Sex Work and Human Rights

Posts tagged “Sex workers

紧急募款行动: 防止性暴力- 支持铿锵玫瑰妇联会

Les Roses d'Acier (Source unknown)

(Source: Unknown. Please leave a comment if you are the copyright holder of this photo.)

更新:筹款目标成功达成!

Success在筹款期的最后一天,铿锵玫瑰成功达到了3,000欧元的筹款目标。 多谢分享此广告系列的所有人。 还要感谢53位支持者! 你们都帮助中国的法国移徙性工作者更加安全地工作。 谢谢!

TL;DR

请赶快支援旅居法国的中国女性,帮忙她们脱离险境。只需手里有一个中文(汉语)的智能手机运用程式及警报系统,就可以救人一命。还有二天的时间,募款就要结束了!请点击链接线: Click here to support The Steel Roses now!

简介

晓红。小雪。阿婧。

三位来自中国的性工作者,不幸在法国遇害。他们是法国打击性工作者及客户的受害者。自从法国履行2016年成立的打压寻芳客的条例后,已经有十二名性工作者被杀,还有无数者被暴力对待。旅法的中国性工作者因此自发组织了铿锵玫瑰妇联会。她们需要在这一周内募齐三千欧元,支付中文手机运用程式及三百个警报系统的费用,以保护自己的生命安全。就只差那么一点点,她们就达到目标了!请在这二天内伸出贵手,救人一命!

募款的平台属于法国的非盈利组织: Les Co-citoyens

你只需在网上免费开一个户口就可以捐款。请点击这里:Click here to support The Steel Roses now!

请继续阅读 1.铿锵玫瑰妇联协会 2. 真相 3. 计划详情

1. 铿锵玫瑰妇联协会

Roses d'Acier (Source STRASS)

Les Roses d’Acier (铿锵玫瑰妇联会)成立于2014, 成员来自中国。她们在法国的生活很不安,也动荡,而且常常因为她们的工作而遭遇暴力,甚至失去生命。我们协会不仅帮会员们争取医药服务,也防止性暴力和各种社会上对性工作者的歧视和压迫,并倡议性工作者的基本人权,促进性工作者们互助互卫的精神。我们也为性工作者们推动多项社区组织工作和互助行动,以防止性暴力及剥削。

了解有关铿锵玫瑰的更多信息

A New Organisation Advocates for Chinese Sex Workers in Paris | Article by the Global Network of Sex Work Project (NSWP) [December 22, 2014]

What gives them the right to judge us? | Article by The Steel Roses in “Sex Workers Speak: Who Listens?” (Ed. P.G. Macioti, Giulia Garofalo Geymonat; Publisher: Beyond Trafficking and Slavery, Open Democracy) Article | Entire Booklet [PDF]

Les Roses d’Acier – France | Photo Series by Photo Journalist Nick Kozak

2. 真相

旅居法国之中国大陆的女性要面对生活上的种种障碍,例如:缺乏保障的移民身份,语言上不能沟通,生活贫穷潦困,以及她们对法国法律的不熟悉,使她们落入被欺负,欺骗,剥削,甚至被杀的对象。碰到对她们不怀好意,存心要加害她们的人,这群性工作者并没有保护自己,反击或向警察举报的能力与权力。因为在现今法国的条例下,买淫【寻芳客】是犯法的。虽然条例2016-444抓的是客人, 可是卖淫者间接地也变成非法。后果是性工作者遭受暴力及剥削的例子日渐上升。因此性工作者要更加冒险地,卖命工作,才足以应付生活。自2013年的国家安全法律例行之后,性工作者更不能在公共场所兠客,不幸的后果是把她们的工作场所推入更加隐蔽,危险的地方。

“In France, prior to the criminalisation of sex workers’ clients in 2016, sex workers were directly targeted by the criminalisation of public soliciting, which had been reinforced by the 2003 Law for National Security (LSI). The legislation adopted in 2016, inspired by the Swedish legal framework, sought to end prostitution via criminalising clients rather than sex workers. However, despite the stated aim of the law to protect sex workers, the majority of the sex workers we interviewed reveal that the criminalisation of clients has in practice been more detrimental to themselves than the previous laws against soliciting.” (Source: Report by Médecins du monde; see below)

进一步了解法律对性工作者日常生活的影响

What do sex workers think about the French Prostitution Act (Source Médecins du monde)“What do sex workers think about the French Prostitution Act? | Study by Médecins du monde (Doctors of the World) on the Impact of the Law From 13 April 2016 Against the “Prostitution System”; Authors: Hélène Le Bail, Calogero Giametta, Noémie Rassouw. English [PDF] | French [PDF]

“3 Ans Après La Loi Prostitution: Quels Constats Pour Les Associations De Terrain?” (3 Years After the Prostitution Law: What Impacts Can Be Observed on the Ground?) | 2019 Report by Médecins du monde (Doctors of the World); Authors: Hélène Le Bail, Calogero Giametta. French

3. 计划详情

 支持铿锵玫瑰妇联会提供汉语手机运用程式和警报系统以防止性暴力

运用者遇到危险时,只需发一则短讯,就可以同时发送给三个预设的联系人之电话号码。并同时输送发信者的卫星位置。还有自动录音系统可以每隔一分钟发送一次救援讯号。这配件可以系在使用者的钥匙扣上,并配有一个警铃。求救讯号可以发送至十五米。铿锵玫瑰妇联会将提供此警报系统给所有需要的人士,并提供自我防卫学习班。协会也计划在不久的将来,成立一项热线服务,与警报系统相连接。

您的捐款可以买一百枚,定价每枚三十欧元的自我防卫及警报系统

请点击这里,用行动支持我们!

Click here to support The Steel Roses now!


文告原文:法文英文翻译来自于SWAT 之Matthias Lehmann。中文翻译:阿斌 

SWAT Logo © Helen Chan for SWAT

SWAT 的宗旨:打破文化及语言的障碍,促进性工作者及支持者们的沟通和互动,建立一个活跃的互爱互持的网络。

要知道更多SWAT的讯息,请点击这里 here (含有十八种语言)
电邮: Contact SWAT via email
欢迎你加入我们的脸书群:SWAT Facebook Group

 


Urgent Fundraiser: Help The Steel Roses Fight Violence Against Women

Les Roses d'Acier (Source unknown)

(Source: Unknown. Please leave a comment if you are the copyright holder of this photo.)

The Steel Roses Fight Against Violence Against Women

[Edited and supplemented Google-Translation of the French original]

Update: Fundraising Target Successfully Reached!

SuccessOn the final day of the fundraising period, The Steel Roses successfully reached their funding target of 3,000 euros. Thank you to everyone who shared this campaign, and an even bigger thanks to the 53 backers! You all helped to allow Chinese migrant sex workers in France to work more safely. 非常感谢你 ! Merci beaucoup! Thank you very much! Vielen Dank! ¡Muchas gracias!

TL;DR

One week left to help fund a Chinese smartphone app and alarm systems for Chinese women in precarious situations in France. Click here to support The Steel Roses now!

Short Summary

Xiao Hong. Xiao Xue. A Jing.

