|Session on a report on the labour rights of
sex workers in Laos, funded by the ILO
The panel was chaired by UNAIDS with brief presentations from the ILO, The Kirby Centre for Public Health, APHEDA- Union Aid Abroad, Empower Foundation Bangkok and Different Avenues, New York.
The presentations covered a broad range of topics but focused firmly on the rights of sex workers to safe and fair working conditions and to carry out their work with dignity under a legal framework of protection, free of discrimination, harassment, violence and other forms of abuse.
The United Nations peak body on labour, the ILO, made clear the UN believes sex work is regarded as work under the definition provided in Recommendation 200 and that sex workers should be afforded the same rights and protections as other workers. The Kirby Centre highlighted the relationship between existing laws that criminalise sex work and heightened vulnerability of workers to a range of abuses including social exclusion, poor health, and violence theft. APHEDA- Union Aid Abroad discussed the relationship between low pay and dangerous working conditions in Phnom Penh’s entertainment establishments and unacceptable levels of violence and abuse of workers.
The tone of the session is summed up neatly with presentations by two sex worker led organisations, Different Avenues and Empower who provide the following challenge to improve the life and livelihoods of sex workers:
- Pay at or above the minimum wage
- Eight hour work days
- Voluntary overtime
- Sick leave
- Access to social services
- No salary deductions for any reason
- Right to form worker’s associations
The panel was followed by a discussion with approximately 70 Washington conference delegates and a small but vocal group of sex workers video linked into the Global Village from Kolkata, where they had been exiled from the conference due to the USA’s exclusion of sex workers from the USA.
Video link to the Sex Worker Freedom Festival in
Kolkata, a parallel conference staged by sex workers who
were denied entry to AIDS 2012 due to US visa restrictions