Respect the human rights of sex workers

Stop any kind of Violence against sex workers

December 17 is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

It is the third International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Sex worker organizations in different parts of the world will organize different activities every year to commemorate the sex workers who were abused and killed; to urge the public to respect sex workers’ human rights. Just in time when the Sixth World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference (MC6) is held in Hong Kong, sex worker organization from different parts of the world (Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, ANSWP, NSWP) will march and hold exhibitions to let the public understand more about the situation of sex workers, to eliminate violence against sex workers.


It is estimated that more than 20 million people worldwide are working as sex workers. Despite the figure, sex workers have never been accepted by society, making their work environment extremely difficult and vulnerable to various threats of violence. Both male and female sex workers are exposed to different types of violence everyday and their human rights are severely violated. Thousands of sex workers are killed every year in the world, even more are raped and beaten. For instance, more than 500 sex workers are killed every year in Mainland China; 97% of 1000 Cambodia sex workers had been raped, the ‘Green River killer’, who raped and killed more than 60 sex workers in the US, even claimed that ‘he does not need to take any responsibility for killing sex workers’. Instead of protecting the safety of sex workers, laws and law enforcers are often the tools of persecution. Social discrimination is also a kind of violence against sex workers, because it marginalizes them and renders them isolated and defenseless.


Violence against Sex workers

These are the threats of violence commonly faced by sex workers:

  1. Violence by customers (including verbal abuse, robbery, harassment from gangsters, rape and murder, etc)

  2. Arrests and prosecutions resulted from legal loopholes, even though sex work is not against the law

  3. Abuse of power by members of the police, who often arrest sex workers for unfounded charges ( getting free sex service, strip-searching, physical assault, forcing sex workers to sign testimonies, forbidding them to make phone calls, etc)

  4. Insult and harassment caused by social discrimination, which also excludes them from any labor or social protection


Complaints against the police by sex workers between September 2004 and 2005 Total: 220 cases

Getting Free Sex Services

48 cases

Violation of Legal Rights

110 cases

Masturbations

32 cases

Forbidden to Make Phone Calls

28 cases

Sexual Intercourses (oral, vaginal, etc)

16 cases

Strip Search

25 cases

Abuse of Power During Inspection

62 cases

Unfair Incarceration

3 cases

Driving away customers

16 cases

Forced to Sign Testimonies

31 cases

Verbal Insults

13 cases

Charged with Fraudulent Evidence

10 cases

Forced to Relocate

17 cases

Deterred from Seeing a Lawyer

5 cases

Forced to Produce Leases

11 cases

Forbidden to Change Clothes

5 cases

Forced to Have Pictures Taken

4 cases

Forbidden to Eat or Drink

3 cases

Theft

1 case




International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers(Dec 17)

On the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (Dec 17), Zi Teng (sex worker concern organization) marched from Wanchai with different overseas sex worker organizations, to demonstrate the solidarity and unity among sex workers, to urge to stop any kind of violence against sex workers.

We enlist the public to

  1. stop all violence against sex workers

  2. eliminate discrimination against sex workers

  3. Decriminalize sex work

  4. recognize sex work as a profession and respect the human rights of sex workers


Joint Declaration by:

Zi Teng (Sex Workers Concern Organization in Hong Kong), Women’s Network for Unity from Cambodia; COSWAS from Taiwan; SWEETY from Japan, Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, Network of Sex Workers Project

Background -International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
The Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was inaugurated two years ago on December 17. It was conceived by the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) based in California (US) and held not long after the conviction of Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer, who killed at least 48 prostitutes in the US and whose statements to the police sparked the organizers. Ridgeway admitted, “I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.” Many more violent crimes against prostitutes remain uninvestigated by law authorities.

Sex workers are hesitant to report physical and sexual violence to the police because police do not always take their complaints seriously and investigate the crimes committed against sex workers. "The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers has got to end. This is allowing violent criminals to prowl our streets with impunity," says Robyn Few, executive director of the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA.

Sex worker organizations in different parts of the world will organize different activities every year to commemorate the sex workers who were abused and killed; to urge the public to respect sex workers’ human rights.

Zi Teng (Sex Workers Concern Organization in Hong Kong), Women’s Network for Unity from Cambodia; COSWAS from Taiwan; SWEETY from Japan and other participants are part of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, a unified international sex workers rights movement, consisting of thousands of members who have organized to demand their basic human rights. So far, this activism has resulted in the decriminalization of prostitution in Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, with very strong movements in other countries. In India and Taiwan, tens of thousands of workers have demonstrated for prostitutes’ rights.

Other cities in which memorial events are planned include New York, San Francisco and Boston in the United States; Manchester, England; Montreal, Vancouver, Quebec; and Cape Town, South Africa.

We call for concerted action: please send our statement to sbenq@sb.gov.hk to show your support on sex workers.

Ziteng (Sex Workers Concern Organization in Hong Kong)

Tel: 852-23327182

Email: ziteng@hkstar.com

Website: www.ziteng.org.hk

We believe that everyone, regardless of his/her profession, social status, religion, sexual orientation or gender, is entitled to have human rights. We should all be treated fairly by the legal system and other social institutions without being oppressed or menaced by violence.


Stories of Sex workers


Violence against Sex Workers by Society

Tsing-Yee worked in a massage parlor. When the parlor closed down, all other employees were compensated. Tsing-Yee and all the other masseuses, however, were not regarded as employees and therefore not compensated at all. She was also frequently harassed by her neighbors, such as verbal abuse, vandalizing, or even splashing feces on her door.

Violence against Sex Workers by the Legal System

Although sex work is not illegal, various criminal ordinances related to sex work make it difficult for sex workers to survive and they often become victims of unfair prosecutions.

Mei-lin was walking on the street when a police officer approached her and asked for sex service. She was arrested and falsely charged with soliciting for an immoral purpose. Eventually she was convicted because the judge did not believe her testimony since she was a sex worker.

Man Man was charged by the police for “Advertising on Prostitution” as She put the sign “welcome” on the door.


Violence against Sex Workers by Customers

Shao-Lin came to Hong Kong from Mainland China. Being a sex worker, she was constantly threatened by all kinds of violence from her customers, such as not paying after receiving service, robbery, rape, and even physical assault from an eighty-year-old man. She was eventually murdered.


Violence against Sex workers by the Police

1. Li Yuen-Yee provided sex service to a police officer (oral sex). Instead of paying the agreed $3000, the officer only paid $500. Yee was then beaten and the condom she used as evidence was discarded by a female officer. Yee was later charged with blackmail and assaulting police officer. In the end she committed suicide out of anger and frustration.

2. A police officer asked Ah Ming (male sex worker) to provide sex service. Since the police operation guideline allows “limited bodily contact”, the officer arrested Ah Ming after enjoying masturbation.