Those are the names of three Chinese sex workers murdered in France since the introduction of a law criminalizing sex workers’ clients in 2016. Over the last three years, at least 12 sex workers have been murdered and many more have been victims of violence. The Steel Roses, an organization led by Chinese sex workers, currently raises funds to help increase their safety. 3,000 euros will cover the costs for a smartphone app in Chinese as well as 300 alarm systems. As of January 14, the fundraiser is over 70 percent funded with 7 days to go!  +++ Update: As of January 17,  the fundraiser is over 85 percent funded with 4 days to go! +++

Please note: The fundraiser is hosted by Les Co-citoyens, a French non-profit association. To make a donation, you will need to create an account, which is very simple. Please don’t let this turn you off from contributing to The Steel Roses’ important fundraiser.

Click here to support The Steel Roses now!

Continue reading: 1. Who are The Steel Roses; 2. The Situation; 3. The Project

1. Who are The Steel Roses?

Roses d'Acier (Source STRASS)

Les Roses d’Acier (铿锵玫瑰), established in 2014, is an association mainly made up of Chinese women in precarious situations and Chinese sex workers. The group’s objectives are to facilitate access to health for Chinese migrant women; to fight against all forms of violence and discrimination against women in precarious situations and sex workers; to defend the fundamental rights of sex workers; and to promote mutual aid and solidarity. Through our community support and mutual aid actions within the sex worker community, we also contribute to the fight against violence against women and the exploitation of women.

Learn more about the Steel Roses

A New Organisation Advocates for Chinese Sex Workers in Paris | Article by the Global Network of Sex Work Project (NSWP) [December 22, 2014]

What gives them the right to judge us? | Article by The Steel Roses in “Sex Workers Speak: Who Listens?” (Ed. P.G. Macioti, Giulia Garofalo Geymonat; Publisher: Beyond Trafficking and Slavery, Open Democracy) Article | Entire Booklet [PDF]

Les Roses d’Acier – France | Photo Series by Photo Journalist Nick Kozak

2. The Situation

Chinese women who are in precarious situations – due to their residency statuses, their language barrier, poverty, or their lack of knowledge of their rights – represent easy targets and are particularly exposed to all forms of violence. Perpetrators of violence can safely assume that these women will have no means to physically or legally defend themselves, for instance by filing police reports.

Ever since the adoption of Law No. 2016-444, which criminalizes sex workers’ clients, in April 2016, assaults targeting sex workers have increased. As a result of this law, sex workers have to work harder and take greater risks to support themselves.

“In France, prior to the criminalisation of sex workers’ clients in 2016, sex workers were directly targeted by the criminalisation of public soliciting, which had been reinforced by the 2003 Law for National Security (LSI). The legislation adopted in 2016, inspired by the Swedish legal framework, sought to end prostitution via criminalising clients rather than sex workers. However, despite the stated aim of the law to protect sex workers, the majority of the sex workers we interviewed reveal that the criminalisation of clients has in practice been more detrimental to themselves than the previous laws against soliciting.” (Source: Report by Médecins du monde; see below)

Learn more about the impact of the law on sex workers’ daily lives

What do sex workers think about the French Prostitution Act (Source Médecins du monde)“What do sex workers think about the French Prostitution Act? | Study by Médecins du monde (Doctors of the World) on the Impact of the Law From 13 April 2016 Against the “Prostitution System”; Authors: Hélène Le Bail, Calogero Giametta, Noémie Rassouw. English [PDF] | French [PDF]

“3 Ans Après La Loi Prostitution: Quels Constats Pour Les Associations De Terrain?” (3 Years After the Prostitution Law: What Impacts Can Be Observed on the Ground?) | 2019 Report by Médecins du monde (Doctors of the World); Authors: Hélène Le Bail, Calogero Giametta. French

3. The Project

The Steel Roses aim to create a smartphone app and emergency call system.

Anti-violence app in Chinese. This app enables users to trigger a text alert that is sent to three pre-assigned emergency contacts, together with the geolocation of the user and an audio recording triggered automatically and sent every minute.

The app is connected to keychain with an alarm button, which makes it possible to trigger the alert remotely over a distance of 15 meters, even when the smartphone is in standby. The keychain also features a 120-decibel emergency alarm.

The Steel Roses will support users of this app and also offer self-defense courses.

For the future, the organization plans to set up a hotline so that all users can add The Steel Roses as one of their emergency contacts.

What will the funds be used for?

Purchase of 100 alarm self-defense devices at a cost of €30 per unit.

Sign up for Les Co-citoyensAs mentioned above, the fundraiser is hosted by Les Co-citoyens, a French non-profit association. To make a donation, you will need to create an account, which is very simple (click image to enlarge). Please don’t let this turn you off from contributing to The Steel Roses’ important fundraiser. As of January 14, the fundraiser is over 70 percent funded with 7 days to go!

Click here to support The Steel Roses now!


This edited and supplemented Google translation of the French original was created by Matthias Lehmann for SWAT – Sex Workers + Allies Translate, Edit + Design.

SWAT Logo © Helen Chan for SWAT“The aim of SWAT is not only to provide sex workers and allies with a network to enable sex work knowledge sharing across as cultural and language barriers, but also to reward contributors for their work whenever possible.”

Please click here for information about SWAT in 18 languages. Please contact SWAT via email if you would like to contribute your skills. You are also invited to join the SWAT Facebook group.


More celebrity “gender studies scholars”

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Back in 2015, Research Project Korea published a series of memes to mock Hollywood’s “gender studies scholars” who had co-signed a letter by anti-prostitution activists who tried and failed to pressure Amnesty International into dropping plans to adopt a policy that would recommend decriminalizing sex work.

Four years on, talk show host Seth Meyers, former prosecutor Alexi Ashe Meyers (his wife), and actress Ashley Judd join the illustrious club of “Limousine Liberals” claiming to support sex workers while actually promoting laws that harm them.* Images modified by Research Project Korea and Kate Zen (@katezenlove). 

Recommended Reading

Elizabeth Nolan Brown
Ashley Judd and Seth Meyers Say They Want to Help Sex Workers. They Could Start by Shutting Up. 


*All three of them didn’t just join recently. See, for instance, Amelia McDonell-Parry’s article Ashley Judd Confronted at Women’s Event for Anti-Prostitution Beliefs (Rolling Stone, December 10, 2018).


Why feminists (or anyone, really) should choose their words, images¹ and fonts² wisely

Why feminists should... Image by Research Project Korea (@photogroffee)

(click here to enlarge image)

Response to an image posted by user A (@BigEasy_A, see below) in the comment thread underneath Susan Sarandon’s somewhat surprising, yet welcome about-face (she had previously lend her support to Cambodian prostitution abolitionist Somaly Mam, disgraced in 2014 for fabricating stories to raise funds).

Sources used for the above image include “Language Matters: Talking About Sex Work” by Chez Stella, “The Decriminalisation of Third Parties” by NSWP, and “Unfair labour arrangements and precarious working conditions in the sex industry” by ICRSE.


Sweden: No Country for Sex-Working Mothers

No Country for Sex-Working Mothers [Photo by 12019-10269 images, Fingerprint by Kurios]

Sex-working mother loses custody of her child 1

Östra Göinge, Sweden. January 13, 2018.

Mother is devastated by court ruling. 

The mother worked as a sex worker in a village in Östra Göinge, where she advertised  her services via the internet. She started doing so after running into financial troubles when her son was only two to three months. She invited men into her apartment and had sex with them for money. Her earnings amounted to around 2,000-2,300 euros per month. 

The mother and her son lived more or less isolated, except for the visits from her clients, who stopped having sex with the mother if the boy woke up in his crib next to the bed. The mother said the boy never seemed to be scared but was curious of them. When the boy would wake up, the men went home, understanding the situation since they had children of their own, according to the Administrative Court’s ruling. 

Everything came into the open after a concerned person reported the mother to social services, whereupon the son was taken into care. This happened without any formal evaluation of the situation, although the mother’s actions were confirmed by her online ads. 

The Administrative Court attached special importance to the fact that the mother had invited strangers buying sex into her home. According to the court, the overall situation meant that there was a significant risk that the son’s health and development would be harmed. 

By her own account, the mother closed the book on sex work since her son was taken into care. However, the Administrative Court believed there was a risk that she would repeat her behaviour and has therefore decided that the son should remain in state care in accordance with the Care of Young Persons Act (LVU). In addition, the court held that the mother had shown indifference regarding the safety and protection of her son by bringing male strangers to her apartment. 

Instead of sex work, the mother will now look for other work and in the meantime, she has applied for government support, although she  realises that those payments won’t be as high as the 2,000-2,300 euros she earned from sex work. The woman also stated that she had resumed contact with her own mother, who had promised to help her. 

According to the Administrative Court she is “devastated about the consequences for her son”. She can appeal against the court ruling at the Administrative Court of Appeals in Gothenburg within three weeks. 

CCJ Article

Click on the image to read the full article


Translation for SWAT by Ophelia Eglentyn from Fuckförbundet, an association founded in Sweden in the spring of 2017, by and for sex workers.

Fuckförbundet“Our two key functions are to uphold a community that offers support for all kinds of sex workers in Sweden, and to raise the awareness on sex workers rights and the negative impacts from the current set of laws. … If your feminism excludes marginalized groups of people then it’s not worthy of it’s name.”

You can follow Fuckförbundet on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

SWAT  – Sex Workers + Allies Translate, Edit + Design

SWAT Logo © Helen Chan for SWAT

“The aim of SWAT is not only to provide sex workers and allies with a network to enable sex work knowledge sharing across as cultural and language barriers, but also to reward contributors for their work whenever possible.”

Please click here for information about SWAT in 18 languages. Please contact SWAT via email if you would like to contribute your skills. You are also invited to join the SWAT Facebook group.


The Swedish original of this article was written by Carl-Johan Liljedahl and first published as “Barn till prostituerad omhändertas” (Child of prostitute taken into care) at Kristianstadsbladet (January 13th, 2018). The terms “prostitution/prostitute” and “sex buyer” were replaced with “sex work/sex worker” and “client.” The copyright for the original article lies with Kristianstadsbladet. It is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.

The images and tweets above and below did not appear in the original article. Translations of articles do not represent endorsements of titles, images, terms used or views expressed therein, or of the authors who have written or the media outlets that published them. 

Photo: 12019/10269 Images Illustration: Kurios (Pixabay); Font: Last Soundtrack


Help spread the word!


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.

 


The Anti-Sex Trade Laws – are they unconstitutional?

Giant Girls (GG) Sex Workers Day 2015 Event

2015 Panel Discussion commemorating Sex Workers’ Day

“On April 9th, 2015, a public hearing was held at South Korea’s constitutional court regarding the constitutionality of the Anti-Sex Trade Laws. These laws are not simply laws that aim to punish buyers and sellers of sexual services, but have far wider implications. The laws encompass social issues including sexual morality, sexual self-determination, and the right to choose one’s vocation. In this light, Giant Girls Network for Sex Workers’ Rights will hold a panel discussion to review the aforementioned public hearing. The event will be held on Sunday, June 28th, 2015. Thank you for your interest and participation.”

“2015년 4월 9일 성매매특별법 위헌제청 공개변론이 열렸습니다. 성특법은 단순히 성구매자와 판매자의 처벌에 관한 법률이 아닙니다. 이 법에는 우리 사회의 성도덕, 성적 자기결정권의 국가 개입, 직업선택권 등의 복잡한 문제가 얽혀 있습니다. 성노동자권리모임 지지는 이 공개변론이 성특법에 대한 논의에서 중요한 역할을 했음에도 불구하고 공론화 되지 못함을 안타깝게 생각하여 6월 28일 일요일 공개간담회를 열고자 합니다. 많은 분들의 관심과 참여를 부탁드립니다.”

Event Details

Chair: Sa Misook 사미숙 (Giant Girls)

Panellists:

Jeong Gwan Yeong 정관영 (Attorney)
Prof. Park Gyeong Shin 박경신 (Korea University, argues that the laws are unconstitutional)
Prof. Oh Gyeong Sik 오경식 (Kangrengwonju University, argues the laws are constitutional)
Jang Sehee 장세희 (Vice President, Hanteo National Union of Sex Workers)
Prof. Go Jeong Gaphee 고정갑희 (Hansin University)
Kim Yeoni 김연희 (Sexworker/Activist)

Date/Time: June 28, 2015 Sunday 13:30~15:30
Address: Bunker 1, Seoul Jongno-gu Dongsung-dong No 199-17 Floor -1 Danzzi Ilbo
서울특별시 종로구 동숭동 199-17번지 지하1층 딴지일보
Organiser: Giant Girls Network for Sex Workers’ Rights 성노동자권리모임 지지
Contact: Oh Gyeong Mi 오경미 010-4812-3350
Entrance is free. This event will be held in Korean.


Further Information

Anyone unfamiliar with the ongoing constitutional review of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws might find it helpful to read Choe Sang-Hun’s recent summary in the New York Times. Please note that this recommendation does not represent an endorsement of the terminology used therein.

June 29th ☂ Korean Sex Workers’ Day 

On this day, the National Solidarity of Sex Workers Day was organised, after the Special Anti-Sex Trade Law [which includes a Prevention Act and a Punishment Act] was passed in 2004. Since then, the date is commemorated as Korean Sex Workers Day to honour all sex workers who have contributed to the struggle against discrimination over the years.

 

Re-blogged: Will South Korea’s queer movement embrace or abandon MTF transgender sex workers?

Lucien Lee at the 2014 Korea Queer Festival in Seoul. Photo by KQCF (left) and Lucian Lee (right) All Rights Reserved.

Lucien Lee at the 2014 Korea Queer Festival in Seoul.
Photo © KQCF (left) and © Lucian Lee (right). All Rights Reserved.

By transgender sex worker Lucien Lee in Seoul

한국어 원본을 보시려면 여기를 누르세요.
Please note that the different copyrights for the respective photos.

Homosexuals once used to be outlaws, persecuted by the police and at the mercy of powerful justice systems in countries we now refer to as advanced. However, many places remain where homosexuals continue to be persecuted and even killed. In South Korea, however, homosexuals have never been outlaws. Unless a homosexual male engages in sexual activities with another person of the same gender while on leave from his mandatory military service, in which case the infamous Article 92 (6) of the Military Criminal Code, also known as “Sodomy Law”, applies, South Korea does not outlaw homosexuality. [1]

That may have been the reason why South Korea’s queer community had great difficulties to accept it when sex workers, who are criminals according to the 2004 Anti-Sex Trade Laws, joined the 2013 Korean Queer Festival and identified themselves as sexual minorities oppressed by sexual morality. Comments like “What are you whores doing here?” came as no surprise because nobody would want to mingle with outlaws.

