New street signs showing a busty woman waiting beside a lamp post are being painted on the pavements of Basel, Switzerland, to show sex workers the zone where they can legally ply their trade.
The signs are aimed at keeping sex workers inside the tolerance zone
in the city's Kleinbasel district. About 50 work outdoors in the area designated as legal for street soliciting.
Basel's security and justice department said in a statement:
There is a high turnover of
street workers in that part of the city. But many are from Eastern Europe, which can make it difficult to convey the rules they must obey. So we hope these signs will make it very clear where they can and can not tout for business.
A majority of Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Netherlands are supporting plans to make it an offence to pay for sex if sex workers are known or suspected to be victims of human trafficking. Sex work itself is legal in Holland.
Under the proposed
law, clients will face prosecution if they could be shown to have had a serious suspicion that the sex worker was working under duress. Similar laws are in place in countries such as Sweden, Finland and parts of the United Kingdom.
Finland, where a similar law was introduced in 2015, it has made it harder to investigate trafficking. Jaana Kauppinen, who runs the sex worker-led organisation Pro-Tukipiste, says the new law is a failure:
attempt to buy sex is a punishable offence, the client has broken the law even if he turns and walks out the door and would have wanted to inform the police. The buyer no longer has the chance to look out for signs of human trafficking in those initial
stages, she says.
Detective chief sergeant Kenneth Eriksson, who has worked with sex workers for almost twenty years, says that prosecuting someone who gives police information about a human trafficker is nonsensical.
Of course there is always the risk that a client is scared of being prosecuted. Some people could, from now on, keep quiet, although we do have clients calling us sometimes and passing on information, even now.
If a client sees a sex worker is in some way being controlled and informs police, I would go so far as to say, at least with the situation in the capital, that that client should not be prosecuted. He has brought the problem to the authorities'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
A majority of the lower house of Dutch parliament wants to make it illegal to have sex with prostitutes that were forced into the profession. Though the parties are still arguing on how exactly to word such a legislative proposal.
The initial proposal
stated that a prostitute's customer can be punished if there is a reasonable suspicion of forced prostitution.
The proposal was then adjusted to state that a customer can be prosecuted if there is a serious suspicion of exploitation.
After the adjustment, the GroenLinks party threw its support behind the proposal, increasing support for the proposal to a narrow majority of 76 seats.
The SGP party , however, thinks that the adjustment makes the law substantially weaker and is
considering withdrawing support.
The VVD at least will not give their support. MP Foort van Oosten said.
For us it is important how far a client could know that there was human trafficking involved. The proposal
talks about 'suspicion'. For us that is too vague and criminalizes the client of a legal profession.
The question that must be answered is whether 'serious suspicion' can be sufficiently determined. For us that is still not
The French parliament is set to rubber stamp a nasty new law to endanger sex workers and criminalise their customers
The stand-out measure from the bill and the one that has caused the most controversy is the law that will see clients fined if they
are caught paying for sex. Under the plan, customers will be fined up to 1,500 euro and up to 3,750 euro for repeat offenders. Presumably France does not have the concept of incitement to commit a crime.
A period of grace will also be introduced
so clients will not immediately be fined, but they will be expected to take heed of the new law.
The measure has not only been criticised by sex workers, who fear they will become victim to yet more violence, stigmatization and poverty but
also by police, charities and rights groups, who doubt it will have the desired impact in reducing prostitution.
The second measure in the bill will repeal of the law that made passive soliciting illegal, ie dressing to attract customers. This
measure has been largely welcomed by all sides.
These new bodies that will come under the authority of the council in each of France's Apartements will be tasked with coordinating action to help sex workers and to tackle trafficking.
France is to make it illegal to pay for sex after MPs approved new legislation on prostitution following more than two years of rows and opposition by senators.
Under the new law, anyone caught purchasing an act from a
sex worker will be fined and required to attend classes on the harms of prostitution.
There would be a 1,500 euro (£1,200) fine for a first offence, rising to 3,750 euros for a second, which would also be put on the person's criminal record. The
victim would be forced to attend classes highlighting the supposed harms of prostitution.
The law was passed by 64 votes to 12 with many MPs absent.
The French union of sex workers are protesting against the repressive bill that imposes fines on clients paying for sex.
Sex workers in France expressed their dismay protesting outside the National Assembly on 6 April. According to the
union of sex workers STRASS, the law will make the nearly 30,000 sex workers in France more vulnerable.
Amsterdam's borough council of Zuid is to ask people who use the area's massage salons about their experiences, in an effort to find out if they are offering 'happy endings'
Council wardens are also to keep watch on salons which are suspected
of offering happy endings . It is the first time city officials will have taken an undercover approach to dealing with massage salons, according to the Parool newspaper.
Over the past year, nine addresses in Zuid were checked by
council inspectors and nine were closed down for periods of three months. One case, which centres on an internet review by a satisfied customer, is still pending in court. In total, checks were carried out on 22 massage salons, mainly operated by Thai
and Chinese nationals.
The closures are the result of a major effort to clamp down on massage parlours which also offer prostitutes and so compete with licenced brothels.
South Korea's constitutional court has upheld repressive laws establishing extreme punishment for sex workers and their customers.
The 2004 legislation drove thousands of sex workers in traditional red-light zones out of business in South Korea, but
prostitution has still thrived in the shadows. Sex workers have occasionally held rallies calling for the laws' abolishment.
The constitutional Court decided to uphold a provision that makes it a criminal offence to voluntarily sell or buy sex,
punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of 3 million won ($2,600).
The ruling was made in response to a compliant by a female sex worker, who argued people have the right to choose their occupation.
A court statement said that the
government could deny such individual rights to prevent exploitation and protect moral values. The court claimed that decriminalizing prostitution would inspire an explosive growth in sex trade, threaten the stability of South Korea's society and economy
and inspire disorderly sexual behaviour.
Critics of the anti-prostitution laws say they limit women's freedom over their bodies. They also say that tougher punishment has made sex work more dangerous for women by creating a thriving underground
industry in which they sell sex at bars, apartment rooms and through social media and dating apps, which often leaves them more vulnerable to abusive customers and pimps.