The ten Governments who make up the ASEAN Economic Community estimate there to be at least 1.2 million sex workers in our region. Sex workers of ASEAN have been organizing for full recognition of their human rights at National, Regional and International level for decades. One of the key steps in order for sex workers to assert their human rights is the decriminalization of sex work as outlined in Amnesty proposed policy.
Director of Empower, Chantawipa Apisuk writes:
‘Buying and selling sex has been illegal for over 60 years in most of our countries but has not led to any reduction in sex work or an “end to prostitution”. The sex industry has grown faster than ever in the last 60 years. More importantly it has not led to better lives for sex workers or for our families. Criminalization has not led to increased human rights or reduced abuses; it has only led to more stigma and more real crimes.’
‘We need to get rid of the real crimes in sex work. The real crime in our work is not the buying and selling of sex, but rather the real crimes include, but are not limited to, the abuse of power by authorities, corruption, extortion, discrimination, violence with impunity, state neglect or our rights as workers, exploitation of our labor, denial of justice, arbitrary arrest detention and deportation, and entrapment.’
‘Keeping our work criminalized means we cannot be treated as human beings but must be treated as criminals by society, including health workers, police and media. Our workplaces are not expected to be safe and healthy but must be treated as “dens of vice and crime” which do not need things like OH&S or even fire exits. Our employers are not expected to be responsible and fair employers but must be treated as “mafia figures” “pimps” and “traffickers” who do not need to worry about labor law, wages, health coverage or hours etc. Our customers are not expected to be respectful but must be treated as “abusers” and “exploiters” who do not need to pay properly or behave appropriately. Changing our status to “victim” is not an improvement. Experience has shown us that both criminal and victims must be kept in a cage; they cannot be free like other humans to make our own decisions and build our own futures.’
Decriminalization of the sex industry means the real crimes in sex work can be addressed and ensures sex workers are able to better assert our human rights.’
Amnesty International Council is set to vote on the draft policy in the next few days. A petition has been set up to gather support for Amnesty.
You can download Empower Foundation’s letter below.