When I joined the Korea Queer Festival a year later as a transgender sex worker together with other sex workers, the reactions from people were quite different. Maybe that was because they couldn’t easily other me as a non-queer “whore” because I am a male to female transgender person. That day, we handed out a thousand copies of “A letter from independent sex worker ‘T’ to the LGBAIQ community”. [2] But other than that, sex workers’ rights are still not considered a part of queer issues.

Various research reports provide data about the ratio of sex workers among transgender people but those figures vary widely due to their limited sample sizes. It is undeniable, however, that those working at Itaewon’s transgender bars are the most visible group of South Korea’s transgender community.

On May 23rd, 2015, South Korean daily Dong-a Ilbo featured an article about transgender sex workers, which revealed the particular locations, times, and how much money is required to buy sexual services. But even before that article, it was impossible to hide transgender sex workers from the public view, and this visibility, together with a greater awareness among the cis-straight society in general, will likely result in police raids specifically targeting transgender sex workers, just as they targeted and demolished red light districts before.

A taxi driver interviewed for the abovementioned article said, “I’ve been a taxi driver for almost twenty years, and they [transgender sex workers] were already here when I started.” Traditionally, sex work is often the only viable source of income for male-to-female transgender people. We cannot survive economically if such a transgender-specific persecution occurs. We cannot easily change our jobs.

Sex workers and activists protest in front of South Korea's Constitutional Court. © 2015 Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Sex workers and activists protest in front of South Korea’s Constitutional Court.
© 2015 Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.

On April 9th, 2015, a first public hearing was held at South Korea’s constitutional court in the ongoing review to determine whether the 2004 Anti-Sex Trade Laws are unconstitutional. Article 21 (1) of the Anti-Sex Trade Laws Punishment Act penalises sellers of sexual acts with up to one year in prison or fines of up to 3 million won (approx. £1,765/€2,485/$2,735), except for those who were coerced. The article is not gender-specific and therefore applies to male and transgender sex workers, too.

The female sex worker, whose arrest and subsequent trial led to the constitutional review, standing in the middle of the above photo, argues in favour of the decriminalisation of sex work limited to female sex workers only. However, members of South Korean feminist organisations, who used to advocate for what they referred to as “decriminalising female prostitutes”, have spoken out against this woman as they fear that if the article were to be ruled unconstitutional, buying sexual acts would also no longer be criminalised. Even if one were to accept their opinion that female sex workers are victims of a capitalist system, and hence innocent, whereas male buyers are guilty, their insistence on keeping the 2004 Anti-Sex Trade Laws makes no sense, as it punishes innocent people.

Korean anti-prostitution activist. © 2015 Matt Lemon Photography. All Right Reserved.

Anti-prostitution activist holding up signs saying
“There are things in the world that cannot be traded.”
© 2015 Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Despite the importance of this review, none of the LGBT organisations has so far made their stance on this issue publicly known. That is one of the reasons why, although the sexual minority movement is often referred to as “LGBT” or “queer” movement, in reality, it is more considered as a “homosexual” movement by the public.

Police raids targeting transgender sex workers would force transgender people to organise demonstrations in the same way as sex workers working at the Yeongdeungpo red light district did to protect their right to survive. If such protests were to happen, I wonder what stance LGBT organisations would take. Would they abandon transgender sex workers or stand together with them? Let us all take this very seriously and think about it together. See you all at the 2015 Korea Queer Festival.


Footnotes

[1] While engaging in sexual activities on military premises is generally forbidden, Article 92 (6) of the Military Penal Code states that “anal intercourse or other harassment against any person … shall be punished by imprisonment of up to two years” even if it occurs while on leave. LGBT rights’ activists argue that this paragraph is used to single out sexual relations between members of the same sex.

[2] A small clarification for readers less familiar with the acronyms: LGBTAIQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, intersex, and queer, and the T was here purposefully left out as ‘T’ addressed the LGBAIQ community.


Translation by Lucien Lee. Edited by Matthias Lehmann. I would like to thank Lucien Lee for her permission to reblog this article. The English version differs slightly from the Korean original and features two different photos. Footnotes were added for further clarification.


A fair deal? – South Korean sex workers’ earnings at home and abroad

Currency - Photo by Alexis (free for commercial use)
Summary

In January and April of this year, police in Macau twice busted prostitution businesses involving South Korean brokers and sex workers offering sexual services. In its press briefings, the Macau police released information about the fees clients were charged, and the earnings of the sex workers involved. Discussing the details of these arrangements with sex workers in South Korea revealed that women migrating to sell sexual services in Macau can earn considerably more than the average sex worker in South Korea, where, as trans* sex worker activist Lucien Lee commented, they are threatened by “constant raids, ‘End Demand’ strategies, and social stigma”.

None of the below represents an endorsement or critique of whatever arrangement sex workers enter into with third parties. It is merely intended to explain some of the arrangements in existence and to illustrate that for as long as sex work will remain criminalised in South Korea, some sex workers will choose to sell sexual services abroad if it promises higher earnings, and take the risk of being arrested there, if they face the same or even a higher risk at home anyway.

Media reports about arrests in Macau

In April, police in Macau busted yet another “organised prostitution syndicate” involving South Korean nationals, following a similar bust in January. In both instances, sex workers had apparently agreed with brokers to travel to Macau on tourist visas. Although they were paid for their work, South Korean media outlets (see here, here and here) reported these events as cases of “sex trafficking”, as they regularly conflate consensual adult sex work and human trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation of adults. They also nonchalantly reported about the indictment of the sex workers involved, which should actually have allowed them to connect the dots.

In the previous case, the Macau Daily Times reported “that the women in their 20s to 30s, arrived in Macau as tourists and stayed at a luxurious apartment, which was arranged by the detained suspect, for between ten and 30 days. The suspect also hired other brokers to show the women’s photos to potential clients on mobile phones”. Both the Macau Daily Times and South Korean daily Donga Ilbo reported that “it cost 850,000 to 2.1 million won (approx. 790-1,945 U.S. dollars) for a one-time sex trade”, and the Donga Ilbo had learnt that “350,000-1.7 million won (approx. 324-1,574 dollars) was paid to those women”. In the recent case, the Macau Daily Times reported that “the amount of money requested for each sexual service, as the police representatives said, ranged between HKD 6,000 and HKD 20,000. This money, initially kept by either the pimp or the driver, would later be used to compensate the sex workers when they departed the city. The prostitutes would only receive HKD 2,000 as remuneration for each deal regardless of the amount received from clients.”

Hotel Central in Macau - Photo by Abasaa WikiCommons

When I discussed with trans* sex worker activist Lucien Lee whether or not the above outlined arrangement in the second case represented a fair deal, she commented:

“Abolitionists usually say something along the lines that if ‘pimps’ get a greater share of the profits then of course it must be exploitation, and that the sex industry is evil. But they seem to forget how the rest of the society works. Do other workers receive more than 50% of their employers’ revenue? I think that’s exactly why operators shouldn’t be punished. If there were more of them, they would have to compete amongst themselves and only those who took a smaller share from the sex workers’ earnings would survive. That said, I would also accept the deal those women got in Macau if I were a cis woman myself. However, the fact that sex workers consider working abroad in the first place not only has to do with how much they might be able to earn there, but also with the constant raids, ‘End Demand’ strategies, and the social stigma that may affect their families if they were caught at home.”

Before moving on to the earnings of sex workers in South Korea, it is interesting to note that the sex workers in the first case were reportedly “in their 20s to 30s”, while in the second case, the 21 women “involved in the two-month long prostitution operation“ were aged between 24 and 37 years. Thus, both cases run counter to the claims commonly put forward by prostitution prohibitionists that operators of prostitution businesses exclusively seek to employ very young women (under 21 years of age).

South Korean sex workers’ earnings

For argument’s sake, the lower fees paid to the sex workers in the second case will be used to compare the earnings of South Korean migrant sex workers in Macau to those of local sex workers in South Korea. The HK$ 2,000 that the sex workers in that case earned per client equal approx. £170 | US$ 260 | €240 | ₩280,000, which is considerably more than the average earnings of sex workers in South Korea. An independently working female sex worker recently told me that she charged clients between ₩100-150,000 (approx. £60-90 | US$90-140 | €80-120) for sessions lasting between 60 and 90 minutes. Previously, while working at a room salon, she earned ₩30-60,000 (approx. £18-36 | US$ 27-55 | €24-48) per every hour spent with a client. An independently working trans* sex worker told me she charged her clients ₩100,000 for a 3-hour session (approx. £62 | US$ 92 | €86). She added that other trans* sex workers charged the same amount for 2-hour sessions. A third sex worker reported that room salons pay sex workers around ₩70-90,000 (approx. £60-90 | US$90-140 | €80-120) to entertain and drink with clients, and ₩140,000-200,000 for sexual intercourse at nearby hotels (approx. £87-124 | US$130-185 | €120-173). She added that she preferred working at hyugetels (massage parlours), where she would earn ₩50-75,000 (approx. £31-46 | US$46-69 | €43-65) for sessions lasting 30, 40 or 50 minutes. Here, customers paid ₩80-140,000 (approx. £50-87 | US$74-130 | €69-120), meaning that sex workers received between 50 and 62% of what their clients paid to the operator.* Although the article by the Macau Daily Times doesn‘t specify the duration the South Korean sex workers spent with each client, they still earned considerably more than these three sex workers in South Korea, which illustrates that at least some sex workers seem to prefer arrangements to work in a foreign country. As a comparison: the hourly minimum wage in South Korea is currently ₩5,580 (approx. £3.41 | US$5.18 | €4.77).

Conclusion

As stated above, this article does not represent an endorsement or critique of whatever arrangement sex workers enter into with third parties or, put another way, what arrangements third parties offer to sex workers. There would certainly be a case to make that the outlays of the operators in these two cases couldn’t have been insignificant, considering the airfare for everyone involved and the costs for the luxury accommodations, in the more recent case “11 different apartments in Taipa”, the smaller of the two islands in Macau, which features expensive resorts and predominantly upscale apartment complexes. Naturally, they would have also wanted to generate a profit for themselves, which, should they have adhered to all previously made agreements with the sex workers involved, may be illegal but not immoral. All that, however, is speculative, and this article merely intends to explain some of the arrangements between sex workers and third parties currently in existence, and to illustrate that for as long as sex work will remain criminalised, some sex workers will choose to migrate and sell sexual services abroad if the potential benefits outweigh the risks involved. And the comparatively lower risk of getting caught is exactly what at least the brokers in the second case used as an argument to convince sex workers to travel to Macau.

Granted, all of the above is based on press briefings by the police in Macau and South Korea and on statements from a small number of South Korean sex workers. However, the sex workers who have spoken with me all appeared to have sound knowledge of the existing deals under which sex workers in South Korea currently operate, and Lucien Lee’s statement should suffice to challenge the existing notion that receiving a smaller share of what clients pay operators for sexual services renders a transaction exploitative per se. In addition, it is important to note that sex workers do not agree with the criminalisation of third parties involved in their work. As a briefing paper by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) states, “where third parties are criminalised, sex workers suffer the consequences of that criminalisation” as it forces them to work more unsafely. As always, the message is clear: if you want to understand the conditions under which sex workers work, you only need to listen to them.


*Sex workers’ earnings: ₩50,000/30 min; ₩60,000/40 min; 70-75,000/50 min; customers’ payment: ₩80-100,000/30 min; ₩100-120,000/40 min; 120-140,000/50 min.


Korean Sex Worker Organisation Giant Girls Condemns Witch-Hunt of Park Administration

Statement by Korean Sex Worker Organisation Giant Girls

We condemn the South Korean government for denying sex workers their human rights and criticise the government’s plan to pay rewards of up to one hundred million won to prostitution informants.

On May 20th 2014, the South Korean Government announced that they will pay rewards of up to one hundred million won (US$98,000 | £58,000 | €70,000) to informants who provide important leads to crime investigations, notably organised crime and prostitution. This announcement exhibits the government’s indifference, ignorance, and incompetency.

Giant GirlsSince 2005, the government has successfully ignored the voices of sex workers, their cry against stigmatisation and discrimination, their fight for their right to survive, and the apparent link between sex work and women’s poverty. Instead of putting prostitution on the same level of criminal offences like organized crime, one should consider why people choose to enter and stay in prostitution.

What sex workers face is not limited to prostitution. Prostitution and sex work reflect the Korean society’s policies and attitudes towards minorities and workers, and also how strong the social safety net is. What people think of prostitution, how the sex industry is created and maintained, what the public opinion says about it, and how the government copes with it, all reflect the general problem of our society.

The government doesn’t think that prostitution is a result of inequalities in Korean society. Instead, it tries to blame prostitution for all sorts of social problems. Poverty and the failure to acknowledge the human rights of sex workers are key problems that sex workers face. It those problems remain unresolved, the controversy about prostitution will continue.

Prostitution is already illegal in Korea. That is why sex workers cannot ask for protection during their work. Rather than protecting sex workers, the police violate their human rights during crackdowns. Amidst all this, this new policy will pose a new threat to the survival of sex workers. With bounty hunters at large, sex workers will have to hide in the shadows where there is neither safety nor a regular income. This policy is also dangerous as it may direct public frustration at the Park administration’s incompetency, incapacity and dishonesty towards sex workers by defining sex workers as the delinquent “others”. Stigmatising minorities as criminals and putting them into dangerous circumstances represents nothing short of a witch hunt.

To most of male, female and transgender sex workers, sex work is a matter of survival. Before asking sex workers why would they go into this business, the government should reflect on the circumstances that renders sex work inevitable. A weak social safety net, prejudices within Korean society, and the attitude of Korean society towards poverty should be held accountable. Sex workers constantly have to be afraid and will have no access to workers’ rights and human rights as long as prostitution is deemed a crime and “prostitutes” as filthy.

We, the members of Giant Girls, the Network for Sex Workers’ Rights, express our outrage over this incompetent and irresponsible government announcement and declare that we will take every measure against the situation.

May 20th, 2014
Giant Girls, the Network for Sex Workers’ Rights


Author: Giant Girls, Network for Sex Workers’ Rights (성노동자권리모임 지지)
Translation: Research Project Korea, with kind permission by Giant Girls

Please click here for the Korean version.


Does legal prostitution really increase human trafficking in Germany?

Der Spiegel 22.2013 Mock English - Image by Matthias LehmannIn late May, leading German news magazine DER SPIEGEL published a cover story – now published in English – on the alleged failure of the German prostitution law, which rendered the State complicit in human trafficking. The deeply flawed report failed, however, to address numerous relevant aspects of human trafficking prevention and prosecution, including victim protection. It also failed to insert much needed factual evidence into the broader global debate on human trafficking, which is also about labor rights, migration, sustainable supply chains and human rights. DER SPIEGEL thus contributed to a very narrow debate on human trafficking and to the wrong debate around sex work.

