Sex Workers Unite

My short piece the other day on a Cambodian protest by Sex Workers against their criminalization, brutalization, and the abuse they therefore increasingly suffer at the hands of police has received tons of hits, most owing – no doubt – to the mere presence of the word ‘sex’ in the title.

More good sex worker news comes to us today courtesy of DAS.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is a hit with the girls.

Sex workers from around the world unfurled a banner reading “Sex workers support Ban Ki Moon” during his speech at the opening plenary of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. Sex workers thank United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki moon for his support of their efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

On March 26, 2008, the Report of the Commission on AIDS in Asia was released with a statement from the Secretary General. This excellent report calls for the decriminalization of sex work, and counsels governments and other actors to, “Avoid programmes that accentuate AIDS-related stigma and can be counterproductive. Such programmes may include ‘crack-downs’ on red-light areas and arrest of sex workers.” Realistic efforts to include affected populations including sex workers are critical to combat the spread of HIV – in fact, sex workers are generally leaders in sexual health when their human rights are respected.

Righteous. DAS also referred to this excellent video, which interviews a number of people involved in various aspects of sex work – from sex workers themselves to a few of their advocates. Powerful stuff, and very worth watching.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=977233&dest=-1]

A refusal to be ashamed can be a heroic move. Bravo. Here’s some links:

Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW)

Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)


Sex Workers Unite

AP Press Photo

I don’t normally deal with sex work here, instead preferring to stick to areas somewhat closer to home. But, since I dumped on someone else’s laudable intentions to help sex workers in Cambodia recently, perhaps I’m due. Much more importantly, Cambodia Sex Workers took collective action the other day, in a courageous way that I hope foreshadows the future.

One of my constant frustrations in talking to Americans about Cambodia is the ubiquity of two particular stereotypes: First, that Cambodia is a land of trauma and skulls, and Second, that Cambodia is a land of ubiquitous sex for sale, especially sex with children.

Of course, there’s a fair amount of truth in both statements: Cambodia has, and continues, to experience a massive amount of trauma (of course, the secondary issue there is that the continuing and contemporary traumas receive almost no attention compared to historical traumas). Cambodia also has a booming and predatory sex work industry.

So, whenever I see stories like that from Kate Hardy on Sex Workers uniting in Cambodia to protest the recent police crackdowns, I’m thrilled. The United States has recently upgraded the Human Trafficking status of Cambodia for the first time since 2006, due to a massive and unrestrained police crackdown. Continue reading