Posts Tagged ‘Gender based violence’

Guest post from HARC, the HIV/AIDS Research and Welfare Centre, in Bangladesh. This blog post is part of a global series of blog posts to mark International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, 2016. Read the full series at , or follow the hashtags  on Twitter.

HARC event group photo with red umbrella banner

Members of HARC mark International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

The HIV/AIDS Research and Welfare Centre held their first day-long program to mark the 14th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers in their office in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 17th December 2016.

Around 20 female sex workers from Bangladesh attended, along with national and international sex work researchers including Dr. Ellen Bal and Dr. Kathinka Sinha Kerkhoff from UV University Netherlands.

Three sex workers presented their personal experiences of violence. The first, Mina, spoke of police corruption, abuse and the impact of the law:

My name is Mina, I’m 29 years old and I’m involve with sex work over the last 10 years. I was arrested by police three times in my life. Two times I was released from police station by giving money to police. Each time I spent 500 Bangladeshi Taka (6 USD) to get release from police station. It’s true that most of the times only money doesn’t work, we need to give free sex too. One time I had no money to pay to police so police sent me to court. The case was drug carrier case so I had to go to jail for three months. I was in jail for three months, although I had no problem to stay in jail but I had two dependents: my mother and my daughter. They could not eat during those three months. I requested many of my friends to give a loan to my family but I failed to manage a loan. My mother and my daughter spent many days without foods.”

The second, Jhorna, spoke of physical and sexual violence by clients, and arrest by police:

My name is Jhorna and I’m 32 years old. I’m in sex work over 10 years. In the past 10 years I faced many different types of violence. Police arrested me two times and bad people beat me four times. Stigma, discrimination, rape is part of our life. Often we don’t consider slapping, insulting, or having three or four people sex at a time without paying money is violence as those are normal in our life and we face those very often.

I was arrested two times and I could not pay money to police so police sent me to court. Both times I told to the magistrate that yes I sell sex as I have no other options. I have no job, no training but I have family with five members. They all need my help. If I cannot income they will stay without food. After hearing those things Magistrate released me both times but I had to pay 5000 BDT (63 USD) to the court.

I was seriously beaten by bad people four times. Almost all four times the men was drunk and they asked me to take drug with them. I refused to take drug and they beat me. Only one time some religious people beat me because I was in a park and they were also in the same park. They told me I’m a bad girl and they start to beat me without talking any other things. I had to go to doctor for painkillers after the beating all four times. But slapping, insulting are everyday matters in our life

The third, Zarina, spoke of police extortion:

Last month I was arrested with six other sex workers from a house. We used to work from this house and suddenly police enter house and arrested all of us. Police told that they would make us naked and put in the car. We were crying and after a long discussion we agreed that we need to pay 70,000 BDT (880 USD) to police. We had not that amount of money so the police gave us seven days. We gave to police 70,000 Taka over seven days.”

Police harassment was the main problem mentioned by sex workers at the event. Sex workers need to make regular payments to police, and they face arrest if payments are late or if they refuse to pay. For new sex workers, ‘middlemen’ – who may provide a degree of protection to sex workers – also take new sex workers to the police station where sex without payment is expected.

After police, malicious young men are next most common perpetrators of violence. They have sex without money, engage in physical violence and take money from sex workers.

One member of HARC said:

“To avoid violence we need to change residence very often. If police or local young men find out we are sex workers they will make our life hell so we need to change the house very often.”

Dr. Ellen Bal asked participants what can be the solution to minimize violence?

Several sex workers said that NGOs and community organizations need to work with police. The HARC hotline counselor confirmed that nowadays police give more respect to NGO workers. In her experience, when people get arrested and give the HARC hotline number to police, then they get released after she confirms they are members of HARC.

One HARC member mentioned that we need to work on decriminalization of sex work. And another said Bangladesh needs stronger sex worker organizing, and more work focusing on on community empowerment, violence, stigma, and discrimination.

Finally, one sex worker said:

“HIV is not biggest our problem, but all the funding and money is related to HIV. Our biggest problem is police, and everybody needs to work with police to end violence against sex workers.”

HARC event group photo with red umbrella banner

Members of HARC mark International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers


Read Full Post »

Ricky Swuanpyae  spoke at the opening plenary for the thematic session of The UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB)  in Geneva on 22-24 June, 2010 This is his speech….

My name is Ricky and I am a male sex worker from Myanmar. I started to work as a sex worker when I was 18 to help pay for my schooling costs. I was at the time working as a housekeeper in a hotel.  In fact, one night as a sex worker , I earn the same as a month as a housekeeper.

However when I first started as a sex worker I had no knowledge about  STI and HIV and did not know how to insist on condom use. So I developed STIs. I only got to understand HIV and STIs when I was introduced to a Clinic where HIV and STI related health services are available. From such centres I and my friends learned from our peer sex worker about the risks of getting STIs and HIV. It was also there that I made a decision to be also be a peer sex worker to ensure others like me have access to prevention information and services. So increasing accessibility to such centres where one can get information and awareness about HIV and STIs is much needed.
Ladies and Gentlemen.

