Representative image. Courtesy: Novara Media

The Myanmar government is giving final touches to the bill safeguard the country’s thousands of sex workers from abuse.

Reports quoted U Soe Aung, deputy minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement, said the bill has been under deliberation by the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house) Public Affairs Management Committee since last year.

“Our ministry drafted the bill on prostitution to play a major role in ensuring the protection of women,” he was quoted as saying at a ceremony to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Nay Pyi Taw recently.

“The Union Attorney General’s Office has approved it,” he was further quoted.

The bill aims to replace the Suppression of Prostitution Act 1949, which criminalized prostitution.

The bill would transfer the handling of prostitution cases from the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, according to Pyithu Hluttaw MP U Min Thein of Ngazun township in Mandalay Region.

Earlier in the month, dozens of civil society groups in Mandalay called for amendments to the prostitution act, which they said makes sex workers more vulnerable to abuse.

Daw May Sabe Phyu, director of the Gender Equality Network, said prostitution in Myanmar is illegal and police arrest prostitutes, who are not protected by the law.

“There are many cases in which a prostitute was gang raped, was not paid, or was raped, robbed and beaten,” she was quoted as saying.

Daw May Sabe Phyu also said one of the reasons prostitution is widespread in the country is financial hardship and lack of jobs.

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