PATTAYA, Thailand, 15 October 2010 – At the first-ever Asia-Pacific consultation on HIV and sex work, sex workers, government officials and United Nations participants emphasized the need for urgent action to increase focus and positioning of sex work within HIV responses in the region.
Close to 150 delegates from eight countries (China, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Thailand) met in Pattaya, Thailand, to form partnerships and review policies and laws that keep sex workers from accessing HIV services and sexual and reproductive health services.
“Sex work interventions must be central to scaling up the HIV response, and listening to sex workers is crucial,” said Jan Beagle, Deputy-Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) who spoke at the consultation. “Sex workers experience firsthand the effects of laws and harmful enforcement practices that violate their human rights and hamper progress on HIV,” he said.
Delegates from the African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA) and a church leader from Nigeria gathered in Pretoria from the 28th September to 10th October for a second historic meeting as a follow up to the first ever African sex worker lead conference in February 2009.
On the Occasion of the Inaugural Meeting of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
First of all, a very warm welcome from me to all Commissioners who have been able to attend this inaugural meeting of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law.
I would like to express my gratitude to President Fernando Henrique Cardoso for hosting the meeting at his institute in Brazil – a nation which has long been a leader in the global AIDS response.
After reviewing the case of a woman who was fired from an establishment providing sexual services because she was pregnant, the court upheld the rights of sex workers to work, equality, security, and maternal leave.
The establishment where she worked must now pay her 12 weeks of maternity leave. While there was no formal written contract, there was an informal “employment contract” which was broken off suddenly. However, the court did not demand that she be able to return to work, because while the work is legal, it is contrary to the liberal principles of the law.
Removal of criminal law removes the main barrier to sex workers achieving justice. It creates a space that can be filled by effective rights based policy and labour regulations and law.
The Human Rights Reference Group challenges the Commission o go beyond existing statements [about decriminalisation] and to contribute to greater knowledge and action on how to break the impasse in human rights-based law reform, enforcement and access to justice related to HIV. It offers six recommendations of which this is the first.
On Monday August 2, 2010 police in Beijing detained Ye Haiyan, an activist with community based organisation the China Women’s Rights Workshop, after she joined other sex workers in publicly petitioning for the Chinese government to decriminalise prostitution.
The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) have released a statement in which they explain how they stand in solidarity with Ye Haiyan, human rights defenders, and sex workers who speak up against stigma, discrimination, and the criminalisation of their livelihoods.
To imagine a society without prostitution is utopian. Those who are willing to offer their own bodies in exchange for money must be allowed to do so without being stigmatised or punished. This is the view put forward by Terre des Femmes Switzerland, an organisation that campaigns for the rights of women.
This monograph attempts to demystify and explain the content of the prevalent laws in the region which are relevant to activists and practitioners working in the field. Available legislation and case law have been analyzed from the point of view of the issues of conflation of trafficking and sex work, rights of sex workers to live in liberty and dignity, the right to move freely, the right to reside in a place of choice, the right to migrate, forced and voluntary sex work, entry of minors, rescue and rehabilitation.