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 **
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
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.