The Service Workers In Group Foundation (SWING) was established in 2004 to promote and protect the health, human rights and dignity of sex workers. From its initial focus on the issues that affect male and transgender sex workers, SWING has expanded its coverage over the past 10 years to include programmes and projects for sex workers of all genders and sexual orientations.
SWING currently operates drop-in centers in Bangkok, Pattaya and Koh Samui, all of which provide a range of educational and health-related services to sex workers. SWING’s core services include: English classes; a Non-Formal Education Programme, which enables sex workers to attain a high school certification; and a comprehensive outreach programme, whereby health promotion workshops and activities are delivered on HIV/AIDS and sexual health within sex industry workplaces.
SWING recognises that sex workers routinely face stigma, discrimination and human rights violations, such as harassment and violence, and have found it difficult to report such incidences to the police. In order to improve relations between police and male and transgender sex workers, SWING piloted an innovative and acclaimed project that involved collaborative work with the Thai Police Force to deliver a comprehensive sensitivity training programme for police cadets.
The Police Cadet Community Involvement Programme is an annual three-week internship programme that provides third-year police cadets with an opportunity to work directly with community-based organisations. The key objective of the programme is to increase the cadets’ understanding of relevant social issues, as well as their awareness of the grassroots efforts that address such issues. During the three-week placement at SWING, the programme expands the police cadets’ understanding and awareness of the lives of sex workers, with an expectation that the cadets will not only share their experiences with their peers, but will also actively challenge discriminatory attitudes they encounter.
Since its launch in 2005, the internship programme has successfully challenged many of the attitudes of police cadets, and has resulted in an increased recognition and understanding of the issues that affect sex workers. Additionally, participation in the Police Cadet Community Involvement Programme has allowed SWING to create and sustain relationships with a number of local area police command centres that are located in sex work hotspots.
Due to the success of the Police Cadet Community Involvement Programme, SWING was invited to provide training for all police cadets on HIV prevention and this initiative is ongoing. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that the programme has led to a decrease in the number of sex worker arrests and has significantly improved relations between sex workers and police.
For more information and to find out more about SWING and their work:
Photo Caption: Each police cadet is matched with a SWING staff member who is their “buddy” for the duration of the 3 week training. SWING staff members are responsible for mentoring their police cadet buddy, familiarizing cadets with SWING’s operations and educating cadets about the issues affecting sex workers. This photograph depicts Police cadets and their SWING staff buddies upon the cadets’ successful graduation of the Police Cadet Community Involvement Program.