[Documents menu] Documents menu
Date: Sun, 2 Mar 97 00:02:59 CST
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Bangkok Conference Stresses Rights, Dignity of Sex Workers

/** headlines: 129.0 **/
** Topic: Bangkok Conference Stresses Rights, Dignity of Sex Workers **
** Written 10:19 PM Feb 28, 1997 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
Press Release
24 February 1997

Asia Pacific Women's Meeting Declares: Recognize the Work, Dignity and Human Rights of Women in Prostitution

Asia Pacific Women's Consultation on Prostitution press release
24 February 1997

The Asia Pacific Women's Consultation on Prostitution held in Bangkok concluded last week with the forging of a commitment to support the recognition of prostitution as work and the promotion and protection of the human rights and dignity of women in prostitution.

In a statement, human rights activists, sex workers, lawyers and academics who participated in the two-day meeting held on 17-18 February 1997, defined all labor performed by women in the sex industry as work and recognized women in prostitution as workers.

"Much of women's work in the domestic and reproductive spheres has been invisible and devalued", the statement read. "As such, there is an urgent need to recognize the reproductive labor of women as work in various sites", including women's work in prostitution.

"The acceptance and recognition of prostitution as work is to recognize and validate the reality of women who are working in prostitution", the statement read.

To this end, the statement also advocated for the "decriminalization of prostitutes as workers and of prostitution as a site of work".

The statement rejected the view that sex work is per se exploitation. "Sex work is not the problem' abuse, violence and criminality are the social problems", the statement read.

Fifty participants from 20 coutnries in Asia and the Pacific also criticised governments for "failing to recognize the rights of all women to work under safe and humane conditions", including those in the sex industry. "We hold governments accountable for ignoring the abuses and exploitative conditions under which women must work in the sex industry", the statement read.

The statement also pointed out that "stigmatisation of women working in prostitution has kept their legitimate concerns, including situations of abuse, in the shadows, away from the attention of mainstream human rights organizations, feminist groups, and society and general.

The participants further said that society's stigmatisation of women in prostitution as immoral and evil women pits "good" women against "bad", deterring all women from recognising their common vulnerability and the manner in which they are actually or potentially labeled as "whores". Participants therefore committed to work to erase the "stigmatisation of women engaged in prostitution and to have their full dignity, integrity and rights recognised as workers and citizens or civil society.

Nelia Sancho, women's rights activist and coordinator of the Asian Women's Human Rights Council-Manila who participated in the meeting, said the stigma largely attached to women in prostitution only mirrors the low status and opinion society confers on all women in general. Sex workers receive some of the most extreme forms of degradation, abuse and violence that all women are vulnerable to, said Sancho, by virtue of social, political and economic structures that generally devalue, or render invisible women's work, individuality and contributions.

Sancho said prostitution must be situated within the realities of the intensification of powerlessness, especially among women and girls, and the widening poverty and marginalization of people and communities brought about by the growth of a global market economy. As big business corporations manipulate the world's economies for bigger and bigger profits for themselves, the lives and human rights of more and more people living in the fringes of society as well as poor communities are sacrificed. In this situation, more and more women are incorporated into work in the sex industry, largely in situations of abuse, violence and criminality aggravated by the non-recognition of the work and dignity of women in prostitution.

The Asia Pacific Women's Statement called on governments to apply and enforce existing labor, occupation and safety laws to the sex industry, and if necessary, create new regulations to protect the women in consultation with the women themselves.

[World History Archives]     [Gateway to World History]     [Images from World History]     [Hartford Web Publishing]