Comment: ILO report wins award

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Subject: Comment: ILO report wins award
From: Jyothi Kanics (
Date: Tue Feb 23 1999 - 13:14:14 EST

Dear List,

I would encourage anyone who can to read this ILO report before writing =
in support or against it.

If marginalisation, stigma, exclusion and dependence on agents increases =
vulnerability among trafficked women then the recommendations of this =
report could offer considerable opportunities to address such =
vulnerability by offering women in sex work adequate labour law =

Best regards

John Davies

ILO Home=20



ILO Report on Sex Sector Receives Prestigious Publishing Prize=20

at Frankfurt Book Fair

Saturday 10 October 1998

( ILO/98/36 )

FRANKFURT (ILO News) - A prestigious publishing prize, the 1998 =
International Nike Award, has been awarded to Ms. Lin Lean Lim of the =
International Labour=20

Office (ILO) for a recently published study on the sex industry in =

Asia. Ms Lim, who authored The Sex Sector: The economic and social bases =

prostitution in Southeast Asia(Endnote 1), will accept the award on =
Saturday, 10=20

October at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany.=20

The prize was launched in 1997 by feminist writer Shere Hite at the =

Book Fair to honour nonfiction writing by women which contributes to the =

advancement of thinking about the situation of women in the world. The =

publication was chosen by a jury including women from five continents, =
all of=20

whom are renowned for their writings and activism.=20

The ILO study examines the social and economic forces driving the growth =
of the=20

sex industry in four Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the =

Philippines and Thailand. It says that the provision of sexual services =

assumed the dimensions of a full-blown commercial sector, one that =

direct and indirect employment to millions of workers and contributes=20

substantially to national incomes throughout the region.=20

Ms Lim, an ILO researcher and employment policy expert, thanked the jury =

behalf of the ILO for its decision and said that she hoped "the award =

focus attention on the many misunderstandings and the huge public policy =

surrounding the sex sector as well as on the plight of its many innocent =

victims, including trafficked women and children."=20

She said that "the growing scale of prostitution raises alarming =
questions, not=20

only about public health, morality and gender discrimination, but about =

basic human rights of the ever-increasing numbers of commercial sex =

most of whom would appear to enter the business willingly, but many of =
whom are=20

forced, trafficked, tricked or exploited into sex work." She said that =

women were a particularly vulnerable group and evidence abounds of =

efficient international networks directing trafficking of migrant =

throughout Asia and beyond."=20

Lin Lim added that while the conditions of adult sex workers differ =

ranging from freely chosen and highly remunerative to exploitation and =

slavery, "there is no such ambiguity concerning child prostitution," =
which she=20

said should be considered as a much more serious problem than adult=20


"Adults can choose to become prostitutes or to work in pornography. =

cannot. Children are much more vulnerable and helpless against the =

structures and vested interests of the sex sector and much more likely =
to be=20

victims of debt bondage, trafficking, physical violence or torture. They =

much more susceptible to diseases, including HIV/AIDS and suffer =

physical and psychological trauma. While there is a range of possible =

for coping with the increase in adult prostitution, there should be only =

goal for child prostitution - to eliminate it."=20

The report estimates that anywhere between 0.25 per cent and 1.5 per =
cent of the=20

total female population in the study countries are engaged in =

Related activities (including the numerous bars, hotels, entertainment=20

facilities and tourist agencies that thrive on prostitution), employ =

millions more workers. Large segments of the population in Southeast =
Asia -=20

notably the rural-poor families who often send their daughters to work =

prostitutes - rely upon remittances from prostitution for their =
well-being if=20

not for their outright survival. However, in spite of the size and =

importance of prostitution, it is almost entirely unregulated and goes=20

unrecognised in official statistics, development plans and government =
budgets of=20

almost all countries worldwide.=20

The report emphasizes the economic bases of prostitution, highlighting =

strong economic incentives that drive women to enter the sector, despite =

social stigma and danger attached to the work Sex work is often better =
paid than=20

most of the options available to young, often uneducated women. The =
report also=20

highlights the many vested economic interests that derive profit from =

activities rather than the women and children who are the ones who are=20

commercially sexually exploited. The report stresses that in order to =
come to=20

terms with the problems of prostitution, it is necessary to tackle these =

vested interests. These include a wide range of social actors, including =

families of the women and children who depend on the revenues generated =

prostitution and who sometimes sell their children into prostitution, =

various sex establishments which include large swathes of the =
entertainment and=20

travel & tourism industries and corrupt officials without which =

trafficking networks could not operate with impunity.=20

The report argues that the growth of prostitution is probably linked, =

inadvertently, to the macro-economic policies of governments which have =

tendency to spawn rapid urbanisation at the expense of rural =
development, to=20

promote cheap labour for industrialization, to facilitate the export of =

labour for overseas employment and to promote tourism as a foreign =

earner. All these features of modern, export-oriented economies, =
combined with=20

the pervasive lack of social safety nets and deep-rooted gender =

against females, probably contribute to the growth of the sex sector.=20

The report says that "measures targeting the sex sector have to consider =

religious, health, human rights and criminal issues in addressing a =

that is mainly economic in nature." However, the report states =

that it is outside the purview of the ILO to take a stand on whether =

should legalize prostitution. According to Lin Lim, "recognition of =

as an economic sector does not mean that the ILO is calling for the =

of prostitution." The book takes pains to explain the different possible =

approaches - criminalization and total prohibition, legalization which =

registration and regulation of the sex establishments and the =
prostitutes, and=20

decriminalization which treats the prostitutes as victims and imposes =

criminal sanctions on those who traffic in, exploit or abuse =
prostitutes. But=20

the ILO insists that it is for countries themselves to decide on the =

stance to adopt.=20

The ILO is the United Nations' specialised agency for workplace issues =
and for=20

the development and implementation of international labour standards. =
Founded in=20

1919, it is the oldest United Nations agency. The ILO counts 174 member =

Endnote 1:

The Sex Sector: The economic and social bases of prostitution in =
Southeast Asia=20

edited by Lin Lean Lim, International Labour Office, Geneva, 1998. ISBN=20

92-2-109522-3. Price: 35 Swiss francs.=20

For further information, please contact Bureau of Public Information =


Tel: +41.22.799.7940 or Fax: +41.22.799.8577.=20

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