News / Asia

UN Report Calls for Decriminalization of Prostitution in Asia

A night scene of the red-light district in south Pattaya in Chonburi province, 70 kilometers south of Bangkok (2000 file photo).
A night scene of the red-light district in south Pattaya in Chonburi province, 70 kilometers south of Bangkok (2000 file photo).
TEXT SIZE - +
Gabrielle Paluch
— Results of the first U.N. study examining how the criminalization of prostitution has affected the lives of sex workers across Asia and worsened HIV epidemics have been released. 

The U.N. surveyed sex workers in 48 countries across Asia to determine how prostitution laws affect the safety and health of prostitutes and their families.

Lack of rights

Noi Chantawipa Apisuk runs a foundation for sex workers in Thailand called EMPOWER.  She says sex workers in the country can earn enough money to support their families, but they lack the legal protections given to workers in other industries.  She has been lobbying the Thai government to change that.

"Sex work is work, and entertainment work is business," she said.  "Entertainment workers are protected under the labor law, like manufacturing sector workers, agricultural sector workers.  So if we recognize it, if they have problems it can be solved by employer and employee in the labor court rather than go to the police."

HIV protection

Researchers say in places where prostitution is banned, sex workers are especially vulnerable because their work is stigmatized and illegal.  They argue that removing legal penalties for prostitution allows for better access to health checkups and treatment programs.

The acting director of the U.N. HIV Health and Development Practice, Dr. Mandeep Dhaliwal, says there is evidence some governments are making progress towards changing laws that are hampering effective HIV prevention.

She applauded Vietnam and China for stopping programs that detained sex workers and their children.  In Cambodia and Burma, governments have asked police to stop harassing prostitutes.  But she says there are still many contradictory policies that pose public health risks.

"On the one hand, you spend millions of dollars providing condoms to prevent HIV transmission, and then on the other hand you have police confiscating condoms or using condoms as evidence to arrest or harass sex workers.  It is an absurd contradiction that is costing people's lives," said Dhaliwal.

Less punitive approach

Human rights lawyer and author of the report John Godwin says countries that endorse a less punitive approach also minimize human-rights violations and health risks.  He says grass roots efforts to work with police and local authorities are making progress in carving out a healthy work environment for sex workers.

"Initiatives that are community led, who are actually organizing themselves to have a dialogue with the police and local authorities to improve their conditions of work.  They are having de-facto support of the authorities to work in healthier situations, to work without police harassment.  You are seeing successes, as I said, in Calcutta," said Godwin.

Besides India, the report also singles out Papua New Guinea, Mongolia, Thailand, Fiji, Laos and the Philippines for making progress on laws that improve efforts to treat and contain HIV.

While researchers say decriminalizing sex work in those countries would further improve the situation for prostitutes - the situation is different in Indonesia.  There, although prostitution is not illegal, the U.N. says sex workers are routinely abused by law enforcement agencies and discriminated against by the public and the government.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid