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26th May

  Calling for an amnesty for sex workers and their customers...

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Amnesty International formally adopts the policy to oppose the criminalisation of adult sex work
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amnesty international logo Amnesty International has published its policy and research on protecting sex workers from human rights violations and abuses.

Amnesty's new policy recommends the decriminalisation of consensual sex work, including those laws that prohibit associated activities -- such as bans on buying, soliciting and arranging and organising sex work.

Specifically, it urges governments to ensure protection of sex workers from harm, exploitation and coercion; to enable sex workers to participate in the development of laws that affect their lives and safety; an end to discrimination, access to education and employment options for all.

Amnesty's policy is the culmination of extensive worldwide consultations, analysis of substantive evidence, international human rights standards and first-hand research carried out over more than two years.

It is based on evidence that laws criminalising sex work often make workers less safe and provide impunity for abusers with workers often too scared of being penalised to report the crime to the police.

The policy also strongly reinforces Amnesty's position that forced labour, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking are abhorrent human rights abuses requiring concerted action and which, under international law, must be criminalised in every country.

Amnesty International's Senior Director for Law and Policy Tawanda Mutasah said:

Sex workers are at heightened risk of a whole host of human rights abuses including rape, violence, extortion and discrimination. Far too often they receive no, or very little, protection from the law or means for redress.

Our policy outlines how governments must do more to protect sex workers from violations and abuse. Our research highlights their testimony and the daily issues they face.

We want laws to be refocused on making sex workers' lives safer and improving the relationship they have with the police while addressing the very real issue of exploitation. We want governments to make sure no one is coerced to sell sex, or is unable to leave sex work if they choose to.

Protecting from exploitation and abuse

Laws on sex work should focus on protecting people from exploitation and abuse, rather than trying to ban all sex work and penalise sex workers.

Amnesty also published today research on the impact of sex work in Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Norway and Argentina which shows that sex workers often received no, or very little protection from abuse, or access to legal redress, even in countries where the act of selling sex itself is legal. This is in part due to criminalisation, which further endangers and marginalises them and impedes their ability to seek protection from violence and legal and social services.

Amnesty found that rather than focusing on protecting sex workers from violence and crime, law enforcement officials in many countries focus on prohibiting sex work through surveillance, harassment and raids.

Tawanda Mutasah added:

Sex workers have told us how criminalisation enables the police to harass them and not prioritise their complaints and safety.

In too many places around the world sex workers are without protection of the law, and suffering awful human rights abuses. This situation can never be justified. Governments must act to protect the human rights of all people, sex workers included. Decriminalisation is just one of several necessary steps governments can take to ensure protection from harm, exploitation and coercion.

Amnesty joins a large group of organisations from across a range of disciplines and areas of expertise who are supporting or calling for decriminalisation of consensual sex work. These include the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women; Global Commission on HIV and the Law; Human Rights Watch; UNAIDS; the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health; and World Health Organisation.

Our stance

Amnesty calls on governments to ensure:

  • All people can access their economic, social and cultural rights, education and employment options
  • An end to harmful gender stereotypes and all forms of discrimination and structural inequalities that can lead to marginalised groups selling sex in disproportionate numbers
  • A refocusing of sex work laws away from catch-all offences that criminalise most or all aspects of sex work towards laws that provide protection from coercion including trafficking, acts of exploitation and abuse, and prevent the involvement of children in commercial sex.
  • The removal of criminal and other punitive regulation of consensual sex work between adults which reinforces marginalisation, stigma and discrimination and can deny sex workers access to justice under the law.
  • The participation of sex workers in the development of laws and policies that directly affect their lives and safety.
  • Effective frameworks that allow people to leave sex work if and when they choose.
  • That sex workers have equal access to justice, health care and other public services, and equal protection under the law.


12th May

 Update: A load off their backs...

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Sex workers successfully challenge suffocating local morality licence fees
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state council belgium logo The State council in the district of Saint-Josse, Brussels, ordered the suspension of the police regulation of window sex work introduced on the 30th of November, 2015.

The regulation prohibited sex work activities from 23h to 7h and stated sex workers could not work on Sundays. Sex work was allowed only in four streets of the town. The regulation also required sex workers to obtain a certificate of conformity, which costs 2500 EUROS.

The spokesperson of the Belgian sex workers union UTSOPI Maxime Maes, stated:

In order to work in a window in Brussels, sex workers needed to buy the licence, it cost 2500 euros and it is valid for 5 years. Then the sex worker needed to pay 3000 euros every year to the municipality of Saint-Josse. Totally it makes 5500 euros. To pay this money an average sex worker needs 220 clients. It is a lot of money.

