Please vote Yes to the policy on decriminalization of sex work.
Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) is a sex worker led regional network that promotes the health and human rights of female, male and transgender sex workers. APNSW represents 31 organizations in 23 countries.
Sex work has a long history in the Asia Pacific region, pre-dating colonial occupations and laws, and thriving as a significant, if hidden, contributor to the economy.
However, sex workers face many obstacles to realizing their human rights, including violence at the hands of police and clients. We encounter stigma in our families and neighborhoods, and discrimination in access to justice and healthcare – including for sexual and reproductive health and HIV treatment.
Sex worker led organizations and networks, public health bodies, and the human rights community are increasingly aware of the imbalance of power that criminalization of sex work causes, including its impact on effective response to HIV. People working to end HIV/AIDS have long realized that condoms are not enough; we must address stigma and discrimination against marginalized and criminalized communities to end this epidemic.
APNSW welcomes the well-researched and evidence-based Amnesty International proposal that joins the chorus of calls to decriminalize sex work in order to give sex workers more control over their working situations. Decriminalization will help to normalize relations with police, and help realize sex workers’ rights to be free from violence and protected by the law.
APNSW rejects the ideology of “abolition” as it denies the ability of those who make adult choices to engage in consensual sex work to think for themselves. We are saddened by the wealthy, high profile celebrities who know nothing of the reality of our experiences, yet in their ignorance feel they are being “charitable” by endorsing laws and policies that cause us harm.
The evidence is clear. The criminalization of sex work contributes to violence against sex workers by police and clients and others; it prevents sex workers from being protected by the law; and it feeds the culture of stigma and discrimination that negatively impacts all our human rights, from health to housing and more.
Amnesty International is to be congratulated for the quality of the draft policy it has prepared, which in itself is another milestone in the journey of realizing the human rights of sex workers.
A rejection of this policy would effectively be a vote for the status quo in the lives of sex workers. A status quo of impunity for those who commit crimes against us, continued exclusion from labor and legal protections, continued harmful efforts to ‘rescue’ us against our wishes, and continued stigma and discrimination in so many areas of our lives.
This year’s International Council Meeting is an opportunity for Amnesty International to demonstrate human rights are indeed for everyone. Please ensure logic prevails over lobbying. Read the evidence. Listen to those who are directly affected by these unjust laws.
Amnesty International’s highly respected global voice WILL make a difference in realizing our human rights. So please make that a positive difference.
Our health, our safety, our lives and our livelihoods WILL be affected by your vote.
So, please, vote Yes to the policy on decriminalization of sex work.
Kay Thi Win, Coordinator
Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
Please vote Yes to the policy on decriminalization of sex work.
Support Amnesty International’s proposed policy calling for the decriminalisation of sex work
NSWP and our allies take this opportunity to express our support for Amnesty International’s draft policy calling for the decriminalisation of sex work, which is to be tabled for adoption at the International Council Meeting, 6-11th August 2015. Amnesty International is facing a backlash from campaigners for proposing a policy that seeks to uphold the human rights of sex workers.
We ask the Amnesty International Council to stand firm and support decriminalisation of sex work and protect the human rights of sex workers.
The draft policy is backed up by the findings of country-based research carried out by Amnesty International on the human rights impact of the criminalisation of sex work and also on the 2014 consultation, which included input from many sex workers around the world – the community most affected by the proposals.
NSWP would also like to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the CATW statement, open letter and online petition attacking Amnesty International’s proposals. CATW’s position is stigmatising, discriminatory and misrepresents the facts, conflating sex work with human trafficking. Most importantly it ignores the lived experiences of sex workers, silences their voices and seeks to perpetuate legal systems which place sex workers at increased risk of violence, stigmatisation, and discrimination; as well as limiting their access to health and social services. Furthermore, CATW is ignoring the overwhelming body of evidence and the findings of international bodies such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, who recommend that governments should work towards the decriminalisation of sex work and The Lancet which recently published a special series on HIV and Sex Workers, which also recommends the decriminalisation of sex work and reported “Decriminalisation of sex work would have the greatest effect on the course of HIV epidemics across all settings, averting 33–46% of HIV infections in the next decade.”
There is a wide recognition among international agencies that the decriminalisation of sex work is necessary to protect and respect the human rights of sex workers. These agencies include; UNAIDS , UNFPA, UNDP, WHO, The World Bank , Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) , Human Rights Watch , the Lancet, Open Society Foundations .
The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) has issued a Statement of Support for Amnesty International setting out some of the extensive evidence that backs up Amnesty International’s call for the decriminalisation of sex work and calls on human rights defenders to stand with sex workers in supporting this progressive policy.
Please sign this petition to show support for the Amnesty International resolution to support decriminalisation of sex work and ensure the human rights of sex workers are upheld.
Please sign the online petition and share it widely.
The statement of support will be availbale in Chinese soon.
The Asia Pacific Intergovernmental Meeting on HIV and AIDS (IGM) kicks-off on Wednesday (28 January 2015). On the 27th January, there will be a Community Services Organisations (CSO) forum held at UNCC with an expected attendance of approximately 120 people from the community sector who will develop a Community Statement that will address critical issues. There will be a contingent of sex workers in attendance from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and Fiji. Unzip the Lips will co-convene a side-event, with the inclusion of an APNSW representative, that will be supported by UNDP and UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team on Gender and HIV/AIDS (IATT).
We will continue to advocate for a gender-sensitive HIV response for key affected women and girls, of which sex workers form a sizeable proportion.
