The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) supports the recommendations contained in the Global Commission on HIV and the Law’s report HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health (December 2012) published by UNDP & the UNDP, UNFPA, UNAIDS report: Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific (October 2012), respectively. The former publication was the result of wide consultation with community, civil society and stakeholders globally. We note with interest that Equality Now did not tender a submission to the Commission. The Asia/Pacific report was a collaborative work, that involved member organisations from APNSW working with the UN, which led to this report having such important recommendations.
Accordingly, we condemn the campaign by Equality Now against the UN recommendations to decriminalise sex work. At the same time, we unreservedly support NSWP in their rejection of this assault on sex workers’ human rights. This offensive by Equality Now is an attempt to silence sex workers and replace them with handpicked “survivors” to advance the view that all prostitution is “violence against women”. This redefining of violence further entrenches victimisation of women from the developing world by Western fundamentalist feminists masquerading as liberal feminists.
At the launch of the Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific Report, we warned that there was a concerted push to eradicate prostitution everywhere. The concern we conveyed at that time was founded in historical prejudice visited upon sex workers by so called ‘feminists’. The evidence shows that if sex workers are empowered to realise their human rights, abuses within the sex industry can be addressed through labour rights and legal recognition.
APNSW categorically rejects Equality Now’s push to have the Swedish Model criminalising clients enacted in this region. We reject the Swedish Model because it is de facto criminalisation of sex work. The intent behind this model is to eradicate the sex industry worldwide, leaving millions sex workers without a livelihood. We are of the view that sex workers have the right to consent and to have their consent respected. The idea that women’s consent can be ignored perpetuates gender inequality. The idea that it is okay to ignore a woman’s consent because she is in sex work ignores the fact that women have rights based on multiple identities. If women are not allowed to have their consent acknowledged as sex workers, is their consent ‘allowed’ as migrant women or as workers, for example.
Human trafficking as defined in the Palermo Protocol is a crime. Given its seriousness and complexity, it is imperative that anti-trafficking measures actually impact trafficking rather than simply promoting a particular ideology about sex work.
We therefore call on all organisations to oppose this attempt by Equality Now to undermine the rights of sex workers.