Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Asia's Best & Worst Places to be a Sex Worker

Asia's Best & Worst Places to be a Sex Worker

By Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand and New Zealand sound like the best places in Asia to be a prostitute because repressive laws, religions, traditions and other controls make sex workers' lives miserable, dangerous, violent and victimized elsewhere.

The worst countries to be caught possessing a condom while appearing to work as a prostitute include China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

In those countries, an unused condom can be used as evidence that a person is an illegal sex worker.

Renting bodies for money in Asia also involves niche demographics.

On the Indian subcontinent, for example, so-called "flying" sex workers are people, such as students, who work part-time.

Organizations focusing on prostitution, HIV-AIDS and legal problems discussed these and other issues at a meeting in Bangkok on Thursday (October 18) while releasing a new United Nations study titled, "Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific."

"Nearly all countries of Asia and the Pacific criminalize some aspects of sex work," said United Nations Development Program (UNDP) spokeswoman Cherie Hart.

"Criminalization increases vulnerability to HIV," she said, describing the dangers of contracting the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

"There is no evidence from countries of Asia and the Pacific that criminalization of sex work has prevented HIV epidemics among sex workers and their clients," said the report which called for "decriminalization."

English words should also change.

"The terms 'prostitution' and 'prostitute' have negative connotations and are considered by advocates of sex workers to be stigmatizing," said the 210-page report, authored by human rights lawyer John Godwin.

"The term 'sex work' is preferred," said the report, issued by UNDP and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), in partnership with the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and several non-governmental organizations across Asia.

New Zealand, and Australia's New South Wales, are models of how decriminalization of prostitution boosted condom use and slowed the spread of HIV, resulting in "extremely low or non-existent" transmission among sex workers, said the report.

"I would like to be a sex worker in New Zealand," said the UNDP's HIV, Health and Development Practice director Mandeep Dhaliwal when asked which countries in Asia were the best places for them to earn a living.

Thailand is also a relatively decent place to be a prostitute because though illegal, authorities usually turn a blind eye, enabling many upmarket Thai and foreign sex workers to enjoy higher wages, cleaner environments and less hassle compared with elsewhere in Asia, said Chantawipa Apisuk, who directs Empower, a Thai foundation led by sex workers.

"I want to live and work in Thailand," said Ms. Chantawipa.

"I don't want to work in a country and be called a 'social evil.' In some countries they still call sex work a 'social evil'.

"In Thailand, although it's illegal, it's still open and a lot of people, my friends, are working."

Sex workers should enjoy the same labor conditions as factory workers or entertainers, said Ms. Chantawipa, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with her favorite slogan: "Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere."

Ms. Chantawipa, who is a married mother and is not a prostitute, told the meeting, "I'm doing sex work at home, but unfortunately I don't get paid."

Her audience laughed with appreciation.

During 1996-97, she was a Harvard Law School Fellow in their International Human Rights Fellowship Program.

"Empower has just recently received a small grant project program, which started on September 1, 2012, from the U.S. Embassy, Bangkok," she said after participating on the panel and launch of the UN report.

The report also studied three categories: "sex work in private, soliciting, and brothels."

In many Asian countries, the results were "illegal, illegal, illegal," said the report.

Problems are exacerbated when do-gooders and authorities voice shrill warnings about human trafficking and forcibly "rescue" prostitutes who do not want to be "saved."

"The language of some international and regional instruments have either implied a strong link between trafficking and sex work, or conflated these concepts," it said.

Anti-trafficking laws should focus on people who have been coerced or deceived into prostitution, or minors, and not target voluntary sex workers, it said.

"Often, sex workers are portrayed as passive victims who need to be saved. Assuming that all workers are trafficked, denies the autonomy and [choice] of people who sell sex."

Prostitutes "rescued" against their will, often suffer an immediate and devastating loss of income.

Their colleagues, also working voluntarily, then often hide from authorities and end up in worse conditions where they are exploited and more vulnerable to HIV infection, the report said.

Arresting customers is also a failed strategy.

"The UNAIDS Advisory Group on Sex Work has noted that there is no evidence that 'end demand' initiatives reduce sex work or HIV transmission, or improve the quality of life of sex workers," it said.

"Compulsory detention of sex workers, for the purpose of 'rehabilitation' or 're-education' is a highly punitive approach" used in China, India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, a country also known as Burma.

"In some countries, centers are used as a source of free or cheap labor," it said.

*****

Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California, reporting news from Asia since 1978, and recipient of Columbia University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He is a co-author of three non-fiction books about Thailand, including "Hello My Big Big Honey!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews; 60 Stories of Royal Lineage; and Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News Since 1946. Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the final chapter, Ceremonies and Regalia, in a new book titled King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in Perspective.

His websites are

http://www.asia-correspondent.110mb.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/animists/sets
http://www.amazon.com/Hello-My-Big-Honey-ebook/dp/B009ESEGY0

(Copyright 2012 Richard S Ehrlich)

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Myopia Of The Business News

Listening to the business news is a bit like eavesdropping on the radio transmissions from space aliens. There is no discernible connection between the concerns of the captains of these space ships – the bank economists and the finance house spokesmen – and the concerns of ordinary listeners back on Planet Earth. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Clinton, Sanders, Trump And Cruz

Come November, the world will have a new US president-elect and the least unlikely winner still looks to be Hillary Clinton. Right now though, the polls are showing a rocky stretch ahead for her in the immediate future. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Sean Penn And El Chapo - Vanity, Hollywood And Reportage

Leaving aside Sean Penn’s personal history with drug use, let alone alleged efforts to get a slice of celebrity in portraying a drug lord, the furore surrounding his interview with El Chapo is instructive in a few respects. One is worth noting: the blind rage it has provoked with some US political figures and advocates who show how utterly lacking in understanding they are of their own liberal market system... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Podemos, And Spain’s Election Stalemate

By hard grassroots effort, it convincingly rejected the fragmented, individualising forces that had shaped political life for the past few decades – instead, it organized its supporters on the basis of their common, communal experience via collective decision-making aimed at rolling back (a) the austerity-driven cutbacks in public services and (b) the home evictions of those unable to meet their mortgage payments. More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Merkel, Refugees And The Cologne Attacks

Huge pressure was already on Angela Merkel’s shoulders prior to the New Year celebrations. When it came in its waves of chaos on the eve, the security services in Cologne were found wanting. The police document from Cologne, leaked to Der Spiegel, speaks of chaos and lack of control. More>>

NZ Media In 2015: ‘Digital First’ Strategies Put Journalists Last

Journalism in New Zealand is threatened by the constant culling of editorial jobs and current affairs programmes… Additionally, journalists investigating issues which are in public interest have become under scrutiny as seen most clearly in the cases of Nicky Hager and Heather Du-Plessis Allen. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news