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There, the year-old and her colleagues entertain customers who pay them to sing, drink and dine with them in private rooms, where sexual intercourse is illegal but not unheard of. Although Yang works part-time to supplement her degree in fashion de, she was relieved to return to work in late May after the club closed for six weeks during a government-enforced ban on hostess bars and dance Hookers in taipei during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

After a hostess tested positive for COVID on 8 April, the Taiwanese government ordered a temporary shutdown of adult entertainment venues across the country, citing the need to enforce social distancing guidelines. However, in a country where the service sector s for approximately 60 per cent of GDP and 60 per cent of national employment, this was the only segment affected by the ban: besides localised shutdowns, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, hairdressers and other businesses remained open throughout the pandemic.

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Taiwan has been widely praised for its success in preventing the spread of COVID, with just seven deaths and live cases at present. However, the forced closure of hostess bars and dance halls has sparked controversy. The legal status of sex work in Taiwan is ambivalent.

Sincelocal governments have been permitted to deate red-light areas within their administrative regions, meaning that, officially, only sex workers and clients operating outside of those areas face penalties. Generally, the authorities turn a blind eye, however, this leaves sex workers and hostesses largely unprotected and in limbo.

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The most vulnerable are the migrant sex workers, some who come to Taiwan voluntarily from neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and China, and other who are trafficked and forced into sex work against their will. Despite facing the worst working conditions foreign hostesses and migrant sex workers are less likely to speak out for fear of getting in trouble with the authorities, and ultimately deported.

Once we received a call from a hostess who had been sexually assaulted while doing communication work. Furthermore, many hostesses who had ly refused are now performing various sex services in order to make a living.

Some agents provide general training for hostesses before they start working to teach them how to keep themselves safe. As not all hostesses accept sex work, those that do not have to learn how to escape safely when clients want to have sex with them.

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Meanwhile, sex workers must always how to ask clients to wear a condom. And during the pandemic, sex workers in massage parlours have had to wear masks while performing sexual acts. Some hostesses say their income has dropped by as much as 80 per cent during the pandemic, with others making no money at all. Many of the women in the hostess industry are single mothers or the main breadwinners for their families, with loans and debts to pay off.

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This puts them under ificant pressure to take on extra work, more dangerous work, and work longer hours. While the Taiwanese government has provided millions of dollars of financial support for businesses and workers that have lost their income or jobs due to COVID, many hostesses have not qualified for any of the assistance.

Moreover, agents usually work as business partners who take [a cut for organising] work for hostesses or sex workers on a daily basis. The economic impact of the ban is also causing mental health problems.

Lin knows all about the crushing impact of poor mental health. But she tries not to focus on her hardships. Instead, together with Yang and Lee, she has been assisting hostesses and sex workers during the pandemic through a Facebook called Diary of the Serving Ladiesinitiated and run by a group of hostesses and agents. Since March, Lin says the group has helped over 70 hostesses and sex workers of all ages to apply for bailouts.

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Some agents and managers of hostess bars have also come to them for assistance, and they have also teamed up with other civil society groups to advocate for the rights of sex workers and hostesses. Dance halls and hostess bars have gradually reopened in Taiwan, yet the public stigma towards the women who work in these establishments remains severe.

Equal Times is a trilingual news and opinion website focusing on labour, human rights, culture, development, the environment, politics and the economy from a social justice perspective.

Follow Us. Naomi Goddard. No bailout for sex workers While the Taiwanese government has provided millions of dollars of financial support for businesses and workers that have lost their income or jobs due to COVID, many hostesses have not qualified for any of the assistance. Most popular articles Labour.

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