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In Pictures: 2017 Sex Workers’ Protest in Seoul

“We are the sex workers of Korea! Repeal the Anti-Sex Trade Laws!”

On October 24, 2017, sex workers rallied once again to call for the abolition of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws, which came into force in 2004 and were upheld by the country’s Constitutional Court with a 6-3 majority ruling in 2016. On Tuesday, about 1,500 sex workers made their way from Daegu, Jeonju, Masan, Paju, Pohang, Pyeongtaek, Suwon and Wonju to join their colleagues at Sejongno Park in downtown Seoul to demand respect for sex workers’ human rights and the decriminalization of sex work. The event was organized by 한터 Hanteo, the National Union of Sex Workers. Ironically, Korean president Moon Jae-in had a meeting with union leaders on the same day, promising to closely cooperate with workers in developing his administration’s labour policies.

All photos © 2017 Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved. Image description below.

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1. Banner behind the stage of the massive sex worker protest in Seoul, organised by 한터 Hanteo, the National Union of Sex Workers. As the director of an English language institute pointed out on Twitter: “Better English here than on most ads coming from major Korean conglomerates.”

2. Massive turnout! Around 1,500 sex workers came from Daegu, Jeonju, Masan, Paju, Pohang, Pyeongtaek, Seoul, Suwon and Wonju to join the protest and demand respect for sex workers’ rights and the decriminalization of sex work.

3. A photo from the first-ever sex worker protest in Belfast in 2014 in front of the Stormont Parliament Buildings was on display at the sex worker protest at Sejongno Park in Seoul on October 24, 2017.

4. Sex worker activist 장세희 Jang Sehee greets fellow sex workers who came from all over Korea to join the protest in Seoul on October 24, 2017.

5. Drumming up support for sex workers’ rights! Amazing performance by 여성타악그룹 도도 (Women Percussion Group Exciting DoDo) at the sex worker protest in Seoul on October 24, 2017.

6. This lady’s placard calls on Korean president 문재인 Moon Jae-in to finally scrap laws criminalising sex work; while on her top it says, “Don’t judge a girl by her clothes”.

7. A Korean journalist busily typing away at yesterday’s sex worker protest in downtown Seoul. Over half of the media reports published so far include the term 성노동자 (seongnodongja, sex worker) – as opposed to 성매매 여성 (seongmaemae yeosong, lit. sex trade female; ‘seongmaemae’ being used interchangeably in Korean for both ‘prostitution’ and ‘sex trafficking’ [sic]).

8. “The Anti-Sex Trade Laws aren’t right” – Sex workers brought placards and provisions for yesterday’s protest in Seoul against the criminalization of sex work.

 

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[Photo] Queer Sex Workers’ Lives Matter

[97b] Queen Sex Workers' Lives Matter © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Torsos only for privacy reasons. © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Despite a military crackdown on gay servicemen, politicians refusing to enact anti-discrimination legislation, and fundamentalist faith groups engaging in “Homosexuality Countermeasures”, South Korea has just witnessed its biggest-ever queer parade. Korean sex workers’ rights activist Yeoni Kim and others carried a message on their T-shirts that still needs plenty of amplifying, not only but especially in Korea: Queer Sex Workers’ Lives Matter! LGBT 성노동자도 함께 합니다!

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Professed Protection, Pointless Provisions – Germany’s new “Prostitutes Protection Act” (ProstSchG)

“The ‘Prostitutes Protection Act’, in the form that it will come into effect on July 1, 2017, only pretends to be a law for the protection of sex workers. The regulations provided therein fail to support both sex workers and trafficked persons. Instead, the law will force sex workers into illegality, especially those working together at apartments as well as migrant, trans, and otherwise particularly vulnerable individuals in sex work. What is labelled as protection is in large parts simply a law aimed at repressing sex work.”

Research Project Germany

Zwangsregistrierung - Nicht mit uns! Sex worker protest in Berlin against the ProstSchG © 2015 Emy Fem

“Forced registration – Not with us!” Sex workers and allies demonstrate against the ProstSchG in front of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs in Berlin © 2015 Emy Fem

ICRSE launches Briefing Paper on
Germany’s new ‘Prostitutes Protection Act’

[Deutsche Versionhier]

To mark the International Sex Workers’ Day, celebrated each year on June 2nd to commemorate the occupation of the Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon, France, by 100 sex workers in 1975, ICRSE launches a briefing paper titled “Professed Protection, Pointless Provisions – Overview of the German Prostitutes Protection Act (Prostituiertenschutzgesetz – ProstSchG)”.