Five sex workers from the area filed a lawsuit for the suspension of the regulation before the Council of State.

The court found the certificates of conformity, the municipal administrative sanctions, and the enforced closing hours to be illegal. The town of Saint-Josse clearly committed an abuse of power by setting strict timetables during which sex work could take place. Vincent Letellier, the lawyer of the sex workers who lodged an action with the Council explained:

Individual districts are not competent enough to operate a licence system - for which you have to be a licence holder to be able to be a prostitute - or to issue regulation within the field of prostitution, accompanied by administrative penalties and closing hours, That is within the jurisdiction of the federal government to decide.


7th May

 Offsite Article: Stopping off for a quick facial...

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orchard towers simgapore The Daily Telegraph recommends 'beauty parlours', in Orchard Towers, Singapore

See article from


6th May

  Less fun in Phnom Penh...

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The Walkabout, fondly remembered as 'Cambodia's sleaziest bar' closes over lease issues
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walkabout phnom penh Phnom Penh's iconic Walkabout freelancer bar has closed after a price hike for lease renewal.

The hotel and bar known for its abundance of sex workers had operated 24 hours a day, including national holidays, since it opened in 1998. The closure marks another lost Phnom Penh expat institution, and a nail in the coffin of the city's Wild West image, according to longtime foreign residents and business owners.

Adam Parker, the editor of Bayon Pearnik , a foreigner-friendly magazine, once with offices above Walkabout, opined:

Phnom Penh is not the same -- it never will be. The office looked down into the bar, with a wall of glass windows. It was like a spectator sport, looking down on the menagerie downstairs. The world's strangest zoo.

For years, that zoo involved fairly usual suspects: foreign men and the Cambodian sex workers they came to meet. Patrons were free to rent the rooms upstairs. But in a city where prostitution wore a thin veil, the Walkabout still stood out in its upfront operation.

The bar contrasted with the growing number of hostess bars nearby: the sex workers were freelancers -- there was never a bar fine, according to Parker.

After a law that cracked down on prostitution -- and associated activities (advertising, transport, accommodation) -- went into effect in 2008, commercial sex work was rebranded as entertainment and relocated: to karaoke and hostess bars, a move critics argue put women at greater risk. Remaining brothels were shuttered, and bars like the Walkabout -- or, at one time, Sharky -- fell into a grey area.

The Walkabout never shed its reputation: it was at once derided and lauded as Cambodia's sleaziest bar in a Vice article in 2012. But in the end, the business suffered a familiar fate: when the lease was up, the landlord doubled the rent, according to former manager Yanna. They decided the venture was no longer worth it.


30th April

  As if anyone ever uses polite and respectful terms for sex workers and their customers...

Swedish magazine describes Thai sex workers as 'cheap pussy' and all hell breaks loose
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ottar 2016 Empower Thailand and the Thai Embassy in Sweden have both issued statements in response to the Swedish sexual politics magazine OTTAR. On the 3rd of March 2016, OTTAR published an interview with Kasja Ekis Ekman, which referred to Thai sex workers as cheap pussy.

Swedish Sex Worker Organisation, Rose Alliance contacted Empower Foundation and the Thai Embassy, alerting them of the statements that had been made.

In response, the Thai Ambassador to Sweden, Kiattikhun Chartprasert addressed a letter to the editor of OTTAR and asked for it to be published on the OTTAR website. The Thai Ambassador wanted OTTAR's readers to:

Exercise their own judgement about the writer's expression in this debate. In this letter, it was explained to OTTAR that the choice of word that the writer use[d] to describe women - billig fitta - had 'hurt and offended many people.' Chartprasert continued, Freedom of expression is not that one can just say anything in mind. It has to come with responsibility and respect [...] We would therefore like to express our disappointment and concern, in the strongest possible terms for the use of this inappropriate word by the writer.

Ekis Ekman elicited many questions from Empower Foundation. In Empower's statement they asked,

Is this how you talk about mothers and family providers in Sweden? Perhaps you don't know that most of our customers do not use revolting language like this to talk about us? Is this how women commonly refer to each other in Sweden? Perhaps you have never considered that a Swedish academic feminist has a responsibility to speak with respect about other women? Or is 'cheap pussy' accepted by Swedish feminists and journalists as a way to refer to Thai women?

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