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) stands in solidarity with Ye Haiyan, human rights defenders, and sex workers who speak up against stigma, discrimination, and the criminalisation of our livelihoods
Criminalisation of sex workers, their clients and sex businesses drives the sex industry underground, making it more difficult for sex workers to access services – making them more vulnerable to HIV, abuse, and violence. A May 2010 resolution made by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific called upon member states “to ground universal access in human rights and undertake measures to address stigma and discrimination, as well as policy and legal barriers to effective HIV responses, in particular with regard to key affected populations,” including sex workers, men who have sex with men, and injecting drug users. This resolution was signed onto by all UN-ESCAP member countries, including China. China needs to listen to sex worker activists in order to combat HIV, rather than imprison them.
During the last few weeks, Chinese sex workers have been in the spotlight, with the police practice of “shame parades” that publicly display and shame arrested sex workers receiving international media attention.
NSWP calls for the recognition of sex worker’s human rights, including their right to privacy, and the recognition of sex work as work. Criminalisation perpetuates human rights violations. Sex workers and people who support sex workers’ political actions must be protected from police and other forms of institutional violence.