THAILAND'S SEX WORKERS GET THEIR OWN NEWSPAPER

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(June 29, 2001) BANGKOK -- While Thailand's print publication landscape is already brimming with magazines and newspapers catering to practically every profession or business sector, the country's considerably large phalanx of sex workers so far had to do without their own publication.

But recently, the world's oldest profession finally got its own newspaper, aptly called Bad Girls, in the form of a bimonthly, four-page tabloid published by a non-governmental organization, the Empower Foundation.

The foundation is dedicated to improving the social status of women and men in Thailand's booming prostitution industry, which is illegal but nevertheless widespread.

The publication has a circulation run of some 5,000 copies and is distributed nationwide via a network of volunteers and foundation members. "While our circulation might seem small, we found that every copy is being read by approximately ten industry workers, bringing our total readership way up there," said Ediro Chantawipa Apisuk.

Under the slogan "Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere", the publication carries news and practical advice for the country's estimated 300,000 prostitutes.

"We hope that Bad Girls will advance social acceptance of prostitutes, most of whom suffer greatly from bias and prejudice churned out by the overly moralistic public. In fact, it is a simply incomprehensible reaction. Sex workers just satisfy an obviously existing demand," said Ms. Chantawipa.

The newspaper is entirely financed from by the foundation, which derives is funds from membership contributions and donations.

And while sex might sell, Bad Girls, like all best things in life, is distributed for free.

The second issue since its launch on May 1, which is currently at the printer's, will also contain its very first advertisement inserted by condom manufacturing company, Fair.

"We will continue to run the ad in subsequent issues and call it a 'friendship ad' as we will not charge the company for it. Fair donates to Empower 6,000 condoms every month, which is more in value terms than what the production of Bad Girls costs. The condoms are distributed among sex workers," explained Ms. Chantawipa.

However, Empower welcomes any financial support for the newspaper, either in the form of donations or paid advertisements from more companies. -- Thomas Schmid

Copyright June 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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