Written by Roy and Bonita Thompson, the founders of our partner, Home of New Beginnings
Edited by the Free for Life Team
The Coronavirus ripples around the globe like skipping stones in the river. Each hit disturbs the calm, predictable patterns of life, creating overlapping circles of isolation, fear, and uncertainty. Although Thailand seems to be controlling the virus well, with 3,250 cases and 58 deaths, there is a strict adherence to masks and social distancing. While most venues are now open, you cannot enter a building without someone taking your temperature, and someone squirting alcohol gel into our hands. Malls require you to sign in and out, and even the escalators and elevators are controlled to ensure social distancing. Despite all of these safety precautions, what happened to the red light districts and those in the sex industry?
On July 1, nightlife returned to Thailand with the opening of bars and soapy massages, although with restrictions. The bars must close at midnight, all must wear masks and practice social distancing, allowing only five customers at a time. Customers must also register for contact tracing, and no sex on the premises is permitted. For many whose family depends on sex work, this was a sign of relief. Many thought the opening would mean going back to “normal”. However, most areas are only 25% open. Only Nana Plaza is open 80% with customers present. In Pattaya, Walking Street with its 170 bars is only 10% open – mostly Russian bars. The dense bar area is open but very quiet. Normally there are 30,000 girls employed in 1,300 bars in Pattaya.
Tourism represents 20% of Thailand’s economy, with 40 million tourists in 2019. The sex industry heavily relies on tourism, but now their borders are closed. Where are the girls trafficked from India, Russia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East? How do those in the industry survive?
Cybersex is exploding during this season as workers become increasingly desperate to meet the needs of their families, and men use the internet to reduce risk to themselves. COVID-19 has made more people vulnerable to predators, traffickers, and pimps.
Home of New Beginnings has delivered hundreds of meals and bags of groceries – because of YOUR support. Some were eating just one bowl of rice per day, moving together to save rent with 4 women in a small room, some collecting the water and soap from their shampoo in a tub so they can re-use it. Still, others are freelancing, some have returned to their villages to work in the fields and others are homeless.
The shelter has also added five new girls since February, whose stories include trafficking and abuse. Since many live in disadvantaged communities where social distancing is impossible and hunger is common, Home of New Beginnings received a grant to purchase groceries and hot meals to give out. They have combined their two facilities until COVID-19 poses less risk, but they continue to help the community by making antibacterial soap and masks for the community. They have delivered over 200 bags of dried goods and other essentials to those who are out of work and in need. Our Safe Home brings hope to those who endured so much — Home of New Beginnings is restoring lives to safety and freedom no matter what global challenges arise.
Free For Life International is fighting human trafficking around the world. We believe in freedom for all.