Respect Working Rights for Migrant Workers, Treat Migrant Sex-workers as Humans

On Labor Day this year, Zi Teng has a demonstration with 10 overseas organizations, aiming to arouse the concern for the working rights for sex-workers in the society. Attribute to the fact that sex-work is not considered as an occupation, sex-workers in Hong Kong cannot receive any labor benefits. Even worse is that migrant sex-workers are marginalized and consistently facing all kinds of violence, suppression without any support. We have been concerning the problems that migrant sex-workers face and thus we host an international meeting from April 30 to May 2 on the situations of migrant sex-workers. Representatives from Thailand, Holland, England, Taiwan, Japan, Canada, Australia and China come to HK to share their experiences on the services provided towards the migrant sex-workers and their situations

In Hong Kong, because of her residential status and also of sex-work, Mainland sex-workers are facing double discrimination and this exposes them to stigma of various degrees. They are treated as the prime source for spreading STDs. Street sex-workers are also stigmatized of endangering the social order of the locality. Some politicians make use of sweeping away migrant sex-workers as a bargain to win the election and create more room for the police to abuse their power. However, the general public does not have a clear view on what the problems that migrant sex-workers are facing, and marginalize them even more to the extent that their human rights are violated and life at risk.

Last year, through outreach and prison visits, we have contacted more than 600 migrant sex-workers. Most of them are coming from the poor regions of Mainland China. More than 95% are above 25 years old and 60% are married or a single mother. They have limited education, normally up to junior high school standard and some of them are even illiterate. More than half (53%) are housewives, while others are sales, waitresses, or workers of factories from Guangzhou, Shenzhen or their hometowns.

Poverty is the main reason why they come to HK to do sex-work. The problem of the disparity between the poor and the rich is severe in China. For example, a poor farming family will get an income of slightly more than 1,000RMB a year. Factory workers, sales and waitresses will normally get less than 1,000RMB a month. The income cannot support the rising expenses like: education for the children, rent, medicals, etc. The income plus the insufficient social benefits make poor people impossible to get any support. These women, with low education and no skill, can only rear their families with their bodies. They do not steal or rob but only struggle to improve the living standard of their families with the hope that they can pull themselves out from den of poverty.

Because of the problem of their status, migrant sex-workers need to adapt a totally strange environment and also meet various difficulties. They not only demand a low charge but also cannot insist their customers on using condoms and become victims of HIV/AIDS. Their illegal status makes them liable to be the victims of robbery, rape and violence. Some customers know that they do not dare to call the police and do not paying for the service. If migrant sex-workers resist, they will resolve to violence. Last year, there were a few migrant sex-workers got murdered. Furthermore, migrant sex-workers also face the problem of police abusing their power. For example, their photos are being taken by mobile phones of police officers, violently treated, forced to sign false statement and also strip-searched for more than once at the police station, etc. Neither is the legal system fair to migrant sex-workers. For example, once a Mainland Chinese is arrested, she is detained and cannot be put on bail. If she admits the charges, she will be sentenced 2 months in prison; if she doesn’t, she has to wait at least 3 months in prison before being arranged to another court hearing. This indeed is additional penalty to them. Although it is illegal for migrant sex-workers to earn money in Hong Kong, they still have basic human rights and deserve to be respected and treated fairly.

We all request in common:

  1. To respect migrant sex-workers
  2. To stop using condoms as evidence to charge sex-workers

Request from representatives from Other Countries:

  1. Holland:Rights of migrant sex-workers is the same as labor rights
  2. Thailand:Police officers, please respect our work
  3. Japan:Migrant sex-workers are definitely labors and the rights of occupational safety should be protected
  4. Australia:Please concern migrant sex-workers
  5. England:We believe that every woman in the sex trade should have the rights to obtain sexual and mental health services alongside with social services and receive practical help and supports

Zi Teng requests:

  1. Respect the rights of migration of migrant sex-workers
  2. Police stop arbitrary arrests and unreasonable treatments towards migrant sex-workers
  3. Improve the procedures of the legal system to allow a fair judgment for foreign visitors
  4. Decriminalize sex-work and cancel all items in criminal law concerning sex-work and consider sex-work as one general job
  5. Provide enough service (like social health care) to people visiting Hong Kong

Contact:Zi Teng Staff 鍾詩韻   Tel:23327182
E-mail:ziteng@hkstar.com Website:www.ziteng.org.hk