In October we reported on The National Human Rights Commission, India who had issued an advisory recognising sex workers as informal workers. The 11-page advisory titled 'Human Rights Advisory on rights of Women in Context of COVID-19' listed recommendations for sex workers under the women at work section.
Regional updates: Asia and the Pacific
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Regional Board Members
Sherry Sherqueshaa (Project X), Singapore
The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) is a sex worker-led network whose members include national sex worker-led networks, sex worker-led organisations and community-based sex work projects representing female, male and transgender sex workers. APNSW was founded in 1994 at the International AIDS Conference in Japan and is based in Bangkok, Thailand.
News articles from Asia and the Pacific region are listed below.
The National Human Rights Commission, India have issued an advisory recognising sex workers as informal workers. The 11-page advisory titled 'Human Rights Advisory on rights of Women in Context of COVID-19' lists recommendations for sex workers under the women at work section.
On Thursday 24th September, the Bombay High Court released three sex workers detained at a woman’s hostel and declared that adult women have the right to choose their vocation and cannot be detained without consent.
Reporting on the judgement, the Hindustan Times wrote:
The government of Maharashtra, India, has acknowledged the challenges faced by sex workers during the COVID-19 pandemic with a new government resolution issued on 23 July. The resolution asks district officials to provide free rations and all essential services to women who are dependent on sex work.
As reported in The Hindu, this is the first time that sex work has been recognised as work in this way.
Sex workers in India are speaking out against a study by academics from Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.
In April 2020, NSWP launched a global survey to understand the impact of COVID-19 on sex workers. To date, the survey has received 156 responses from 55 different countries. 18 of these responses were from 11 countries – Australia, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam – in the Asia-Pacific region.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the globe, sex workers are mostly being forgotten about in government responses. This week the Guardian published a report on the experiences of sex workers in New Zealand, outlining their access to emergency wage subsidies and other state benefits.
NSWP are conducting a survey to monitor and report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sex workers and sex worker organisations and their communities.
We are sharing the stories and experiences of organisations from around the world, as reported to us, in order to gain an insight into what governments are doing – and not doing – to support sex workers and sex worker organisations and how the sex worker community are responding to the crisis.
China has brought an end to the use of forced labour as punishment for those prosecuted under anti-sex work laws. Although sex work is still criminalised in the country, national media in China has reported that the detention system came to an end at the end of December 2019, and those in custody will be released.
Australia's Northern Territory Parliament has voted to decriminalise sex work through the Sex Industry Bill 2019. The Bill decriminalises brothels, soliciting and indoor sex work, and gives sex workers access to workplace health and safety protections already extended to other workers in the state.