Decriminalization of Sex Work
The Chapter of Law
Sex trade between two consent parties is basically not illegal according to the Hong Kong law, but activities or behaviors related to sex work are categorized as criminal offences. This not only adversely affect sex workers’ livelihood and business, also exposes sex workers to different degrees of human rights violation.
Until we repeal the current criminal laws and recognize sex work as work, sex workers working in different sectors of the industry can hardly enjoy full legal protection.
Simply speaking, decriminalizing sex work means repealing the criminal laws related to sex work.
1. What is decriminalization (of sex work)?
Decriminalization of sex work is the repeal of current sex work-related criminal law. Current law is discriminatory against sex work, say forbidding any solicitation and advertisement of any kind.
2. Why should sex work be decriminalized?
Like any other work, sex workers also exchange money with their bodies and efforts. They should not be regulated by some hypocritical and unreasonable law.
3. Is decriminalization the same as legalization?
Legalization is done through government regulation. It can be in the form of registration, licensing, mandatory health check, tolerance zone. Decriminalization is done through the recognition of sex work as one kind of business without any government regulation.
4. Is the licensing system effective enough to regulate sex work?
Since sex workers are often discriminated in the society, it is difficult for them to show up to the government departments for the registration and licenses. It is of no use to adopt the licensing system.
5. Can we curb the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS by appointing a mandatory health check on sex workers?
Mandatory health check only discourages clients from using condoms, increases both customers’ and sex workers’ vulnerability to infection. More about safe sex and voluntary health check should be done to the public.
6. Can we set up a red-light district to reduce the nuisance brought by sex work to the community?
It is not easy to set up a red-light district in Hong Kong, where there is very limited land. Rather, this creates the labeling effect that brings greater nuisance to the community. Men entering the red light district will be labeled as clients, whereas women will be labeled as sex workers.
7. Can we protect sex workers and reduce their vulnerability by penalizing clients?
Penalizing clients does not help to reduce the number of sex workers. It only pushes sex work to the underground, reduces sex workers’ autonomy, and exposes sex workers more to agents’ exploitation.
8. If sex work is decriminalized, will there be many sex workers working and creating much nuisance to the community?
If sex work is decriminalized, sex workers can tell their clients clearly where they work in the advertisement. In fact, sex workers are one member in the society, educating the residents about sex work also helps to reduce the conflicts between sex workers and residents.
9. If sex work is no longer regulated, will there be ‘one-woman apartment’ and brothels everywhere with many people entering the industry?
According to the examples in some overseas countries, the changes to the law will not do anything to the number of sex workers. Sex workers can freely choose when to work when sex work is decriminalized, say the business district away from schools.
10. Why is the decriminalization of sex work not implemented in Hong Kong?
Many people still discriminate and misunderstand sex work in the society, that they do not recognize sex work as work. The discredit to sex workers by the media and politicians also exacerbate the public hatred against sex workers. As a result, it is difficult to implement decriminalization of sex work in Hong Kong.
11. Is there any country/area where decriminalization of sex work is implemented?
New South Wales in Australia, New Zealand.
12. How can the society support the decriminalization of sex work?
The greatest support to sex workers is to respect and consider them ordinary people. Also, you are more than welcome to pass this booklet to others. The more the people understand decriminalization of sex work, the faster it may be implemented in Hong Kong.
The decriminalization of sex work brings good to both the sex workers and the community.
All to do is to drop your bias.
Please support the decriminalization of sex work, to let sex workers live more freely.
About Zi Teng:
Zi Teng is a sex workers concern organization. We provide legal advices and case follow-up for sex workers so that they understand their basic and legal rights. We have been pushing for the change in law. We demand for the revision on the discriminative, exploitative law and policy related to sex work. We actively advocate for the decriminalization of sex work so as to ensure a fairer legal treatment to sex workers.
Copyright 2007 Zi Teng
(To eliminate the prejudice against sex workers, you are welcome to share with others)