The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers was awarded the 2008 annual International Award of Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Human Rights Watch. Presented to APNSW on 6 August, 2008, at the International AIDS Conference, Mexico City, the award, which was established in 2002, and is annually bestowed upon one Canadian and one international recipient recognises outstanding individuals and organisations which are dedicated to protecting the rights and dignity of people affected by HIV/AIDS.
History of the Sex Worker Rights Movement
In 2009, Surang Janyam, Director of the Service Workers In Group (SWING) Foundation, Thailand, was awarded the Human Rights Defenders Award by the Thai National Human Rights Commission. Ms. Janyam is a co-founder of SWING, a sex worker network established in 2004, which provides support, education, referral, counselling, outreach, and advocacy to male and trans* sex workers.
On International Women’s Day, 8 March, 2005, Pornpit Puckmai, a Thai sex worker activist and the manager of EMPOWER Foundation’s Chiang Mai office, was awarded with the first annual human rights award by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. Pornpit received the award for her activism in defending the rights of women.
In August, 2007, female Nepalese sex workers, including many from the highly marginalised Badi ethnic minority group, undertook a mass demonstration, which included public nudity, in Singha Durbar, in front of Government House in Kathmandu.
In March, 2004, female sex workers from the highly marginalised Western Nepalese Badi community threatened to undertake a nude protest in the nation’s capital city, Kathmandu, in an effort to advocate for their right to attain Nepalese citizenship and for the legalisation of sex work. Sex worker activists from the women’s support group, Kamal Bahadur Rokaya, said that they were considering undertaking the action in front of national Government headquarters as other advocacy strategies had not been successful in achieving recognition of their rights or the implementation of meaningful social change for sex workers.
Released in 2011, ‘Scarlet Road’ is a documentary featuring Australian sex worker activist Rachel Wotton, who has been active in the NSW Sex Workers Outreach Project, Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Worker’s association, and in establishing the organization Touching Base, which undertakes advocacy relating to the sexual rights of people with disabilities and is active in
“Freedom to Work” is a series of videos, produced by the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers featuring speakers at the 2012 Calcutta Sex Workers Freedom Festival. The Calcutta Freedom Festival held 22-26 July, 2012, was a sex worker-led event held in response to the 2012 International AIDS Society conference being held in Washington, America.
In July, 2014, almost 1000 Bangladeshi sex workers from the Tangail Kandapara brothel district were evicted from their homes and work spaces as the demolition of the 200 year old brothel complex, which spanned over 3 acres of land, was undertaken at the behest of an “anti-social activities committee” who threatened to set the complex on fire.
“One Whore”, which parodies the U2 track, “One”, addresses issues surrounding the administration of G. W. Bush, which in 2003, introduced the “Anti-prostitution pledge”, which required international NGOs and organizations, including those in the Asia and Pacific region, receiving USAID funding to adopt policies opposed to sex work and trafficking.
The Australian-based sex worker collective, “Debby Doesn’t Do it For Free”, held a national exhibition and retrospective of their work over the past 13 years at the Tap Gallery in Darlinghurst, Sydney. The exhibition, entitled, “Debby Doesn’t Di it For Free”, included an opening night party featuring a performance from the all sex worker band, Whore Core.