Japan: Sex workers say COVID-19 relief package is inadequate, pointing to unclear eligibility rules

Author: Jessie Yeung, Junko Ogura & Will Ripley, CNN, Published on: 19 April 2020

"Japan is offering sex workers financial aid. But they say it's not enough to survive the coronavirus pandemic", 20 April 2020

...After some controversy, sex workers are eligible to apply for aid, under certain conditions -- a move some activists have hailed as a sign of progress for an industry that has long suffered social stigma.

 ...But for many sex workers, the package offers little reassurance -- and its rules for eligibility seem opaque and restrictive. Some aren't sure how to apply for benefits without effectively outing themselves...

Prostitution...is criminalized in Japan -- but other types of sex work are legal...

When the Japanese government started putting together the relief package, it excluded those legally in the adult entertainment and sex industries -- drawing criticism from activists and opposition members, who called the exclusion "occupational discrimination."

...Officials reversed course, announcing...that the proposed plan would include those working legally in the sex industry. Under the drafted guidelines, sex work agencies and employers could receive subsidies for those who have to stay home to care for children during school closures. Sex workers could also apply for a cash handout, available for people who have lost income due to the coronavirus. 

...[I]t's not clear whether the handout is only available to those who have lost a certain amount of their income, or who have been dismissed from their jobs entirely, such as losing agents who liaise between the clients and sex workers.

...[T]he plan requires applicants to show proof of their salary and lost income -- a significant challenge for sex workers, who are often paid under the table and whose salaries can fluctuate.

Many sex workers don't report their occupation or full income on their tax return due to the nature of their work and fear of repercussions. Even if their sex work falls within legal bounds, a pervasive sense of shame and stigma means that many are reluctant to identify themselves as sex workers on the record...

And this lack of documentation could prevent them from receiving financial aid. The alternative would be to admit omitting information on their taxes, which could lead to its own set of consequences...

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