09 November 2012

Legalizing Prostitution in the Philipines?

Legalizing Prostitution
After the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, the country will most probably be divided again when the Government takes a closer look at the recommendation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to legalize prostitution.

A report entitled, "Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific" examines 48 countries in Asia and the Pacific to assess laws, legal policies and law enforcement practices that affect the human rights of sex workers and impact on the effectiveness of HIV responses.

"The legal recognition of sex work as an occupation enables sex workers to claim benefits, to form or join unions and to access work-related banking, insurance, transport and pension schemes," the report added.

The report claims that Filipino sex workers remain highly vulnerable to STIs including HIV as well as sexual and physical abuse due to stigma. This was observed, even as the report noted that the Philippines has introduced laws aimed at preventing HIV and protecting the rights of infected patients.

The UN report also noted that broad definitions open to abuse and misinterpretation some provisions of Philippine laws on sex work.

Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code, for instance, which covers immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions and indecent shows "may be used by police to lay charges as a result of raiding entertainment establishments," the report said.

"Establishment-based sex workers are at risk of arrest as a result of police raids conducted under the anti-trafficking law," it added.

Laws also remain inadequate in addressing issues of discrimination against sex workers, especially for those infected with HIV or other STIs. It cited specifically, the AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, where the measure provides "no specific provisions to protect sex workers from discrimination."

Sex workers who are sexually assaulted are also unlikely to "successfully bring a charge of rape against an offender" despite the Anti-Rape Law, the UN added.

In conclusion, the report recommends the removal of legal penalties for sex work to allow HIV prevention and treatment programs to reach sex workers and their clients more effectively.

The report claimed that where sex work has been decriminalized, there is a greater chance for safer sex practices through occupational health and safety standards across the industry. Furthermore, there is no evidence that decriminalization has increased sex work.