ICRSE ProstSchG Briefing Paper Cover [English]The briefing paper was developed by ICRSE in collaboration with Hydra e.V. and the Professional Association Erotic and Sexual Services (Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen,BesD e.V.). It aims to offer policy makers, sex workers, and sex workers’ allies an analysis of Germany’s new “Prostitutes Protection Act” and its expected impact on sex workers, and…

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Vorgeblicher Schutz, Vergebliche Maßnahmen: Überblick über Deutschland’s neues Prostituiertenschutzgesetz (ProstSchg)

„Das ‚Prostituiertenschutzgesetz‘ ist in der Form, in der es am 1. Juli 2017 in Kraft treten wird, nur vorgeblich ein Gesetz zum Schutz von Sexarbeiter*innen und die darin enthaltenen Maßnahmen sind vergeblich, um Sexarbeiter*innen auf der einen Seite und Betroffene von Menschenhandel auf der anderen nachhaltig zu unterstützen. Stattdessen werden insbesondere in Wohnungen gemeinsam arbeitende Sexarbeiter*innen sowie migrantische, transidente, und anderweitig spezifisch vulnerable Sexarbeiter*innen von diesem Gesetz in die Illegalität gedrängt. Wo Schutz draufsteht, ist daher in großen Teilen schlicht ein Gesetz zur Verdrängung der Sexarbeit enthalten.“

Research Project Germany

Zwangsregistrierung - Nicht mit uns! Sex worker protest in Berlin against the ProstSchG © 2015 Emy Fem

Sexarbeiter*innen und Unterstützer*innen demonstrieren gegen das ProstSchG vor dem Bundesfamilienministerium © 2015 Emy Fem

ICRSE präsentiert Briefing Paper über
neues deutsches ‘Prostituiertenschutzgesetz’

[English-language versionhere]

Anlässlich des Internationalen Hurentags, der an jedem 2. Juni der Besetzung der Saint-Nizier-Kirche im franzöischen Lyon im Jahr 1975 durch 100 Sexarbeiterinnen feierlich gedenkt, präsentiert das Internationale Komitee für die Rechte von Sexarbeiter*innen in Europa (ICRSE) ein Briefing Paper mit dem Titel „Vorgeblicher Schutz, Vergebliche Maßnahmen: Überblick über das Prostituiertenschutzgesetz (ProstSchg)“.

ICRSE ProstSchG Briefing Paper Cover [German]Das Briefing Paper wurde vom ICRSE in Zusammenarbeit mit Hydra e.V. und dem Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen (BesD) e.V. mit dem Ziel entwickelt, sowohl politischen Entscheidungsträger*innen als auch Sexarbeiter*innen und ihren Unterstützer*innen eine Analyse des neuen deutschen „Prostituiertenschutzgesetzes“ und dessen erwarteten Auswirkungen auf Sexarbeiter*innen anzubieten, sowie Empfehlungen der Gemeinschaft von Sexarbeiter*innen zu unterbreiten.

Wie darin erklärt, hegt das ICRSE ernsthafte Bedenken hinsichtlich der Art und Weise, mit der das „Prostituiertenschutzgesetz“ die Grundrechte von…

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Nueva Ley de Prostitución en Alemania: una ley especial impracticable y discriminatoria | Declaración de Voice4Sexworkers (Voz para trabajadores sexuales)

“Si no se habla con las trabajadoras sexuales, se termina con el mismo resultado que representa la Ley de Protección de Prostitutas: una ley especial impracticable y discriminatoria, que nos excluye de la participación en términos de igualdad en la vida económica y nos vuelve socialmente vulnerables.”

Research Project Germany

Mock Whore ID at sex worker protest in Berlin © 2016 Friederike Strack. All Rights Reserved.

Foto: Parodia del registro de prostitutas en una protesta de trabajadoras sexuales en Berlín © 2016 Friederike Strack. Todos los derechos reservados.

En el día de hoy, la ministra de Salud de Rhin Norte-Westfalia, Barbara Steffens, y la presidenta de la Mesa Redonda sobre la Prostitución de Rhin Norte-Westfalia, Claudia Zimmermann-Schwartz, dieron una conferencia de prensa acerca de la planeada Ley de Protección de Prostitutas, de la que dijeron que llevará aún más a las trabajadoras sexuales a la ilegalidad, en lugar de protegerlas. Como parte del comunicado de prensa, se presentaron las declaraciones de dos trabajadoras sexuales que participaron en la Mesa Redonda. Lo que sigue es la declaración ampliada de una de ellas, traducida del original en alemán publicado por Voice4Sexworkers. Hacer clic, por favor, aquí para ver el comunicado de prensa emitido por el Ministerio de Salud, Igualdad, Servicios Sociales y Personas Mayores en Rhin Norte-Westfalia…

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ProstSchG: An impractical and discriminatory special law | Statement by Voice4Sexworkers

Research Project Germany

Mock Whore ID at sex worker protest in Berlin © 2016 Friederike Strack. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: Mock Whore ID at sex worker protest in Berlin © 2016 Friederike Strack. All Rights Reserved.

