Sex Work and Human Rights

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Bundesrat demands objective debate and differentiated measures amid plans to reform Prostitution Act

Bundesrat (Photo: campsmum / Patrick Jayne and Thomas)

Resolution about measures to regulate prostitution

Last Friday, the Upper House of the German Parliament, the Bundesrat, passed a resolution calling for an objective debate and differentiated measures amid plans by the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats to reform the German Prostitution Act of 2002 (ProstG).

Continue reading at Research Project Germany

Research Project Germany

Research Project Korea Germany

Goodbye, Research Project Korea!

Research Project Korea was an independent research project by Matthias Lehmann to examine the impact of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Law on sex workers’ human rights. The project was unaffiliated to any university or organisation and funded exclusively by private funds and donations.

Research Project Korea published a photo series by Yeoni Kim and a letter by Hyeri Lee to provide readers with first-hand insights into the lives and work of sex workers in South Korea. Research findings were presented at a symposium at Humboldt University of Berlin and at another symposium at the Urania Berlin. It is intended to integrate the findings into an academic publication in the near future.

As of March 2014, Research Project Korea has concluded, although additional articles will be added in the future, e.g. in regards to the outcome of the ongoing constitutional review of the Anti-Sex Trade Law, so please return to check for updates.

Hello, Research Project Germany!

Matthias Lehmann is currently preparing his doctoral research project at the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University Belfast. It will deal with the regulation of prostitution in Germany. There is a new website and a new Facebook page for this project, whereas the Twitter account and all video and audio repositories stay the same. Click the image below to visit the new website. All information will be provided in English.

Get Connected Page

Thank you

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all sex workers who have placed their trust in me during the course of this research project, to my superb research team for all their hard work, and to all followers for their generous support and continued interest. Thanks to all of you, it was possible to bring the situation of sex workers in South Korea to the attention of a wider public and to contribute to more meaningful discourses about sex work and prostitution laws in South Korea and elsewhere. I am forever in your debt.

Matthias Lehmann,
March 25th, Belfast

Final Update

Final Update now available! If you wish to receive Research Project Korea’s final update, please leave a comment below or send an email to yongsagisa [at] gmail.com.

Letztes Update jetzt erhältlich! Wenn Sie gerne das letzte Update des Forschungsprojekts Korea erhalten möchten, hinterlassen Sie bitte einen Kommentar oder senden eine Email an yongsagisa [at] gmail.com.

SPIEGEL Rebuttal Goes Korea

Der Spiegel 22.2013 Mock English Korean - Image by Matthias LehmannThe story so far

In May 2013, leading German news magazine DER SPIEGEL published a cover story on the alleged failure of the German prostitution law which, according to DER SPIEGEL, rendered the State complicit in human trafficking. Contrary to South Korea, prostitution is legal in Germany, though it is heavily regulated in most municipalities.

Since its publication, the SPIEGEL article has been quoted by campaigners for the criminalisation of prostitution in many parts of the world. Most recently, Mary Honeyball, a member of the European Parliament for the British Labour Party, cited the article as evidence in her “Report on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality”. The Honeyball Report was subsequently voted upon in the European Parliament, despite strong opposition from 560 NGOs as well as 94 academics and researchers who published a counter-report exposing the inaccurate and misrepresentative data used by Mary Honeyball.

Notwithstanding, a majority of MEPs backed the report, which was adopted as a non-binding resolution, thus formally establishing the EU’s stance on prostitution as being in support of the ‘Swedish Model’ that criminalises the buyers of sexual services.

Back in June 2013, Sonja Dolinsek and Matthias Lehmann had published a critique of the SPIEGEL article, which they found to be deeply flawed and failing to address numerous relevant aspects of human trafficking prevention and prosecution, including victim protection.

Noticing that the SPIEGEL article had found its way into the Korean news media, Research Project Korea launched a small fundraiser to have the critique translated into Korean. Nearly 90% of the funding target were reached quickly and the translation was completed at the end of June. The real challenge, however, was just beginning.

