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Just another workplace scene, except the women are all sex workers who meet their clients at Can Do Bar, which they own as a collective, benefitting from health insurance, fixed hours and time off - which are typically denied to sex workers. Thousands of Thai and migrant sex workers have learned from Empower to negotiate with bar and massage parlor owners for better conditions, and to lobby the government to decriminalize their work to improve their incomes, safety and wellbeing.
Millions of women across the world choose sex work to make an income. Yet only a few countries - including Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Senegal and Peru - recognize it as legal, leaving prostitutes elsewhere vulnerable to abuse. Advocacy groups put the figure at more than twice that number, including tens of thousands of migrants from neighboring Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
It expanded quickly during the Vietnam War, when U. Over the years, the country has come to be known for sex tourism, with large numbers of male visitors frequenting bars, massage parlors and karaoke lounges that have multiplied as tourist numbers soared. Although prostitution has been illegal since , the law is almost invariably ignored as the lucrative business provides pay-offs to untold numbers of officials and policemen.
But sex workers in Thailand have struggled to grow a movement to demand their human, civil and labour rights, in the same way others did, from Canada to Australia, in the s. Increased global efforts to combat trafficking often provide a pretext to crack down on sex workers, human rights groups say. The majority of sex workers are women, who can earn between two and 10 times the daily minimum wage - which is baht in Bangkok - according to Empower Foundation. A government official said the raids are meant to check trafficking of migrants and underage prostitution and that authorities have provided sex workers with healthcare and vocational training.
Thailand is a source, transit and destination country for trafficking, with an estimated , people living in conditions of modern slavery, according to the Global Slavery Index by charity Walk Free Foundation. The U.