More sex workers report abuse by police, survey finds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 6:01pm

An increasing number of sex workers report being threatened or blackmailed by police, according to a survey conducted by Action for Reach Out (AFRO), a non-governmental organisation representing female sex workers' rights in Hong Kong.

The survey, which polled 200 sex workers in Hong Kong, found that nearly 10 per cent had experienced being threatened or blackmailed by police or individuals claiming to be police. Out of this figure, only about one-third admitted to being able to tell a fake police officer from a real one.

A similar survey conducted recently by local rights group Zi Teng also found more cases this year of undercover police receiving free sex or “massages” before making arrests on sex workers.

AFRO’s findings also stressed the increasing number of hurdles sex workers faced while conducting business. Most sex workers affected worked as private purveyors in “one woman/one brothel” premises (single bedroom apartments), which are legal in Hong Kong.

The number of customers requesting to not use a condom while having sex rose to 67 per cent in 2012, a significant increase from the last time the poll was conducted in 2007.

However, the average number of customers sex workers received forcefully demanding sex without a condom, dropped from 40 per cent in 2007, to 30 per cent in 2012.

About 18.5 per cent of the sex workers surveyed received customers or people pretending to be customers refusing to pay for services after they were completed.

The number of sex workers following up by informing the police increased from 9.5 per cent in 2007 to 28 per cent in 2012 reflecting “more confidence and understanding of legal issues and rights”, AFRO claimed in the report.

The number of sex workers experiencing forced sexual abuse or violence saw minimal improvement in 2012. About 10 per cent admitted to having experienced violence from customers while 29 per cent claimed to have experienced forced sexual abuse.

Prostitution is legal in Hong Kong but organised prostitution as well as solicitation and advertising for sex, is not.

Sex workers have long been prime targets for abuse, exploitation and police intimidation due to many being foreign workers on short-term visas, from either the mainland or Southeast Asia.

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