The plan to place the translated article in a Korean newspaper proved to be extremely difficult. Many editorial staff didn’t even bother to reply, but eventually, one of the biggest dailies expressed interest. The editorial department even planned to expand the article to include comments from sex workers and feminist academics. After protracted correspondence – months would literally pass by until the research team received new responses – it then suddenly transpired via a contact that the article wouldn’t be published after all. A journalist from the newspaper later confirmed this, without giving any reasons.

Self-Publication

Although a lot of time has passed, we have now decided to self-publish the article, since the constitutional review of the Anti-Sex Trade Law in South Korea has still not concluded; a second reason is the significance the SPIEGEL article appears to retain for prostitution law discourses, especially outside Germany, where, long after the print edition has been recycled, it finds acceptance as unrefuted truth and continues to be utilised by anti-prostitution activists. It is currently disseminated on Korean online forums to insert some much-needed factual evidence into prostitution discourses in South Korea.

To view the Korean version of our article, please click here.

The research team would like to express its deepest gratitude to the generous donors who helped fund the translation as well as to the translators, Miss CHO Woori, Miss SONG Byol and [Anonymous].

Autonomy and Heteronomy in Sex Work

Für die deutsche Version dieses Beitrags bitte hier klicken.
For the German version of this post, please click here.

Presentations at Humboldt University of Berlin

In March 2013, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation at a symposium at Humboldt University of Berlin. The presentation was titled “Sex Crime” or “Sexual Self-Determination”? and dealt with prostitution discourses in South Korea and their negative impacts on sex workers. This presentation was part of a session titled “Autonomy and Heteronomy in Sex Work”. The second presenter in this session was Ms. Noémi Katona who gave a presentation titled “Coercion, Money, and Intimacy: Hungarian Sex Workers and their Pimps/Boyfriends at Kurfürstenstraße”. In February 2014, podcasts of these and other presentations were made available by the organisers and the above video contains an updated version of my slides and combined it with the podcast. Click here to listen to Noémi Katona’s presentation and here to listen to our joint Q & A session. For all other podcasts, please click here. Please note that this video and all podcasts are available in German only and that their audio quality, on which we had no influence, is sadly below par.

“Human Trafficking in the 21st Century”

Despite heightened public attention to “human trafficking”, the definition of this phenomenon remains difficult and contested. On March 22nd and 23rd, 2013, the symposium “Hurt Lives – Denied Rights. Human Trafficking in the 21st Century” took place at Humboldt University Berlin. Next to academic and field experts, young researchers showcased their work in presentations and workshops. The symposium was sponsored by the Humboldt-Universitäts-Gesellschaft e.V. (Humboldt University‘s Association of Friends, Alumni and Sponsors).

Verletzte Leben - Verwehrte Rechte - Programme

Jasmine and Dora 4-Ever

End Violence Against Sex Workers

This video chronicles the efforts of sex worker communities and their allies to memorialise Dora Özer and Petite Jasmine. Dora was a 24-year-old trans sex worker in Turkey, Jasmine was a 27-year-old sex worker in Sweden. Both were murdered in a matter of days in July 2013.

This video is launched at a time when the European Parliament debates about and votes on whether to recommend EU member states to criminalise the clients of sex workers and the buying of sexual services. This system is known as the Swedish Model, which numerous studies, e.g. by member organisations of the United Nations or the World Health Organisation, have found to have serious consequences for the health and safety of sex workers.

“Laws that criminalize sex work and the sex industry should be reviewed, taking into account the adverse impact of these laws on public health and the human rights of sex workers. To enable sex workers to fully enjoy legal rights to health and safety at work requires decriminalization. Decriminalization of sex work requires the repeal of: a. laws explicitly criminalizing sex work or clients of sex workers…” – UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA. “Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific” (UNDP, 2012)

The “criminalization of sex work contributes to an environment, in which violence against sex workers is tolerated, leaving them less likely to be protected from it”. – WHO “Violence against sex workers and HIV prevention” Information Bulletin Series, Number 3 (2005)

In the aftermath of the murders of Dora and Jasmine, sex workers and allies organised protests in front of Swedish and Turkish embassies in 36 cities on 4 continents. The video includes impressions from these protests as well as an interview with Petite Jasmine by Carol Leigh and Pye Jakobsson during the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington.

