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Pandemic-hit sex workers flock to NPO for sympathy and advice

19 Comments

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

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

19 Comments
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Sex work is work. Sex workers are workers. It’s good that this NPO is helping the sex workers of Japan during this difficult time. All workers deserve fair pay and fair representation.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

Is this from The Onion?

The proper term here is prostitution, moral disapproval of which can be justified on perfectly rational grounds. One can be sympathetic to the female (or male for that matter) who thinks, however foolishly, that one can make a lot more money by engaging in the "sex industry" than by doing a socially useful job, and the real culprits are here, I hastily note, her or his customers...Of course, it may be difficult to find alternative employment, and this might lead a lost soul to true desperation, so that she or he winds up in the depths of, gasp, trendy journalism.

-16 ( +4 / -20 )

The proper term here is prostitution, moral disapproval of which can be justified on perfectly rational grounds.

No, it cannot.

One can be sympathetic to the female (or male for that matter) who thinks, however foolishly, that one can make a lot more money by engaging in the "sex industry" than by doing a socially useful job, and the real culprits are here, I hastily note, her or his customers...

To be clear, you think that sex workers should starve to death?

Of course, it may be difficult to find alternative employment, and this might lead a lost soul to true desperation, so that she or he winds up in the depths of, gasp, trendy journalism.

Get these weak-ass jokes out of here. Sex workers are human beings. Not all sex work is prostitution. Even if it were, it would be fine. You make the pathetic caveat “oh the customers are the real bad guys” without ascribing ANY other moral judgement on them. Should they have their incomes taken away? Should a john be arrested? Sentenced? How should men’s libidos be punished in a capitalistic system that says that everything is for sale? In a system that says that if you can sell it then it’s fine, why should people who have to sell sex be punished? What if they WANT to sell sex? Let’s remember that sex is a cool and good thing that people enjoy (Well, you seem to be right wing, maybe you don’t like sex.) Why should hey be disallowed from doing so?

Right wingers love the free market. Except when it reminds them that no woman would ever sleep with them. Even if they tried to pay.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Well said Sneezy. I have often wondered how society justifies making the sell of a service illegal in light of the fact that it can be given away free with impunity.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Khuniringus,

The real culprits here are those making moral judgements, including government happy to tax these sex workers, but not provide the Covid-19 support it provided to the rest of us.

Shameful and immoral behaviour. Truly qualified to cast the first stone?

10 ( +12 / -2 )

"I have often wondered how society justifies making the sell of a service illegal in light of the fact that it can be given away free with impunity."

They're called "pimps".

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

 I have often wondered how society justifies making the sell of a service illegal in light of the fact that it can be given away free with impunity.

Because like the sale of cannabis, it's hard for the government to get in for its cut?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Here is an Easy/Simple and Universal Solution to these kinds of Issues. The Government of Japan should give every single resident a Universal Basic Income of 3,159,315.00 Yen ($30,000 United States Dollars) for eternity. If the Government of Japan gives every single resident a Universal Basic Income of 3,159,315.00 Yen for eternity, this would solve a significant amount of Financial Issues, everybody would sleep better. This way, if someone loses his or her job, they do not have to stress/worry because you have a LIFEJACKET.

This Universal Basic Income should begin spreading everywhere. For instance, The Chinese Government should give every single Resident of Mainland China 197952 CNY ($30,000 United States Dollars) for eternity as well.

If someone is drowning in the middle of the ocean, it is better to have a life jacket than nothing. A Universal Basic Income is like a Life Jacket and as a result should be an entitlement. In conclusion, the world would be a better place with Universal Basic Income.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I posted my comment, curious to see what sort of nasty, self-righteous, irrational responses it would get. Well no, I fully expected it to be deleted as politically incorrect. So I am actually rather pleased..."Sex work is work," Sneezy insists. The trick, it seems, is to label any money-making activity "work." How about pick-pocketing? The Ore-Ore scam? Elsewhere Sneezy says: "Not all sex work is prostitution." Please explain...If "sex" for a fee is involved and it is not prostitution, what is it?

I am not "casting the first stone" or any stone. I am, in fact, all in favor of providing assistance to all those in need. The worker deserves compassion; the work itself does not. Those who want to wax morally relativistic should ask Japanese wives what they think of it all...It also might be remembered that the one who said "let whoever among you is without sin cast the first stone" then said to the woman (allegedly) caught in adultery: "Go and sin no more." He didn't say: "Gee, I hope you've had a meaningful relationship!"

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

I feel very sorry for CSW's. I believe that CSW's should get the same respect and welfare allowances of any other workers. There is nothing morally wrong with sex, therefore selling it is not wrong. Issues with pimps are seperate issues.

