IMI Remains Largely Intact After Weathering COVID-19

ResearchIMI Remains Largely Intact After Weathering COVID-19

Barring the reinstatement of country-wide non-essential business closures, we assess the illicit massage industry (IMI) remains well-positioned for a return to normal operations by mid-to-late 2020.

Illicit Massage Industry

We judge that the relatively short duration of recent business closures was likely insufficient to significantly undermine IMI finances writ-large,although a small number of illicit massage business (IMB) owners who decided against operating clandestinely during this period may be forced to close their businesses if expenses continue to exceed sex buyer demand. Although COVID-19’s long-term impact on the commercial sex industry remains unclear, we posit thata sharp uptick in other brothel operations during the pandemic will likely persist throughout 2020 and possibly into 2021, resulting in increased rivalries between IMB owners and brothel operators. For the most part, high-frequency sex buyers will almost certainly return to IMBs in the short-to-medium term, according to information contained on online commercial sex forums, although a small percentage of buyers may forgo IMBs until there is either a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19. Insufficient health code enforcement and unsanitary working conditions at IMBs, to include close physical contact with asymptomatic buyers, will almost certainly compound the risks faced by victim-worker populations and increase the likelihood that more victim-workers will contract the virus.


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