International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers 1

December 17 this year is the 5th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Due to the social discrimination and the unfair legal treatment, sex workers are often exposed to different kinds of violence. We hope to commemorate the sex workers who have been bullied and killed with today’s activity, arouse more public concern on sex workers’ safety, protect and respect sex workers’ human rights.

Sex workers murdered
The police and the public indifference to the murder of sex workers indirectly push more sex workers to violence and threats. The pig farmer in Pickton, Canada, killed 31 women (with most of them were sex workers) but was only convicted of the Second Degree Murder. The case near Ipswich River, in which 5 sex workers were murdered, has not yet solved. Two brothers have robbed and killed 13 sex workers in 5 Chinese provinces. More than 60 were killed in Green River in the U.S., with the murderer claimed in court that it did not matter whatsoever even if a sex worker was killed. In Hong Kong, 3 sex workers were murdered by the Shun Shiu Po killer, while the killers who killed sex workers in Tsuen Wan, Tai Po and To Kwa Wan is still at large.

Violence sex workers encountered
Because of the unfair legal treatment, social discrimination and suppression by the law enforcement departments, sex workers are often exposed to violence such as robbery, rape, and murder. The police spend much resources and manpower to harass and raid on sex workers, say, carry out large scale survey on sex workers in different districts, force sex workers to provide information of flat owners and advertising website. Yet, when sex workers and ordinary citizens seek help from the police, the police often fail to solve their problems with enough resources. In addition, the police measures for ‘protecting sex workers’ are only something eradicating sex workers. As a result, sex workers dare not to seek help from the police even in the case of emergency. Instead of protecting their safety, the police and authorities are indeed persecuting sex workers.

During January to November in 2007, we collected more than 826 complaints against police from sex workers, an increase of 127% compared with the year of 2006. These complaints included the receipt of sexual service by the police during operation, the inhuman treatment by the police during custody, the threats and intimidation by the police. In regards to the police abuse against sex workers, more than 620 citizens and sex workers voted for the most intolerable violation of sex workers’ rights in December by giving their votes on our website, on our outdoor display board, and by signing the support letter (the total number of voters counted up to December 16 noon), with most of them were related to the police abuse.

CAPO Complaints say NO
The police always encourage people to file complaints to the CAPO (Complain Against Police Office). However, most people will not do so because of the fear of police revenge. In fact, sex workers were revenged after filing complaint to CAPO. The police officers being complained went to their workplaces to threaten the complainants. They even threaten to increase the punishment of the complainants. The ‘close communication and cooperation’ between police officers has enabled the leakage of the confidential information of the complainants. The complainants are often stopped by the police in the course of filing complaints. The CAPO not only rejects the complaints about police abuse (like the refusal of investigating into the case of 80 women being imprisoned in iron cage), also fails to release the investigation report (like the death case of Li Yuen Yee2 has not yet completed in 2 years). The complainants’ evidence is rephrased by the police, with they themselves are threatened and stopped to file the complaints. The police complaint system police, in which the investigation is done by the police, enables the police to further abuse their power without bearing any responsibility.

Today, we came here to the Police Headquarters with sex workers, supporters from the public, and some local social groups. We hope that there will be more public concern on the violence faced by sex workers and the issue of police abuse. We particularly hope that the police can stop using violence against sex workers immediately.

We have the following demands
  1. Stop all kinds of violence against sex workers.
  2. Stop police abuse and suppression on sex workers.
  3. Decriminalize sex work, so that sex workers are protected by the law.
  4. Eliminate the discrimination against sex workers in the society.
  5. Recognize sex work as work, respect sex workers’ basic rights.
  6. Set up an independent complaint system for the investigation of police abuse.

1 International Day to End Violence Against Sex Worker
Background: This day originated from the day when Green River serial killer Gary Ridway, who has raped and killed more than 48 sex workers, was convicted. In order to stop violence against sex workers, sex worker organization SWOP has called upon sex workers throughout the world to organize activity to raise concern for those victimized sex workers, voice against violence and advocating to protect them through legislation.

2 In October 2005, police officer Yau Shu Ming refused payment after oral sex service by Li Yuen Yee in an undercover operation and framed her of blackmail and assault. Li was terribly frustrated and committed suicide by jumping off a building. Coroner’s Court has ended the trial in May 06. Her family members filed a complaint in CAPO and still have no report on the investigation after more than a year. CAPO said that they were busy and asked them to wait. Until now, those who concerned in the case are still at large and no disciplinary actions taken.