Statement on the 18th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Today is the 18th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Every year, sex workers organizations all over the world carry out different types of activities to increase public concern on sex workers’ vulnerability to violence, and to urge the society to eliminate discrimination against sex workers.

During 2020, COVID-19 has brought great impact to all parts of the world. All industries including the sex industry are unavoidably affected. Many economic and social activities stopped because of the introduction of lockdown and quarantine. However, such introduction did not stop the behaviors disturbing sex workers. There were in particular many candid camera cases, which targeted sex workers and the clips were later uploaded to the Internet. Despite of the pandemic, this year we still collected 35 complaints about candid camera from sex workers.

These people probably do not understand how sex workers are mentally hurt by their behaviors. Though they just film sex workers opening the door for the customer, most sex workers do not tell their family about their job. They do not want their family to be discriminated or teased by others. Yet, when their faces are publicized on the Internet, they will face much pressure. They worry that their family will find them hide something. They also fear that their family will get into troubles and be gossiped about. Once there were sex workers trying to commit suicide as they worry that their family would find them working in the sex industry. Luckily the peer workers next door soothed them, stopped them to commit suicide. Nevertheless, many sex workers still worry a lot after being filmed. They face great pressure all day, thinking that their family has found out the truth about their jobs.

Currently, the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance does not cover candid camera and behaviors of showing others’ faces on social media. Even the victims turn to the police, the police often cannot investigate the case for there is not sufficient information about who upload the video clips. Sex workers cannot seek any help, but face more pressure. Their work and daily life is further affected.

We used to talk about the physical violence faced by sex workers from the police and customers on this day in the past few years. However, this year, we are more likely to tell the public how sex workers are mentally hurt and how sex workers feel. At the same time, we strongly urge those who often film sex workers and show their work on the Internet with no special reason, to stop hurting sex workers. Stop filming sex workers or their working situation immediately.

Different types of violence faced by sex workers in Hong Kong in 2020

Police violence/abuse Client/criminal violence
Free sexual service3 cases Denial of payment13 cases
Free massage service before arrest10 cases Candid camera35 cases
Verbal threat and insult1 case Theft3 cases
Neglect of duty5 cases Robbery16 cases
Arbitrary arrest155 cases Triad threats and harassment1 case
Counterfeit note2 cases
Intimidation7 cases
Cyber violence2 cases
Privacy violation1 case
Condom removed2 cases
Rape1 case
Telephone harassment1 case
Physical assault4 cases
Properties damaged1 case
Indecent assault1 case

Zi Teng
Sex workers concern group
17 December 2020