‘This is Us” a museum in Thailand dedicated to documenting the lives and history of sex work is set to open to the public later this month. The museum is run by sex worker-led organisation Empower Foundation. Although the museum has existed for years, previously it was only open for private visits booked in advance.
Regional updates: Asia and the Pacific
A new report by Asia Catalyst has brought attention to the impact of laws and policing on sex workers in China. Released on the 25th of July, The Condom Quandary: A Survey of the Impact of Law Enforcement Practices on Effective HIV Prevention among Male, Female, and Transgender Sex Workers in China highlights the severe and widespread impact of using condoms as evidence of sex work on sex workers. Drawing on the experiences of the 517 sex workers involved in the research, the report urges that sex work be decriminalised and that sex workers be properly consulted and recognised as key stakeholders in laws and policies concerning sex workers.
Sex workers in Victoria, Australia are speaking out for the second time to highlight the ways they are blocked from or denied justice. On the 26th March 2015 serial rapist and murderer, Adrian Bayley was convicted of the rape of a sex worker that he had committed in 2000. However, on the 13th of July 2016 the Victorian Court of Appeal overturned it. The decision was labeled “disgusting” by Crime Victims Support Association President Noel McNamara who echoed statements made by sex workers, explaining how a message is being sent that crimes against sex workers will not be taken seriously.
On the 7th of June, armed police and “NVaders” a rescue organisation from New Zealand targeted “Nataree” – a brothel that employs 400 sex workers in Bangkok. The joint forces conducted a raid and apprehended 121 sex workers who were working at the time. Media were invited to film the raid.
Sex workers’ organisations have raised concerns about a new anti-trafficking law in India, called the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill. Women and Child Development minister Maneka Gandhi introduced the bill in India on the 31st of May.
Dancers in Mumbai are apprehensive about new laws that passed on the 13th of April 2016. The new laws have stringent conditions that limit dancers’ ability to earn a decent wage. The new laws do not address many of the concerns that Bar Dancers have raised.
The Australian State Government of New South Wales has continued its support for decriminalisation. Sex workers were concerned the inquiry into brothel regulation that begun in 2015 could have resulted in the introduction of a licensing framework and/or a specialised police squad for the sex industry. These measures would end decriminalisation, despite its documented success since it was introduced in 1995.
HIV/AIDS Research and Welfare Centre (HARC) organised a three-day workshop for sex workers in Bangladesh from the 17th to 19th of April, 2016. A total of thirty-nine sex workers took part in the workshop in Rajshahi, a city in northwest Bangladesh close to the border with India. APNSW Regional Coordinator Kay Thi Win, and Consultant Habib Rahman facilitated the workshop.
Empower Thailand and the Thai Embassy in Sweden have both issued statements in response to the Swedish magazine OTTAR. On the 3rd of March 2016, OTTAR published an interview with Kasja Ekis Ekman, which referred to Thai sex workers as “cheap pussy.”
A session called “Reclaiming Rights: Sex Workers Speak” was held on the first day of the 12th International Conference on AIDS in the Asia Pacific (ICAAP) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The conference ran from the 12 -14 of March.