The COVID-19 pandemic has not been kind to Japan's commercial sex workers. Medical writer Mika Kumamoto takes up this topic in Yukan Fuji (Nov 11).
As has been reported in the media, restrictions on the activities by CSWs (commercial sex workers) in Tokyo has led to some leaving the capital for Japan's regions. More of them are said to be engaging in so-called "delivery health" (outcall work) instead of toiling on the premises of sex service establishments. In addition, more of them appear to have gone freelance, utilizing Line and other social media to link up with patrons.
"Even before the pandemic, the type of workers in the sex business had already begun segmenting into those who work from fixed locations and those who move from place to place," notes Shingo Sakazume, director of White Hands, an NPO that provides free consultations regarding labor and legal issues for CSWs.
Sakazume says his organization has become considerably busier since last April. He subsequently initiated a new online service called "Fu-terrace" (https://futeras.org) offering round-the-clock counseling sessions of up to 60 minutes, with full anonymity assured. For those desiring face-to-face meetings at its counseling centers (in Ikebukuro and Uguisudani in Tokyo, and also in Niigata, Osaka and Nagoya). For those lacking funds for transportation to a center, it will subsidize fares up to 2,000 yen.
"In many cases, despondent callers are asking themselves whether they should go on living or die," says Sakazume. "We try to put them in touch with attorneys or social workers who can help them deal with problems related to their livelihoods as well as mental issues."
"If you look at people who hold down salaried jobs, should they take one day off from work, fundamentally no one would be so broke they couldn't buy food," Sakazume points out. "But for sex workers, both in terms of work and in terms of money, because of the coronavirus it's come to the point where things aren't working out. Some are financially strapped; others are subjected to discriminatory treatment; and others are socially isolated. These problems had existed before, but became aggravated by the pandemic."
Sex shops that ignored government advisories and remained open have been vehemently denounced on social media, raising the issue of violation of their workers' human rights.
More recently in Hokkaido, where the colder weather has brought an upsurge in the number of infections, cluster infections originating from Susukino -- Sapporo's sprawling night life district -- have recently been confirmed.
"After the lifting of the earlier emergency order (on May 25), sex shops re-opened and customers began returning," Sakazume relates. "While a majority of the workers may have seemed optimistic on the surface, actually things weren't that simple. For some of them, the pandemic convinced them that they had to change their lives, which meant getting out of the sex business."
During the current pandemic, safety nets like Sakazume's NPO -- which help sex workers cope with social alienation by providing them with a community network, provide them with practical information, and arrange for consultations with experts -- are fulfilling a valuable service, the article concludes.© Japan Today