Ex-garment factory employees who now work in the entertainment sector and engage in commercial sex are victims of verbal and physical abuse, according to a small-scale study released yesterday.
The International Labor Organization-supported report found that all of the 16 women who were interviewed “experienced some form of workplace abuse,” ranging from verbal to sexual assault, with one woman raped in her workplace by the brother of her boss.
It also found that customers expect entertainment workers-a group that includes hostesses, beer promoters and employees of karaoke and massage parlors-to be available to drink with them, often to excess. Two of the women who were interviewed said they were forced to drink until they became unconscious.
But the report states that almost all the women “preferred entertainment work to working in garment factories,” where they face lower pay, long hours and harsh conditions.
This is despite the fact that “some workers, particularly masseuses and waitresses, are paid such a low wage for their work that selling sex becomes a coping strategy to make ends meet,” according to the report.
The Australian government-supported development agency Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA conducted the interviews from September to December of last year for the report, choosing only women who were involved in sex work in addition to their main jobs. Although all of the interviewees said they had lost their garment factory jobs because of the economic crisis, this was not verified.
San Arun, secretary of state with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said the government is working to educate people on proper behavior in entertainment venues, by taking measures such as putting up posters that explain the law.
“We want the men to understand the law and please respect the value of the women and tradition,” Ms Arun said. “We have educated workers, met shop owners and talked to police about the problem.”
When asked about forced alcohol consumption, Ms Arun said, “We tell the women to say no.”
She said many women take jobs in the entertainment sector because they lack other skills.