I believe that welfare should be generous and according to ones means. I.e. if you dont need it-you shouldnt get it.

BUT- Universal Basic Income concept is a VERY BAD IDEA, because it would simply put up the cost of living for everyone because everyone will get this on top of their salaries, so the market will put up its prices on everything because the market place knows people will be prepared too pay more-because they have that extra disposable income. This will make the same payment amount to the porest almost worthless, poor people will become poorer-wealthy people will have this extra sum of monety to spend on trash and - people will be demanding a return to current more standard welfare structures.

Apart from European countries, many countries have very bad welfare systems. Rthaer than going for a UBI, they should just start helping the poorest, in this case CSW's.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

How about pick-pocketing? The Ore-Ore scam? 

The examples you list involve theft, fraud or victimization. I dare say that no "John" ever feels victimized if he (sometimes a she) gets what he paid for. That is the difference.

And no, that is not an argument that is applicable to narcotics as narcotics are addictive and thus it is not an arms-length agreement.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

One of our daughters, already financially secure, took a 50% cut in pay, so she could take a job helping the victims of crime. She told us today the story of a 15-year-old boy, the eldest son of a Hispanic immigrant, who was sold into the sex trade by his mother. She had reported him as having run away. Our daughter talked with him a few weeks ago, and while he would not talk to a uniformed officer in English, he was willing to talk to her in Spanish. He refused to make a report against his mother, because, he said, he was afraid his younger siblings would go into foster care. Because he refused to make a report, there was nothing law enforcement could do for him, other than to make sure he was OK at the moment. He went back to his mother.

Today, our daughter found out he had committed suicide. Of course, it is devastating news, but what could she have done differently? She got him to open up to her, and encouraged him to report his mother.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

While going to college I was surprised to see so many young women turn to various forms of the sex trade to support themselves. Some of them used the sex trade only to pay for their education, and then went on to lead productive lives. I was friends with one who became a school teacher, and another got her PhD in psychology and had a successful practice and wrote a book. One distant family member worked in the sex trade for ten years, saved up money, then moved to Germany and got married. Today, too many young women use the sex trade to pay for a drug habit. I met a young Japanese woman who supported herself over here by working in that field. She was intelligent and not on drugs. Of course, I do not want to see any woman have to resort to this, but the fact is that many do. Of the women I have met in this trade, only the ones on drugs would benefit from governmental assistance. If we had socialized schooling, like Europe, I think far fewer would resort to selling themselves while in college.

I am one of those people who love to talk to people and learn about them. That trait has led me to hear many interesting stories.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

This is the problem with the double faced approach from the government to the sex trade. It is officially rejected but tacitly tolerated. This leave the workers in a limbo where they have no protections but still have to pay the government.

If private companies have to go and fill the support role that the government is supposed to give that is sign that the system is broken and need to be made new as soon as possible. Unfortunately politicians that care more about popularity than real effective measures will never take the flak of proposing a real legalization of the sex trade to stop the abuse and lack of protection.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am one of those people who love to talk to people and learn about them. That trait has led me to hear many interesting stories.

That's good because this has to be one of society's most complex issues. My basic impression is that high-end prostitution, the type that gets the "escort" or "gfe" type euphemisms, is mostly harmless, but lots of nasty things can happen at the bottom end.

If the workers and establishments in the story have been declaring income, they deserve the same protections as everyone else in other lines of work. If they haven't, well, let's just say they'll have a hard job getting sympathy from the public.

fwiw, I agree with UBI but 30k USD is way too high. About 10k USD per adult and half that per child is more realistic.

https://basicincome.org/news/2020/09/the-cost-of-a-full-basic-income-for-the-united-kingdom-would-be-67-billion-per-year-3-4-of-gdp/

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I am anti sex outside marriage. so in the first place i dont think the government should support this industry in the first place.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

For some of them, the pandemic convinced them that they had to change their lives, which meant getting out of the sex business." 

While difficult, it may not be all negative as this could be a "wake up" call to change the course of their lives. I myself am in the same boat (career change).

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I am anti sex outside marriage. so in the first place i dont think the government should support this industry in the first place.

I want to respect you, but what do I do with these hormones??

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For the sake of conversation, let me say that I too am against sex outside of marriage, if one chooses to get married. If one is not married, I think I can understand and condone sex outside of marriage. If one gets married, but chooses to have sex outside of marriage, then why get married at all?

However, while I choose not to have sex outside of marriage, I also choose not to automatically say that that choice is the right one for all married couples. I have never known a couple for whom sex outside of marriage worked, but I am willing to concede that it might be the right choice for someone, somewhere; just not me.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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