Today, North-Rhine Westphalian Health Minister Barbara Steffens and Claudia Zimmermann-Schwartz, Chairwoman of the Roundtable Prostitution in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), held a press conference about the planned Prostitutes Protection Law (ProstSchG), which they argued would further drive sex workers into illegality instead of protecting them. As part of the press release, statements from two sex workers who participated in the Roundtable were presented.The following is an expanded statement from one of them, translated from the German original published by Voice4Sexworkers. Please clickhereto view the press release by the Ministry of Health, Equalities, Care and Ageing (MGEPA) in NRW. This resource is in German.

Statement by Melanie, Participant at Roundtable Prostitution

I’m a single mother of two and I’ve been working as a sex worker for the past ten years. I’ve never been able…

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Please show your support for South Korean sex workers

Jang Sehee in front of the Constitution Court, April 2015 - Photo © Research Project Korea. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: Jang Sehee in front of the Constitutional Court, April 2015
© Research Project Korea. All Rights Reserved.

Constitutional Court rules ban on sex work constitutional

Yesterday, after over two years of deliberations and hearings, during at least one of which German news magazine DER SPIEGEL’s grossly inaccurate report about sex work in Germany was cited as “evidence”, the South Korean Constitutional Court issued its ruling on the constitutionality of the Anti-Sex Trade Laws, which criminalise all aspects of sex work. A majority of six of the nine judges ruled in favour of upholding the laws; two opposed the criminalisation of sex workers and advocated a Swedish Model-type legislation; and just one, Justice 조용호 Cho Yong Ho, opposed the constitutionality of the law entirely. In his dissent, he wrote,“The majority view insists that prostitution should not be protected by law because it harms human dignity. But nothing harms human dignity more than a threat to survival.”

After the ruling, 강현준 Kang Hyun-Joon and 장세희 Jang Sehee, director and vice director of 한터 Hanteo, the National Union of Sex Workers, spoke to the media. Kang stated, “Since the enforcement of the anti-prostitution law, sex labourers have struggled [for their rights]. The decision will push workers once again to death.” Jang said, “Aren’t we part of the Korean people? They have no consideration for us. We are not giving up the fight for our livelihood. We are people and workers just the same. We will not surrender to this ruling but will form a sex workers union and go all the way to the United Nations.” As Kang explained, Hanteo plans to make an appeal to the UN Commission on Human Rights

Unsurprisingly and callously, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family as well as the Korean Women Lawyers Association have welcomed the decision. On a positive note, however, the media reported about a recent survey among 538 people above the age of 19, which – at least to my knowledge – produced the first-ever majority in favour of scrapping South Korea’s repressive anti-sex work laws. Needless to say, there was a big gender gap. About 6 out of ten men were in favour, but less than 4 out of ten women agreed with them.

Selected media coverage

South Korean Court Upholds Ban on Prostitution | Choe Sang Hun | New York Times

Please note: The petition for a constitutional review was filed by sex worker Kim Jeong-mi, but it was Judge Oh Won Chan of the Northern District Court in Seoul who then filed the actual request to the Constitutional Court.

Court rules ban on prostitution constitutional | Ock Hyun Ju | Korea Herald

Punishing voluntary prostitution constitutional | Kim Bo Eun | Korea Times

South Korea prostitutes decry court ruling, demand right to work | Jee Heun Kahng | Reuters

Constitutional Court in South Korea Uphold Anti-Sex Work Laws | Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)

논의조차 금기시된 `성매매특별법`에 의미심장한 반론

I also recommend reading a recent piece about South Korea published in the “Sex Workers Speak: Who listens?” series, guest-edited by P.G. Macioti and Giulia Garofalo Geymonat, which was co-authored by gay sex worker Yujin, feminist activist Popho Eun-Sil Park and myself.

South Korea: sex workers fighting the law and law enforcement

Please show your support

After yesterday’s news, we now know that sex workers in South Korea will sadly have to continue their fight for years to come. Therefore, should you happen to use social media, I am sure it would mean a lot if you shared the news about the court’s decision widely and expressed your support for South Korean sex workers. They might not always click Like or Love or reply to you, but they’ll read your messages and appreciate them.

화이팅! Fighting!

Let's repeat the Special Anti-Sex Trade Laws

The writing on the plastic batons Korean sex worker activists often use during their rallies says “Let’s repeal the Special Anti-Sex Trade Laws!”