For a woman in her 30s who runs a sex business in western Japan, battling social stigma has always been part of her job. Such is the prejudice against her line of work that she couldn’t open a corporate bank account and was once told flatly she wasn’t allowed to attend a skill development workshop because of what she does for a living.

But when the Kansai woman was treated unfairly by the state, she drew a line. In this unprecedented age of COVID-19, the government has disqualified sex business operators from the latest batch of cash handout programs, prompting her to file a lawsuit over what she considers discrimination against her occupation.

“I thought it was nothing but discrimination,” the woman said, requesting anonymity for fear of a backlash. She runs a so-called deriheru (delivery health) service, where sex workers visit clients at their homes or hotel rooms.