the Government House. Photo: Ratsadon News / Facebook
A group of activists, sex workers lay high heels and file petition to government’s officials on Tuesday morning at the Government House. Photo: Ratsadon News / Facebook

Shifting to online platforms to offer sexual services didn’t work for many of them either, according to Sirisak, as they could be more easily tracked and risk being arrested.

The peaceful underpants protest was interrupted briefly by police who approached and asked them to take down the “inappropriate” clothing pieces.

“These are our working clothes,”said one sex worker to a police officer. “There are more urgent things that are inappropriate and need to be fixed.”

Entertainment venues and massage parlors have been forced shut since the third-wave outbreak hit Bangkok in April. Effective yesterday, Bangkok and its metropolitan areas have imposed a new set of restrictions including a ban on dining-in at restaurants, sealing off worker campsites and limiting interprovincial travel. There is no sign that nightlife venues will be allowed to reopen anytime soon.

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CITY: BANGKOKCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: BUSINESS, HEALTH

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