Activists press for decriminalization of sex work

Published: January 7, 2013

UN officials say that globally sex workers are 14 times more likely to acquire HIV than other women of reproductive age yet fewer than one in five have access to HIV prevention, treatment and care.

A 2012 report released jointly by the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNAIDS pressed for the decriminalization of sex work in many countries so that HIV prevention and treatment programs reach sex workers more effectively.

The report examined 48 Asian and Pacific countries, including China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, where sex workers reported condom confiscation and police harassment. Only in New Zealand and the Australian state of New South Wales have laws that decriminalize sex work.

John Godwin, an Australian human rights lawyer and author of a United Nations’ report calling for decriminalization of sex work, says the debate over sex workers’ role in the Asia Pacific is aimed at broadening the discussion over health and human rights issues.
"It is a capacity developing process. The organizations working for the rights of sexual workers are learning from each other," Godwin told DW.

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