Feminist Ire, “Not your fluffy feminism”, kindly published an article by Sonja Dolinsek and myself, which critically engages with the international community on the difficult relationship between trafficking and sex work. Please click here to read the article.

The above image (click to enlarge) is not an actual SPIEGEL cover. The red umbrella is the symbol of the sex workers’ rights movement. Click here for more information. Image: Matthias Lehmann

 


In support of Ye Haiyan

Updates!

June 13th | Ye Haiyan was released on June 12th. Click here.
June 30th | Click here to read about Ye Haiyan’s continued battle sex workers’ rights.
July 6th | Ye Haiyan was evicted from her home by Guangdong police. Click here
.

Postcard campaign in support of Ye Haiyan

Chinese activists have started a postcard campaign in support of sex worker activist Ye Haiyan, who was detained days after protesting against officials’ failure to tackle child abuse. To learn more about this story, please refer to the articles listed below.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????

Please support sex worker activist Ye Haiyan

To express your support or just send Haiyan a nice message, please participate in the campaign.

Here is how:

1. Find a postcard you like, e.g. one where you’re from.

2. Write your own text on the postcard: you can ask for the release of Ye Haiyan, write a message of support to Ye Haiyan, or anything else you want to say.

3. Please send the postcard to Bobai Detention Center at the below address.

4. When you mail the postcard, please take a picture of yourself at the post box or post office, holding the postcard. You can of course cover your face or choose to only display the postcard and post office.

You can also ask a passerby to take your photo. It’s a good occasion to let people know about Ye Haiyan’s case and about the international sex workers’ rights movement.

5. Please send the picture to jiazimaili[at]gmail.com. Activists will post the pictures to their Weibo accounts, a Chinese microblogging service akin to Twitter, to document the cards being sent to Bobai Detention Center.

Mailing address for postcards:

博白县拘留所 Bobai County Detention Center
广西壮族自治区玉林市博白县兴隆西路 Xinglong West Road, Bobai County,
Yulin City, Guangxi Province, China.
邮政编码:53769 Post code: 53769

The above text was mostly taken from the Facebook page of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers.

Articles about Ye Haiyan’s detention

The Guardian | Chinese police refuse to release activist who campaigned against child abuse

According to Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “The whole thing looks like a set-up so they could detain her for 15 days.”  He added: “There is a history of using proxies to unlawfully assault human rights defenders. There is a long history of lawyers or activists being attacked by ‘thugs’ or ‘gangsters’ in fact acting at the behest of the government.  “She is the victim here: she was attacked and she documented what was happening. If police have convincing evidence showing otherwise they should come forward with it. The fact she is now detained seems to be a transparent ploy to silence her on the issue of sexual assault of school children.”

South China Morning Post | School sexual abuse protester Ye Haiyan beaten up in her own home

Gender rights activist Ye Haiyan was assaulted and detained by Guangxi public security officials yesterday after returning from Hainan province, where she had protested against the sexual abuse of schoolgirls. Ye appealed for help three times on her microblog around noon yesterday, saying her apartment had been raided by about 10 women and one man while she was alone with her daughter.

Two Beijing-based lawyers who joined Ye in the Hainan protest earlier this week said Ye was summoned for questioning by police in Guangxi’s Bobai county yesterday after she was accused of physical assault while fending off her attackers. Her supporters said they believed the attack was an attempt to silence Ye after she launched an online anti-child-abuse campaign that has received massive public support.

Shanghaiist | Sex-worker activist Ye Haiyan imprisoned after chasing off three intruders

Tang Jitian, a Beijing-based rights lawyer, said “[Ye] has also been seen as a thorn in the side of local authorities obsessed with maintaining social stability. This is not the first time she has been harassed.”

Photos accompanying the original article in Chinese can be found here.

Global Times | Police hold activist Ye Haiyan for 13 days, reject release request

Local police in Bobai county, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, have rejected an  application from women’s and sexual rights activist Ye Haiyan’s lawyers to suspend her 13-day administrative detention for intentional injury, her lawyer told the Global Times Sunday.  “The local police called me around noon to say the application was rejected, saying Ye should apply for the suspension herself, and there should be a guarantor. However, Ye’s daughter is only 13 years old, which means she can’t be a guarantor,” lawyer Wang Quanping said. He submitted the application at midday Saturday.

Please release Ye Haiyan - Research Project Korea


Working? Working!

More often than not, the ideas that people have about sex work result from the narratives created by the media or anti-prostitution activists and have little to do with reality. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to present to you a photo series by Yeoni Kim, a South Korean sex worker and activist with Giant Girls, Network for Sex Workers’ Rights. I would like to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation to Ms Kim for kindly providing her photos and statement to bring people – in her own words – “closer to sex workers”.

copyrightPlease note that the copyright for the photos and statement lies with Yeoni Kim and is not licensed under a Creative Commons License. Please share the link to this post with others but kindly refrain from downloading the photos and posting them out of context elsewhere. I would also like to ask bloggers to refrain from re-blogging this post. Should you wish to share Yeoni Kim’s work with your audience, please feel free to use the cover image and link to this post.


Working, Working - Yeoni Kim - All Rights Reserved

Artist’s Statement

The reality is that unless you are a client, sex worker or middleman, it is not easy to gain access to the working environment of sex workers.

성노동자들이 어떠한 환경에서 어떻게 일을 하고 있는지, 구매자나 성노동자, 중개업자가 아니면 우리는 쉽게 접근할 수가 없는 것이 현실이다.

The shop that granted us the permission to take these photos is classified as ‘Hyugetel’, which usually have signboards that read “College Girl Massage” or “Gentlemen’s Massage”.

사진 촬영을 허가한 이 업장은 ‘휴게텔’이라 분류되는 업장이며 보통 ‘여대생 마사지’, ‘남성전용 마사지’라는 간판을 달고 있다.

The process starts with washing the client, applying gel on the client’s body while being naked, and then rubbing against the slippery body. This is also known as “riding the body”. After “riding the body” is performed, you wash and towel-dry the client, and then lay the client down in bed. Caressing and petting starts from the neck to the knees, both in the front and the back of the client’s body.

손님을 씻기고, 알몸으로 손님의 몸에 젤을 발라 미끌미끌하게 부벼 주는 일명 ‘바디 타기’ 후, 다시 손님을 씻기고, 수건으로 닦아주고 침대에 뉘여 목부터 무릎까지 등판과 앞을 전부 애무한다.

Intercourse is the last stage. When the client ejaculates, you remove the condom, wash the client again, dress him and send him on his way. The photos sum up the process.

그 다음 섹스가 이루어지고, 사정 후 콘돔을 정리하고 손님을 다시 씻기고 옷을 입혀 내보내는 이 과정들을 몇몇의 사진들로 축약해 보았다.

A lot of the process has been omitted in the photos, since it was hard to modulate the level of exposure. The pictures were taken to let people understand that sex work is more than “lying down with your legs open”, and perhaps bring the audience closer to sex workers.

노출의 강조를 어떻게 해야 할 지 고민이 되어 일하는 모습들을 생략한 부분이 많지만, 이 사진들을 통해 아주 조금은 성노동자들과 가까워지고 그들의 노동이 단지 ‘다리 벌리고 누워있는 것’ 이상임을 이해할 수 있기를 바라는 마음으로 찍어보았다.