Abstract: Rights of women and girls living with HIV, female sex workers, women who use drugs, transgender people, mobile and migrant women, girls and young women are women’s rights and human rights!
Many countries in the region are experiencing concentrated epidemics, and the available evidence shows that despite the fact that more men than women are infected with HIV, key HIV affected women and girls continue to bear the socio-economic brunt of the disease. They often face multiple and overlapping forms of stigma and discrimination, gender-based violence and other human rights violations that compound their experience of ill-health, injustice, social marginalization and inequality. The high levels of stigma and discrimination they face, including at institutional settings, directly impact fulfillment of their sexual and reproductive health and rights and their access to HIV and sexual and reproductive health services. Unequal power relations and gender inequality also contribute to HIV transmission. The overwhelming majority of women in the region get infected with the disease from their long term intimate partners.
In 2014, APNSW was selected as one of two regional delegates representing Asia and the Pacific on the NGO Delegation to UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) for a two year term. Rani Ravudi from Survivors Advocacy Network in Fiji will represent APNSW in this important role.
UNAIDS was the first United Nations programme to have formal civil society representation on its governing body. It is guided by the Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) with representatives from 22 governments, the UNAIDS Cosponsors and an NGO Delegation of 5 delegates and 5 alternate delegates.
The UNAIDS PCB is the key global forum for HIV and AIDS policy. The Delegation is important to the effective inclusion of community voices; Delegates represent the perspectives of civil society, including sex workers, within UNAIDS policies and programming. This represents a unique opportunity for sex workers to articulate critical issues and to make a difference to HIV and AIDS policy implementation.
As we welcome Rani onto the delegation, we must also thank Khartini Slamah who served in this role throughout 2014. Thank you Tini for your time and commitment in representing APNSW last year.
Welcome Rani and congratulations!
APNSW joins NSWP in condemning the recommendation to criminalise the clients of sex workers by MEP Mary Honeyball in a draft report on Sexual Exploitation and Prostitution and its Impact on Gender Equality for a report to the European Parliament Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee.
There is abundant evidence to show that criminalising sex work has damaging effects, both in terms of health and human rights outcomes for sex workers. When clients of sex workers are criminalised, sex workers by extension are criminalised too and are further marginalised and stigmatised. The reported increase in discrimination against sex workers from settings where clients are currently criminalised extends well beyond community and into NGOs and State institutions.
The conflation of sex work and trafficking particularly troubling as it does not contribute to a public debate in a constructive way. In fact, the issue becomes obscured and is likely to cause more damage to sex workers and trafficked persons due to badly targeted & ill-informed policy responses. The value of criminalising clients of sex workers is under a cloud as there is no evidence to suggest it is effective in preventing either sex work or trafficking from occurring.
APNSW condemns the stated recommendation and FEMM’s support of it in the strongest possible terms. We do not wish to see the harmful Nordic (Swedish) Model implemented in Europe or anywhere in the world.
APNSW also supports the call for action by The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) asking the Members of European Parliament to reject the report on prostitution and sexual exploitation which recommends the criminalisation of clients of sex workers.
At the same time, we call on the support of women’s organisations around the world to join us in condemning this recommendation and in highlighting the detrimental effects it will undoubtedly visit upon sex workers.
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.
by Kay Thi Win
The ATHENA network and ASAP have organized meeting at the Global Fund in Geneva: Strengthening Women’s Engagement with the Global Fund to Champion Gender Equality through the New Funding Model and Beyond. The meeting has organized 10th to 12th July 2013 and 23 community participants attended from: Zimbabwe, Poland, Malawi, Indonesia, Lithuania, Kenya, Uganda, Ukraine, Canada, South Africa, Myanmar, Zambia, Argentina, Thailand, India, Jamaica, Netherlands, Malaysia, China and Swaziland.
The main objectives of the consultation were:
• To build the capacity of women’s rights advocates, especially women living with HIV, to engage at country, regional and global levels with the Global Fund and its New Funding Model (NFM) from a gender equality perspective.
• learn from experience to date and begin to strengthen the capacity of partners in NFM focal country Dialogue process, the development of concept notes, as well as in the implementation motoring and evaluation and revision of forthcoming Global Fund grants.
I have attended the meeting on behalf of sex worker community and share experience on the Global Fund NFM and country dialogue. In March 2013, I have attended Global Fund country dialogue on behalf of AMA (AIDS Myanmar Association) which is the national network of sex workers.
I have share experience and suggestion on gender base currently women are not representatives including my country. In future how, we can make sure that Global Fund NFM will work for gender equality. Also this is so much a challenge for us, a sex worker but we have to voice out our voices is strong.
During these days, we have small group discussion on gender gap, develop an action plan. I recommended a pre-meeting for just community people in future and explain how it works for sex worker consultation with UN and that the GF should organize pre-meeting for consultations.
Finally we have work for Strategy, Investment and Impact Committee (SIIC) Recommendations which you can read at the link below.
The main points covered were:
• Gender focal point on all CCMs
• Review the inclusion of “Women and girls” in the definition of key populations
• Enhancing documentation of the data, and identify research and data gaps
• Ensure gender equality is in the next Global Fund Strategy.
Also, National and Regional Actions: build capacity of women through national and regional training on Gender Equality Strategy (GES) & Global Fund mechanisms.
• Bring women into country dialogues including sex workers.
I hope I did good job represent sex worker issues for the consultation.
I certainly try my best.
Kay Thi Win