The Right(s) Evidence – Sex work, violence and HIV in Asia (UNDP, UNFPA, APNSW, SANGRAM, 2015)


Six groups of sex workers in four countries collaborated with UN Agencies and civil society groups to conduct peer-led research into violence against sex workers. The study took place in Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Nepal, and is published as a full report, and as a summary (both pdf).

The main findings of the qualitative research were:

  • Sex workers in all study sites experienced physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence which has lifelong and life-threatening consequences for their physical, mental and sexual health.

  • Sex workers experienced specific types of violence because of their work, such as sexual extortion and harassment by the police for carrying condoms.

  • Police personnel and clients were the most commonly cited people who used violence against sex workers, across study sites and gender categories.

  • Police violence fueled impunity and increased sex workers’ vulnerability to client violence.

  • Criminalization of various aspects of sex work and male-to-male sex as well as law enforcement practices increased the incidence of violence by promoting impunity, pushing sex work underground, reducing sex workers’ ability to negotiate safe work practices and by increasing stigma and discrimination.

  • Sex workers experienced specific forms of violence even outside their work setting because of their work, such as violence and harassment by neighbors and the general public and discrimination and abuse in health settings.

  • Safe workplaces, including those with more well-defined workplace safety frameworks, decent work conditions, responsible and responsive establishment owners or managers and supportive employers and co-workers reduced the risk of violence and HIV.

  • Collectivization, strong sex worker-led networks and individual access to knowledge and skills to conduct sex work more safely.