Yeoni Kim / 김연희

Please click on the cover image to view the photos as slide show. Press Escape to exit.

 


March 3rd ☂ International Sex Workers’ Rights Day

Photo: NeonRights by Matt Lemon Photography*
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PERMISSION TO USE WITHOUT PRIOR PERMISSION!

March 3rd ☂ International Sex Workers’ Rights Day

March 3rd marks the annual International Sex Workers’ Rights Day. The day was founded in 2001 by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), a sex worker collective in India. Over 25,000 sex workers gathered for that inaugural festival, and since then, participation the day is observed globally by sex workers and those showing solidarity to them.

“We felt strongly that that we should have a day what need to be observed by the sex workers community globally. Keeping in view the large mobilization of all types of global sexworkers [female, male, transgender], we proposed to observe 3rd March as the Sex Workers’ Rights Day.

Knowing the usual response of international bodies and views of academicians and intellectuals of the 1st world [many of them consider that sex workers of third world are different from 1st world and can’t take their decision] a call coming from a third world country would be more appropriate at this juncture, we believe. It will be a great pleasure to us if all of you observe the day in your own countries, too. We need your inspiration and support to turn our dreams into reality.” – Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (2002)

There are several other days that aim to raise awareness for sex workers’ rights and highlight the stigma, discrimination and violence they are often faced with. Two of them are the Korean Sex Workers’ Day and the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

June 29th ☂ Korean Sex Workers’ Day

On this day, the National Solidarity of Sex Workers Day was organised, after the Special Anti-Sex Trade Law [which includes a Prevention Act and a Punishment Act] was passed in 2004. Since then, the date is commemorated as Korean Sex Workers Day to honour all sex workers who have contributed to the struggle against discrimination over the years.

Hyeri & Matthias at GG's Sex Workers' Day Party

“I am not a hooker. I’m a sex worker!” (left)
“Don’t stigmatise us! Don’t oppress us!” (right)

December 17th International Day To End Violence against Sex Workers

“The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was originally developed by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and SWOP founder Robyn Few to shine a spotlight on the epidemic of violence against sex workers happening globally. SWOP-USA began commemorating the Day as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington, who murdered at least 71 women, most of whom were sex workers from 1982 to 1998.

During the week of December 17th sex worker rights organizations around the world stage actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. These events also often address issues relating to stigma and discrimination that allows violence against sex workers to occur with impunity. We seek to raise awareness about the barriers faced when attempting to report violence, and promote empowerment and change what has become an unacceptable status quo.” – Sex Workers Outreach Project USA

End Violence Against Sex Workers - Research Project KoreaQuoted/Paraphrased with kind permission by Mistress of Mattresses’ blog post Proof of Feminst Women’s Violence Against Prostitutes.

*The Red Umbrella

The Red Umbrella was first used as a symbol for sex worker solidarity at the 49th Venice Biennale of Art in Italy in 2001. Italian sex workers marched through the streets of Venice with red umbrellas as part of the “Prostitute Pavilion” and CODE:RED art installation by Slovenian artist Tadej Pogacar. The red umbrella march drew attention to the bad work conditions and human rights abuses sex workers faced. Four years later the red umbrella was adopted by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) where it became the emblem for resistance to discrimination. Since then the red umbrella has become the international icon for sex worker’s rights around the world. It symbolises protection from the abuse and intolerance faced by sex workers everywhere but it is also a symbol of their strength.

Related Posts

In Pictures: Korean Sex Workers’ Day

My Friend’s Rights are Human Rights!


Should we accept sex work?

The above video is an excerpt from the South Korean talk show WITH, which discusses social and economic issues from the perspectives of women. The topic of this issue was the constitutional review of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Law. [1] The moderator is Seung Yeon Oh, a professor at Korea University. In this video, she is speaking with Yeoni Kim, a sex worker activist with Giant Girls, Network for Sex Workers’ Rights. To allow a wider audience to learn first-hand about the situation of sex workers in South Korea, Research Project Korea provides you with an English translation of this video with kind permission by Yeoni Kim.

‘Is the Anti-Sex Trade Law unconstitutional?’

Panellist: Yeoni Kim, Sex Worker Activist at Giant Girls, Network for Sex Workers’ Rights Link
Moderator: Seung Yeon Oh, Professor at Korea University
TV Station: MBC; Air Date: January 21st, 2013

Seung Yeon Oh: Could you explain to us why you started working as a sex worker?

Yeoni Kim: I left home before I finished high school and I started working while I was a university student. The usual part time jobs that college students can take required too many working hours and paid too little and it was impossible for me to continue working and studying at the same time. I looked for a job with more flexible hours and a higher income and that is why I started to work at the Miari Texas red light district. As time went on, I began to like working as a sex worker, and it gave me some kind of pride. Then I quit college and started working as a sex worker full-time.

Oh: The term ‘sex worker’ sounds foreign to the general public. Is there a particular reason why you refer to yourself using the term ‘sex worker’?

Kim: It may seem strange to others, but the change in the term is important to me. The word [2] was first used in Korea in 2005 during a sex workers’ convention. Sex workers wanted to change the terminology in use. I first came across the term ‘sex worker’ in 2010. Before that, I actually stigmatised myself by using terms that referred to me as a second-class human being. Now I feel proud of myself and I am content with what I do, and the only reason I am covering my face with a mask when I’m on TV is to protect the people who are close to me. Usually, I show my face in public when I give lectures or participate in protests.

Oh: So the word ‘prostitution’ stigmatises people?

Kim: We are trying to change all the words that carry social stigma.

Oh: To what degree do you think sex workers are being discriminated in the society?

Kim: One example are bank loans. Banks ask for your occupation when they process one’s loan application, and when you reply, “I am a sex worker.”, you will be asked to explain what that means. If you explain that sex work is selling sex to earn money, the application will be refused even if your credit history is excellent. The same goes for insurances. Sex work is seen as a highly hazardous occupation, and so sex workers are denied insurance coverage.

Oh: What do you think about the constitutional appeal?

Kim: I think of it as a first step. Gradually, the clients of sex workers and brothel owners should be decriminalized, too. There are many concerns surrounding this matter. Male and transgender sex workers should be included in the discussion.

Oh: Thank you for your time.

Footnotes

[1] At the time of this publication, South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Law was under constitutional revision. For further details, please refer to the following post.

Outcome of Constitutional Review | Research Project Korea URL
Korea’s sex trade in legal limbo | Asian Correspondent URL (old)
Appeal on anti-prostitution law filed with Korea`s top court | Donga Ilbo URL (old)

[2] Refers to ‘seongnodongja’, the Korean term for ‘sex worker’.


In your neighbourhood

“If I can feel like a part of Korean society, how can it be that there are Koreans who don’t feel like they are part of society?”

Namsangol Vol. 3 Cover“There are people who live in your neighbourhoods who don’t have the same rights as you. They are marginalised by laws and stigmatised by society, and the bias of the Korean media and the public constantly adds to their discrimination. They have the courage to demonstrate for their rights, but your government, when it reviewed the [Anti-Sex-Trade] law, decided to make matters even worse for them, rather than learning from countries like New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands or Germany, where governments understood that criminalising sex work, contrary to what anti-prostitution activists will tell you, harms sex workers and their families and does not reduce human trafficking. Even the UN has finally understood this and published a report this September that calls for the decriminalisation of sex work.”