The reports of the Commission on AIDS in Asia and Commission on AIDS in the Pacific have been fundamental in recognising sex work as a central driver of the HIV epidemic in the region. The Asia report calculates that up to 10 million women in Asia sell sex to an estimated 75 million men, who in turn have intimate relations with a further 50 million people. HIV prevention coverage reaches only one third of all sex workers in the region and programmes to reduce the demand for unprotected paid sex are simply not adequate. Coverage for male sex workers is unknown as they are rarely dissagregated from MSM statistics.

As a result of discriminatory laws and social practices, sex workers experience debilitating stigma and discrimination that undermine their ability to protect their health and well-being. Hence a crucial component of Sexual and Reproductive Health  services must be identifying mechanisms for encouraging respect and acceptance of sex workers.

Sexual and reproductive health information and services must recognise the sex worker as a whole man, woman or transgender person. We have to acknowledge  that female sex workers have sexual reproductive  issues like other women but also understand they have special needs as sex workers as well. For example the need for more frequent pap screening. Further, SRH services for all sex workers must cover sexual and reproductive health issues such as access to a full range of contraceptives, including emergency contraception, and abortion; and screening and treatment for STIs including hepatitis.

Male and transgender sex workers need STI services that are equipped to diagnose and treat anal, oral and genital STIs. While stopping work when an STI is present is ideal, many sex workers may not be able to afford to do this.  Male sex workers can be encouraged and taught to provide services that do not transmit STIs, for example not offering receptive an anal sex while they are being treated for an anal STI. Transgender sex workers may need access to specialist services that can address their HIV and sexual health needs alongside the issues created by use of hormones and sexual reassignment surgery.

All sex workers need access to competent and caring health care workers that are free from judgement, stigma and discrimination.

The basic idea of the 100% Condom Use (CUP) program was to increase use of condoms to 100% of the time, in 100% of risky sexual relations, in 100% of sexual acts taking place within sex entertainment establishments.  Sex workers who do not comply with the requirements of the programme, and are discovered to be infected with HIV or and STI, usually face severe consequences, such as being dismissed from brothels, thus depriving them of income and healthcare.

The 100% condom programming  continues to be used as a justification for the State to police and arrest sex workers and to justify compulsory testing.

In Myanmar, the  100% CUP is being implemented in 51 townships  supported
by UNFPA and WHO and National AIDS Program providing STIs treatment, VCT services and free condom distribution . In 2009, National AIDS Program reached only about 5000 sex workers all over the nation and distributed 14 million condoms. Sex workers are afraid to use Government facilities as  the police  continue to harass sex workers and arrest based on claiming that  condom as evidence of sex work. On the other hand, NGOs with by sex workers as peer educators are reaching much larger number of sex workers. In view of their impact the Government and UN have finally renamed the programme  “Targeted Condom Program”.
Law that does not allow selling or buying of sexual services, operating sex businesses and many anti-trafficking measures prevent female, male and transgender sex workers from accessing safe places to work, health and social services and benefiting from legal and civil protections..
I urge Member States to support calls for the removal of punitive laws, policies and practices that block effective responses to HIV and progress towards the Millennium Development Goal. We need protective law enforcement practices and UNAIDS can help facilitate regular dialogue between sex worker groups and Ministries of Health, Justice and Interior, Parliaments, Judiciaries and police, and AIDS Authorities. There will be a decision point related to this at the PCB meeting under Non Discrimination of AIDS Responses and I urge Member States to support it.

Approaches to condom programming needs to address the power differentials which often exists between sex workers and police, government officials, health authorities and brother owners. The power given to police and brothel owners in the 100% CUP design reinforces already exploitative power dynamics, leaving sex workers open to further abuse and corruption. Condom programming must pay attention to clients and sex worker’s intimate partners, as well as male and transgender sex workers.

Here in Asia Pacific  region, there is a need for comprehensive condom programming. Access to good quality condoms and water-based lubricants is essential. While there has been 100% condom use programme in place, there remains the problem of supply, lack of access and a failure to include sex worker organisations and sex workers in the design, implementation and evaluation of these programmes.

Finally I would like to conclude that, we, the sex workers community would ask for those present here help us demand that UNAIDS and co sponsors include sex workers in the design, implementation and evaluation of all programmes with sex workers and that we shift from a 100% CONDOM USE programme to a 100% CONDOM ACCESS programme at country level.

Ricky Swuanpyae
APNSW Myanmar
22nd June Geneva, PCB

Redefining AIDS in Asia; Crafting an Effective Response (2008):  HYPERLINK “http://data.unaids.org/pub/Report/2008/20080326_report_commission_aids_en.pdf” http://data.unaids.org/pub/Report/2008/20080326_report_commission_aids_en.pdf.
Turning the Tide; An OPEN Strategy for a Response to AIDS in the Pacific (2009):  HYPERLINK “http://data.unaids.org/pub/Report/2009/20091202_pacificcommission_en.pdf” http://data.unaids.org/pub/Report/2009/20091202_pacificcommission_en.pdf

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: