Sex Workers in Bangladesh hold national conference

Sex Workers in Bangladesh hold national conference

HARC, the HIV/AIDS Research and Welfare Centre organized a national sex workers conference in Dhaka Bangladesh on 17th and 18th July 2017. Over 100 sex workers attended this two-day conference with the theme “Nothing for us without us.” Red Umbrella Fund supported the event.

Authorities in Hanoi, Vietnam, plan 'Biggest Crackdown Ever' for 2017

Authorities in Vietnam are reported to be planning their "biggest crackdown ever"against the sex industry in 2017. They say the want to help sex workers find new jobs. However, organisations such as ILO Vietnam have pointed out that this approach fails to address the needs of sex workers and ignores the findings of research.

Raid in Cambodia Led to the Death of Pen Kunthea

In January, 33-year-old mother Pen Kunthea drowned when she slipped and hit her head while jumping between boats to run away from district security guards. She was left to drown. There have been calls for systematic change, accountability and justice to be served in Cambodia following her death.

India: Over 2000 sex workers sign National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) Statement, 25 Jan 2017

India: Over 2000 sex workers sign National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) Statement, 25 Jan 2017

The National Network of Sex Workers has released a statement challenging the conference being organised by the "The Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution International (Cap Intl)." The statement has been signed by over 2000 sex workers in India who reject the conflation of trafficking with sex work, and the conflation of sex work with violence.

Resourced and organised: achieving formal recognition of sex workers' skills in Australia

Resourced and organised: achieving formal recognition of sex workers' skills in Australia

The Scarlet Alliance National Training and Assessment Program (SANTAP) provides a unique example of how sex workers have pro-actively responded to stigma, discrimination, and ignorance about our profession.

"Making education safe for all" in Sonagachi, India

"Making education safe for all" in Sonagachi, India

Sex workers in Sonagachi, West Bengal, in India have taken a number of initiatives to improve education of sex workers and sex workers’ children. They include adult literacy and numeracy classes for sex workers, primary schools for young children of sex workers, a boarding hostel with private tuition for older children, and a co-operative banking system.

Introducing: Sex Worker Network SON, South Korea

Introducing: Sex Worker Network SON, South Korea

In August 2016 Sex Worker Network SON announced their new sex worker led network in South Korea. The network’s initial activities include offering legal support for members after police entrapment or crackdowns, and meeting together to share their experiences and support each other.

Taiwanese Sex Workers Protest for Decriminalisation

Taiwanese Sex Workers Protest for Decriminalisation

On the 18 of October, COSWAS, sex workers and allies held a protest outside the Taipei City Government. Protesters asked for the decriminalisation of sex work, for an end to illegal entrapment practices targeting sex workers, and for the government to stop ignoring sex workers. They are asking for safe and legal places to work.

Midnight Blue protests mistreatment of arrested transgender sex workers

Midnight Blue protests mistreatment of arrested transgender sex workers

Midnight Blue followed the cases of more than 40 transgender sex workers who were arrested in Hong Kong over a period of four years. They found that the actions of law enforcement agencies seriously infringed the human rights of sex workers, and caused them significant psychological and emotional harm.

Midnight Blue protest outside Turkish Consulate, Hong Kong

Midnight Blue protest outside Turkish Consulate, Hong Kong

On 23rd August, Midnight Blue joined in a protest outside the Turkish Consulate in Hong Kong. The protestors called for justice for Hande Kader, a transgender sex worker in Turkey who was brutally murdered earlier the same month. Midnight Blue, an NGO who works with male and transgender sex workers, also highlighted the abuses suffered by sex workers around the world and in Hong Kong.

Indian Sex Workers Critical of new Anti-Trafficking Bill

Sex workers’ organisations have raised concerns about a new anti-trafficking bill in India, called the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill. Women and Child Development minister Maneka Gandhi introduced the bill in India on the 31st of May.Despite requests to be included in the process, the bill was not drafted with sex workers or sex worker-led organisations. Mukta, Uttara Karnataka Mahila Okkuta and members of National Network of Sex Workers, India, told media:
“we continue to be kept out of drafting processes, though it is well known that [we] are victims of badly drafted anti-trafficking laws and policies and NGOs who want to rescue us. We call on the Minister to include us in all consultation."

At least 35 women from the National Network of Sex Workers recently attended a three-day consultation in Bangalore on the draft Bill. The draft Bill was translated into Marathi, Kannada and Malayalam, with Telugu and Tamil translation offered during the consultation. The women who attended gave extensive recommendations, which will be passed on to the Ministry.The draft bill aims to prohibit trafficking of persons while ensuring that victims receive protection and rehabilitation. However, there has been criticism about the lack of definitions in the Bill. Activists are worried that the Bill will be used to further marginalise people who are perceived as victims of human trafficking, or that human trafficking will be conflated with sex work.Human Rights Lawyer, Kaushik Gupta has described how “… an individual from a financially backward environment who is interested in moving to a different state for the purpose of a better livelihood might be restricted from migrating by local village panchayats in the name of ‘prevention and protection.’ Due to the lack of definite understanding of the terminology, it will be impossible to hold the State accountable regarding the steps they propose to take against trafficking.”

“There is no definition of ‘trafficking’ anywhere in the bill”

“There is no definition of ‘trafficking’ anywhere in the bill,” said Smarajit Jana, advisor to the DMSC. “The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act defines trafficking in one way, while Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code has a different definition. And the bill is completely silent about this.”Sex workers and sex worker-led organisations have expressed concerns about the focus of the draft Bill. The Bill identifies how the crime of trafficking should be dealt with. The Bill describes the formation of committees, special courts, and rehabilitation services. However, the Bill does not define human trafficking or describe what the penalties will be if a person is found guilty.Bharathi, General Secretary of Karnataka Sex Workers Union and member of National Network of Sex Workers made statements to the media, explaining, “no one should be sent to the Corrective Homes forcibly. The consent of the victim should be taken. The corrective homes should provide counseling services. The corrective homes should keep major and minors separately."Sex worker activists are also concerned about the final section of the draft Bill, which states that the new Act would override all other laws on the subject. Aarthi Pai, a lawyer with Sangram asked, “where does the draft bill stand vis-a-vis the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act? It is not clear, and it does not clarify what happens in the event of a clash in the provisions of the two laws.”The Women and Child Development ministry is accepting suggestions and objections to the Bill from the public up until the 30th of June, and various social workers and non-profits are already preparing to send in their objections.

 

New Law in Mumbai Negatively Impacts Dancers

Dancers in Mumbai are apprehensive about new laws that passed on the 13th of April 2016. The new laws have stringent conditions that limit dancers’ ability to earn a decent wage. The new laws do not address many of the concerns that Bar Dancers have raised.Bar Dancers were not consulted or listened to says Varsha Kale, honorary president of the bar girls’ union in Mumbai, India. The bar girls union has been fighting the ban in the courts but say they have been treated like children and ignored.The new laws dictate a number of restrictions. These restrictions include:
  • 3 feet high railing separating the dance floor from the seating area;
  • At least 5 feet between the railing and the customers;
  • No more than 4 performers to take to the stage at any time.

The Indian Express News reported that as of the 14th of May, only 3 bars have been issued licenses allowing them to open. They had to meet all of the requirements of the new laws.One former bar dancer, quoted in a Hindustani Times article explained, “the rules just show that the government has no understanding of our problems and issues. Rather than throttling us like this, why don’t they just say it: they won’t allow our bars to function.”Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis admitted in March that the state’s intention in passing the new law was to ensure that dance bars do not survive.The new laws also state that dancers must receive a fixed salary and will not be able to directly receive tips. Instead, tips will need to be added to the customer’s bill. This is a step backwards for dancers, who fought hard to end fixed salaries nearly 20 years ago.In 1997 Bar Dancers won the fight against fixed salaries. “We realised that customers were spending many times our monthly wages on us in a single night, all of which went to the owner. We demanded a share of these tips, and the arrangement still stands in the orchestra bars,” says Jonelle, a 31-year-old dancer-turned-singer at a Koparkhairane bar.Jonelle, Sonia and Priyanka, all former or current bar dancers quoted in Hindustani times, were fearful of the new laws. Jonelle said that of all the new laws, the most amusing rule was the one stipulating that a woman’s consent must be obtained in writing by the bar before they work after 9.30 p.m.Sonia, spoke of her fear that police harassment would intensify. “They [police] come in every few weeks to check for drugs or signs of prostitution. They round us up, threaten our manager, say they’ll arrest the customers,” she said. She also expressed concern about her wages being affected by not getting to keep tips.  “With a fixed salary, we’ll be dancing all night and still unable to sustain ourselves.”“We need to earn our livelihoods through this profession,” explained Priyanka, “The government must understand this simple fact and let us be.”It is not only the bar dancers that have been ignored by lawmakers. The laws also ignore key recommendations made in a study published in 2006 conducted by Mumbai’s SNDT Women’s University along with the Forum Against Oppression of Women (FAOW). Their key recommendations to the government included fix norms for minimum wage, improve sanitation in their workplaces, make sure dancers have transport home after their shifts.Sujata Gothoskar, a researcher with FAOW who was part of the study explained that the new rules do not address any of these recommendations.Gothoskar made her disappointment clear, stating, “the government must stop treating these women like infants while simultaneously showing complete disregard for the real issues they face.”The Supreme Court will hear bar owners’ plea on the 7th of July 2016.