Excerpt from ‘All Sorrows Are Less With Bread’, Namsangol magazine Vol. 3

About the article

At the end of 2012, a group of young Seoulites published the third issue of Namsangol, a magazine about Haebangchon, a multicultural neighbourhood in the heart of Seoul. They had contacted me earlier last year regarding my photo series about a controversial graffiti in Haebangchon. In October, they contacted me again and asked if I wanted to write an article for them. The result was an autobiographical piece, in line with their profiles of people living in Haebangchon, which they published in both English and Korean. I took the opportunity to introduce their readers to the problems faced by sex workers in South Korea.

Click here to download the article as a PDF (23 MB)

(more…)


Farewell SWFF! Farewell Kolkata!

“Thank you and farewell Kolkata!
Let’s meet again in a few years time!”

Unforgettable MC Khartini Slamah,
Malaysian transgender sex worker (APNSW)

There are further quotes and photos to come from the final days of the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival, but for now, I would just like to share with you the final moments of this unprecedented conference.

I would like to take this occasion to express my sincere gratitude to those who have supported my participation in Kolkata, both financially and – equally important – in spirit. I also like to thank the participants at the SWFF for sharing their views and experiences with everyone, and congratulate the organisers from the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects for the great success of all their hard work.

Kolkata Platform for Action

Please click here for the Kolkata Platform for Action, published on July 26, 2012, at the conclusion of the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival, the official hub of the International AIDS Conference 2012, that became necessary as the US government continues to prevent sex workers from entering the United States, thus barring them from attending the conference in Washington D.C.


Stop the stigma | Messages on the eve of the SWFF

On the eve of the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival, I would like to share several messages. One is from KANG Hyun Joon, Director-General of the Han Teo National Union of Sex Workers in South Korea; the second is from a Korean sex worker who sadly cannot participate in the festival; and based on both of their statements I would also like to share a message of my own.

I am often asked what I wish to accomplish with my research project. Some people simply happen to know very little about the subject of sex workers’ rights, others might question my motives or morality, and yet again others might wonder why I am doing this research in South Korea. In the following, I will explain one of the factors that motivate me, and it’s the same that also renders my research considerably difficult at times.

Think globally (sometimes), act locally

I usually try to avoid making generalising statements about Koreans. Firstly, it is never wise to make general assumptions about a large group of people, and secondly, Korean society is in a state of constant and rapid changes, which I have been able to witness over the last ten years, four of which I have been living in South Korea.

If you visit Korea, it will be virtually impossible for you not to come across the words ‘international’ and ‘global’ on a regular basis. You will find them on banners and brochures of universities, research organisations, government agencies or private corporations who all use those words to give their dealings the semblance of being interconnected with like-minded partners in other parts of the world.

My experience tells me, however, that this global link is more often than not in name only, regardless of how genuine the intention to establish it may be. Korean activists, while very apt when organising protests within Korea, are no exception to this rule. [1]

Raising awareness about sex workers in Korea

Raising awareness about the situation of sex workers in South Korea is therefore one of the factors that continue to motivate me. I will not pretend that the lack of an international network doesn’t pose a significant challenge sometimes. But it makes me want to engage with Korean sex workers even more to encourage them – where necessary – to increase their network with sex work activists in other countries and to make their voices heard beyond the Asian realm. [2]

The evening before I boarded my flight to Kolkata, I met with KANG Hyun Joon, Director-General of the Han Teo National Union of Sex Workers, at a café in Seoul’s red-light district in Yeongdeungpo. Kang founded Han Teo in September 2002 and the organisation soon represented 20,000 brothel-based sex workers. Following the Special Law on Sex Trade of 2004 and increased government crackdowns on brothels, membership has since dropped to approx. 8,000, as an estimated 100,000 Korean sex workers opted to move abroad, the majority of them to Japan and the United States.

Message from Korean Sex Workers’ Union Han Teo to the SWFF

Towards the end of our talk, I asked KANG Hyun Joon if he would like me to pass on a message to the participants of the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival, seeing that on this occasion, Han Teo wouldn’t send a delegate to the conference. He replied the following.

“Since we don’t have frequent contact with people in the sex industry at the international level, I can’t say much about it, to be honest with you. However, if I were to talk about the situation in Korea, I’d like to say that I hope the day comes soon where sex workers in Korea work without shame and speak up with confidence in their own country.”

“그 쪽분들은 제가 접촉이 없기 때문에 뭐라고 말씀드리기 힘들지만 한국 사정으로 봤을 때 이 업에 종사한다고 해서 부끄러워하지 말고 떳떳하게 자기 국가에서 목소리 내면서 노동자로 인정받을 수 있는 날이 빨리 왔으면 좋겠습니다.”

Stop and listen! 

While the immense stigma attached to sex work represent a problem for sex workers worldwide, the traditionally strict gender roles still alive in modern Korean society greatly exacerbate it. In a recent meeting with a sex worker in Seoul, we talked about the common rhetorical ploy by prostitution abolitionists to ask whether or not one would wish for one’s own children to become prostitutes. Her comment was that she would indeed try everything to prevent her child from working as a prostitute, but the reason she gave for that was not the nature of the work, but the stigmatisation that goes along with it, and that is causing her great distress and has her keep a distance from her parents to avoid having to lie to them about her work. [3]

Stigmatisation and discrimination have been the most commonly given answers I received when talking to Korean sex workers about difficulties they experience in their daily lives.

And so my message on the evening before the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival is directed to those readers unsure about the subject of sex workers’ rights.

To change laws and improve the rights of sex workers will take a lot of time and effort. But to open your mind, you only have to stop and listen, even if some of it might make you feel uncomfortable. I like to encourage you to stop believing the one-dimensional rhetoric of prostitution abolitionists and to listen instead to the experiences shared by those who know best, and those are sex workers themselves.

One of them is Maggie McNeill, a retired call girl, who writes about how she sees the world on her blog ‘The Honest Courtesan’.

“Those who wish to control others, to attack consensual actions with criminal laws, and to eliminate options which make them uncomfortable, believe that morality is set in stone; they think that right and wrong are as separate and distinct as black and white, and that they and only they have the direct proclamation from Godhead about which is which. Rational people, however, understand that morality is a process of weighing out various factors, comparing the relative right and wrong of each, in order to come to the most just, least harmful decision possible.” [4]

 

Notes

[1] The protests against the naval base on Jeju Island are a significant exception to the rule. The Korean government responded to the appearance of 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Angie Zelter (UK) and Benjamin Monnet (France) on the scene by arresting the two non-violent peace activists. While they eventually deported without any formal judicial procedure, three US citizens, members of US Veterans for Peace, were outright forbidden to land in Korea, discouraging further interference from the outside. Case in point.

[2] To avoid any misunderstanding, I would like to clarify that I do not wish to imply that Korean sex workers aren’t capable of making themselves heard, as this video greatly illustrates. In the recent past, Korean sex workers have more frequently participated in meetings and conferences outside Korea. As KANG Hyun Joon’s quote illustrates, however, contacts to sex work activists are still very limited, especially when it comes to links outside East Asia.

[3] The interviewee consented to having her views published. The photo was taken from a twitter account of a Korean sex worker.

[4] A Different View by The Honest Courtesan