U.N. re­port urges de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing ‘sex work’ in Asia

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY RICHARD S. EHRLICH

BANGKOK | Thai­land and New Zealand sound like the best places for pros­ti­tutes in Asia and the South Pa­cific, be­cause they face re­pres­sive laws and live mis­er­able and dan­ger­ous lives in the rest of the re­gion, where the sex trade is out­lawed, ac­cord­ing to a new U.N. re­port that calls for the de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of the vol­un­tary sex trade.

The worst coun­tries to be caught pos­sess­ing a con­dom while ap­pear­ing to work as a pros­ti­tute in­clude China, Fiji, In­dia, In­done­sia, Malaysia, Myan­mar, Nepal, Pa­pua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Viet­nam.

In those coun­tries, an un­used con­dom can be used as ev­i­dence that a per­son is an il­le­gal sex worker.

Rent­ing bod­ies for money in Asia also in­volves niche de­mo­graph­ics.

On the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent, for ex­am­ple, so-called “fly­ing” sex work­ers are peo­ple, such as students, who work part time.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions fo­cus­ing on pros­ti­tu­tion, HIV/AIDS and re­lated le­gal prob­lems dis­cussed these and other is­sues at a re­cent meet­ing in Bangkok, where they dis­cussed the U.N. study “Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pa­cific.”

“Nearly all coun­tries of Asia and the Pa­cific crim­i­nal­ize some as­pects of sex work, ... [but] crim­i­nal­iza­tion in­creases vul­ner­a­bil­ity to HIV,” said Cherie Hart, a spokes­woman for the U.N. De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram (UNDP), de­scrib­ing the dan­gers of con­tract­ing the hu­man im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency virus (HIV), which causes ac­quired im­mune de­fi­ciency syn­drome (AIDS).

The re­port called for the de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of pros­ti­tu­tion be­cause it found “no ev­i­dence from coun­tries of Asia and the Pa­cific” that out­law­ing the sex trade has pre­vented HIV epi­demics among sex work­ers and their clients.

The re­port also called for eu­phemisms.

“The terms ‘pros­ti­tu­tion’ and ‘pros­ti­tute’ have neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions and are con­sid­ered by ad­vo­cates of sex work­ers to be stig­ma­tiz­ing,” said the 210page re­port, au­thored by Aus­tralian hu­man rights lawyer John God­win.

“The term ‘sex work’ is pre­ferred,” said the re­port, is­sued by the UNDP, the U.N. Pop­u­la­tion Fund, the Joint United Nations Pro­gram on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and sev­eral non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions across Asia.

New Zealand and Aus­tralia’s New South Wales prov­ince are mod­els of how de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of pros­ti­tu­tion boosted con­dom use and slowed the spread of HIV, re­sult­ing in “ex­tremely low or nonex­is­tent” trans­mis­sion of sex­ual dis­eases among pros­ti­tutes, said the re­port.

“I would like to be a sex worker in New Zealand,” said Man­deep Dhali­wal, di­rec­tor of the UNDP’s HIV, Health and De­vel­op­ment Prac­tice, when asked which coun­tries in Asia were the best places for them to earn a liv­ing as a pros­ti­tute.

Thai­land is also a rel­a­tively safe place to be a pros­ti­tute. Al­though pros­ti­tu­tion is ille-

“The terms ‘pros­ti­tu­tion’ and ‘pros­ti­tute’ have neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions and are con­sid­ered by ad­vo­cates of sex work­ers to be stig­ma­tiz­ing,” said the 210-page re­port, au­thored by Aus­tralian hu­man rights lawyer John God­win.

gal, au­thor­i­ties usu­ally ig­nore the sex trade, en­abling many up­mar­ket Thai and for­eign sex work­ers to en­joy higher wages, cleaner en­vi­ron­ments and less has­sle com­pared with else­where in Asia, said Chantaw­ipa Apisuk, who di­rects Em­power, a Thai foun­da­tion led by pros­ti­tutes.

“In Thai­land, al­though it’s il­le­gal, it’s still open, and a lot of peo­ple, my friends, are work­ing,” she added.

Sex work­ers should en­joy the same la­bor con­di­tions as fac­tory work­ers or en­ter­tain­ers, said Ms. Chantaw­ipa, who wore a T-shirt em­bla­zoned with her fa­vorite slo­gan: “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go ev­ery­where.”

The re­port also stud­ied call girls, street walk­ers and broth­els and found that, in many Asian coun­tries, they were “il­le­gal, il­le­gal, il­le­gal,” said the re­port.

Prob­lems are ex­ac­er­bated when re­form­ers and au­thor­i­ties voice shrill warn­ings about hu­man-traf­fick­ing and forcibly “res­cue” pros­ti­tutes who do not want to be “saved,” the re­port said.

“The lan­guage of some in­ter­na­tional and re­gional in­stru­ments have ei­ther im­plied a strong link be­tween traf­fick­ing and sex work, or con­flated these con­cepts,” it said, re­fer­ring to lo­cal laws, in­ter­na­tional agree­ments and other for­mal le­gal ar­range­ments.

Anti-traf­fick­ing laws should fo­cus on mi­nors in the sex trade and vic­tims co­erced or de­ceived into pros­ti­tu­tion but not vol­un­tary sex work­ers, the re­port said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.