Statement on the 19th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Today is the 19th 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 2021, COVID-19 continued bringing great impact to all parts of the world. Because of the frequent emergence of variants, different governments either tighten or launch again their preventive measures, which affect people’s life, economy and business activities. Despite that the Hong Kong Government did provide subsidies for some industries, property owners reduced rents for their tenants, recent data also showed that Hong Kong had come out of economic slowdown, we saw something different on sex workers. The government subsidies did not benefit sex workers, most sex workers suffered income loss, some of them had to handle their children to their Mainland relatives as they were unable to raise and to take care their children in Hong Kong. Since the coronavirus ravaged Hong Kong two years ago, we finally saw people entering the sex industry for economic depression. People who left the industry many years ago also returned to sex industry for economic reason.

No matter experienced or amateur sex workers, they will find that the current working conditions are more complicated than they expect. As they are not aware of the latest situation in the industry, they are more vulnerable than other peer workers. For example, one amateur sex worker was not paid as she wrongly thought that her client who visited her several times could be trusted and let him leave without paying the service charge, one sex worker who re-entered the industry called the police for client misbehavior but was told by the ‘sisters’ working next door she should tolerate as she would give bad impression and infuriate the frontline police for calling the police hotline too many times, sex workers who changed her job from sauna to one woman brothel called the police when her client refused to pay but was blamed by the police officers for calling the police over trivial matter.

On the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, we would like to urge all sex workers to be aware of your rights. It is necessary to understand the latest situation of the sex industry, and learn to protect yourself. Even though you are working in the industry for short period, you still need to understand the basic rights. You should not think that you can handle all the situations alone. On the other hand, we would like to ask the public to help sex workers when the latter is in trouble. Please do not turn a blind eye to sex workers. The law enforcing groups in particular, should respond seriously to sex workers’ calls for help. The frontline police officers should not behave in ways that may discourage sex workers from calling the police, or sex workers will always become the targets of villains and face more dangers.

Different types of violence faced by sex workers in Hong Kong in 2021

Police violence/abuse Client/criminal violence
Free sexual service8 cases Denial of payment3 cases
Free massage service before arrest8 cases Candid camera300 cases
Verbal threat and insult4 cases Theft1 case
Neglect of duty2 cases Robbery6 cases
Framing2 cases Counterfeit note2 cases
Forced/coaxed to sign statement20 cases Intimidation4 cases
Arbitrary arrest102 cases Cyber violence2 cases
Condom removed2 cases
Rape1 case
Harassment13 cases
Physical assault6 cases
Police impostor1 case
Personal information leakage2 cases
Verbal insult1 case
Fraud1 case

Intimate partner violence
Intimidation1 case
Physical assault1 case

Zi Teng
Sex workers concern group
17 December 2021