SL to ban massage by opposite gender at spas, parlours

Sri Lanka plans to introduce gender restrictions to spas and massage parlours, aiming to control prostitution conduct under the guise of spas and prevent the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including AIDS.

According to the proposed law by the Department of Ayurveda, restrictions will be imposed on men being massaged by female and vice versa.

Ayurveda Commissioner General M.D.J. Abeygunawardena announced that the decision was taken as massage parlours and spas have become centres for spreading STDs.

Under the proposed law, which is scheduled to be presented to the Cabinet for approval, the massage therapists should also be professionally qualified and registered under the Ayuruveda Department while the managers who run the spas too should be qualified.

Rights activists have complained that the current economic crisis has forced many women to take up prostitution or work as therapists in spas. This was mainly due to closing down of large number of companies in the textile and garment industry and other similar trades.

According to the National STD/AIDS Control Programme records, Sri Lanka has seen a rise in sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS.

Data showed a nearly 12 per cent increase in HIV patients during the first quarter of 2022 with 4,556 cases compared to 4,073 in the same period in 2021. This further increased to 13.2 per cent in the second quarter with 4,686 HIV patients compared to 4,142 in 2021.

Though there are no specific laws against prostitution, archaic British colonial law, Vagrant Ordinance – introduced around 180 years ago to criminalise begging, exposing a disease and homelessness – is being used to arrest those engaged in prostitution.

20230117-032003

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