UNDP collaborates with community organizations to support sex workers during COVID-19

July 9, 2020

10 July 2020, Thailand – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and community organizations joined forces to implement measures to support sex workers, who are among the most vulnerable populations in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To respond to this crisis, UNDP collaborated with four community organizations: Empower Foundation, Sisters Foundation, SWING Thailand Foundation, and Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand. Together with UNDP, these organizations handed over basic supplies such as food, water and personal protective equipment benefitting over 2,000 sex workers across the country.

“Sex workers, particularly those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), are among the most vulnerable and marginalized in any society and among those most at risk from COVID-19. Our partnership with the community organizations is one of our many efforts to support them to improve their resilience, ensuring no one is left behind, as Thailand recovers from this pandemic,” said Renaud Meyer, Resident Representative of UNDP Thailand.

A recent online survey conducted jointly by UNDP Thailand and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network, in May, revealed that almost half of LGBT people surveyed (47%) lost their job or were forced to go on unpaid leave. This had a direct impact on their livelihood. Similarly, 51% of the LGBT respondents stated that they did not receive any COVID-19 related government assistance, and only 22% received financial support from the government. The same survey showed that around 14% of LGBT respondents experienced increased intimate, family, or gender-based violence or economic violence while staying at home. “This is the most challenging time for people in this profession and we are pleased to collaborate to contribute this relief package to support their immediate needs,” said Surang Janyam, the Director of SWING Thailand Foundation.

Many of the transgender sex workers are also facing difficulties in maintaining their supplies of hormones during this period, which, if discontinued, can have long term impacts on their health. The sex workers who identify as gender minorities face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and are often subjected to stigmatization, hate speech and attacks. “The stigma often discourages transgender women from accessing public hospitals as previous experience of their visits have placed them in the ‘male ward,’ regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Thitiyanun Nakpor, Director of Sisters Foundation.

UNDP upholds human rights and gender equality in all its work and places great emphasis on reaching the most vulnerable people in the society. This joint initiative is geared towards the commitment to ensure that no one is left behind, while safeguarding the progress achieved towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

For more information, please contact:

Suparnee (Jay) Pongruengphant, Project Manager – Gender Equality and Social Inclusion, UNDP Thailand

suparnee.pongruengphant@undp.org | Mobile: +668 1714 3954