“Often when I talk about what I think is important, that people who sell sex should be accepted and have a place in society like everybody else, there are many that say that it would never be accepted by society. But it wasn’t long ago that people said the same thing about unwed mothers, gays, transsexuals – pretty much everyone that was outside this frame of normality. I think, if we all tried real hard not to discriminate, like we have done with other minorities, things will develop pretty fast, like it has with other groups. That’s what I believe in.” – Eva Marree Smith Kullander (Petite Jasmine)


For further information, please click here to visit the official website for the “International Day of Protest to End Violence Against Sex Workers – In memoriam of Jasmine and Dora”. The protests were coordinated by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE).

To view a photo album about the global protests for Jasmine and Dora, please click here.

This video was posted with kind permission from Carol Leigh. For further details, please click here to view the video and a statement by Carol Leigh on Vimeo.

#HoneyballNO

HoneyballNO - Image by Research Project Korea

560 NGOs and 94 academics reject report by Mary Honeyball

560 NGOs, including 472 based in Europe, have asked the members of the European Parliament to reject a “Report on Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation and its Impact on Gender Equality”, written by Mary Honeyball, MEP for London. They were joined by 94 academics and researchers from Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific, who published a letter and a critical review of Mary Honeyball’s report, which will be voted upon during a plenary session on the 26th of February 2014 at the European Parliament. The report recommends member states to adopt the so-called “Swedish Model”, which criminalises buying sexual services, whereas selling them remains legal (but very often criminalised in practice).

+++ Update! In an email to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), dated February 24th, 2014, Mary Honeyball has slandered the above NGOs as being “comprised of pimps”. Click here to view a screenshot of the email. +++

Academics criticise use of biased, inaccurate and disproven data

Responding to an initiative by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE), the letter and critical review, signed by 94 academics and researchers, contradicts Mary Honeyball’s claim, made in a recent interview on LBC Radio, that her report had “a good basis of evidence and facts”.

The letter states, “We are concerned that this report is not of an acceptable standard on which to base a vote that would have such a serious, and potentially dangerous, impact on already marginalised populations.” It continues, “The report by Ms Honeyball fails to address the problems and harms that can surround sex work and instead produces biased, inaccurate and disproven data. We believe that policies should be based on sound evidence and thus hope that you will vote against the motion to criminalise sex workers’ clients.”

The critical review attests to Mary Honeyball’s “selection biases and crude misassumptions” and finds that she “substantively misinterpreted” two of her sources, namely a report commissioned by the City of Amsterdam and the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice and another by the German Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.

The letter concludes, “To base any policy on such a methodologically flawed document, particularly one which would have such a detrimental impact on the human rights and wellbeing of a large number of marginalised individuals, would be setting a dangerous precedent.”

Click here to view or download the letter and counter-report.

NGOs denounce conflation of sex work and human trafficking

The letter endorsed by 560 NGOs, among them many organisations working with victims of human trafficking and migrant sex workers, denounces Mary Honeyball’s report for its conflation of sex work and trafficking. Citing a 2013 report by the Dutch National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking in Human Beings, the authors remind the MEPs that “there is no evidence that legalised prostitution increases trafficking”.

The letter continues, “A large number of HIV and health organisations have warned policy makers of the dangers of criminalising either sex workers or their clients. Worryingly, the question of public health is largely ignored in this report. We quote UNAIDS Advisory Group on HIV and Sex Work in their 2011 report to accompany the UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work (2009): ‘States should move away from criminalising sex work or activities associated with it . Decriminalisation of sex work should include removing criminal penalties for purchase and sale of sex, management of sex workers and brothels, and other activities related to sex work.’”

Click here to view or download the letter.

Click here to view a separate statement by the La Strada International NGO Platform – ‘united against trafficking in human beings’ – which consists of NGOs from Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, and Ukraine.

What can you do?

Click here to sign the petition and tell members of the European Parliament to say NO to the criminalisation of sex workers’ clients.

ICRSE LogoWrite to your MEP. If you live in one off the 28 members country of the European Union, you can directly write to your MEP. ICRSE has put together a guide to action for individuals and organisations. It includes versions in italiano, deutsch, español, român, português, polski, suomalainen,  and francais.

If you are using social networking sites, please click here to spread the word by changing your Facebook profile photo or here for a Facebook cover photo or here for a Twitter Header.

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