In 2008, the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, created a karaoke-style video, “Bad Rehab”, to highlight the human rights abuses sex workers detained in “rehabilitation” centres in Cambodia were subject to as a result of the introduction and implementation of the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation law, which fails to distinguish between consensual sex work and trafficking.
History of the Sex Worker Rights Movement
“A Battle Hymn for the Sex Workers’ Revolution” is the anthem of the Asia and Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW). The 4 minute long song, developed by Philippines- based trans* sex worker activist and “whore of the law”, Tonette Lopez, was launched at APNSW’s first regional Human Rights workshop in 2004.
“Last Rescue in Siam” is a short, silent black and white film which uses parody to highlight the impact of anti-trafficking policies on sex workers operating in Thailand. The film, scripted, developed and starring sex workers, explores how the agendas of the police, military, health care providers and radical feminists have a tangible effect on the lives of sex workers.
Sex workers representing peer-led advocacy organisations from across the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic region contributed artworks to a regional art exhibition, held in Bangkok in April, 2013. The exhibition, held in central Bangkok’s Art and Cultural Centre, involved sex worker produced art contributions from sex worker networks in: Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Timor Leste. Art work from over 50 participating sex workers included instillations, photographs and interactive pieces, which explored themes including: HIV/ AIDS; stigma and discrimination; police harassment; interactions with clients; access to health care options; and sex work policy.
Sex Work And Sexual Health (SWASH), an organisation for women and trans* sex workers, was established in 1999 by Japanese sex workers and allies including academics, health professionals, students and members of the broader community.
Aids Myanmar Association (AMA), is Myanmar’s national peer-led sex worker organisation representing sex workers of all genders. AMA, which was founded in 2007, emerged organically from the Targeted Outreach Program (TOP) project, an internationally recognised best practise service provision program funded and initiated by Population Services International (PSI).
Women’s Network for Unity (WNU) is gender diverse sex worker network based in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Phen. Founded in 2002, WNU is a grassroots collective of 6,400 members whose purpose primarily involves working on behalf of sex workers to advocate for: access to social services; freedom from violence and discrimination; and for sex workers to empower themselves to advocate for access to social justice, against abuse from state actors, and to challenge the rhetoric around sex work, particularly that concerned with the anti-trafficking movement and the “rehabilitation” of sex workers.