Amnesty International Report Shows High Level Of Violence Against PNG Sex Workers

Calls on government to protect human rights; decriminalize sex work

BY Nellie Setepano

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 7, 2016) – Amnesty International has recently released its report on Papua New Guinea, highlighting that sex workers experience extraordinarily high levels of violence, abuse and discrimination.

While releasing the report, the international human rights organisation has called on the PNG Government to decriminalise sex work, and protect the rights of sex workers who are marginalised and therefore face higher risks because of this.

Amnesty Pacific researcher Kate Shuetze said that when Amnesty arrived in PNG in January last year, "just days before our visit, a sex worker was raped, killed and her body dumped in a settlement in Port Moresby."

"Sex workers in Mount Hagen told us of a case where a sex worker was raped in a police cell in late 2014; it is not clear if the police officer was ever charged or dismissed for this offence.

"They also told us of another case where a sex worker was killed in late 2013 just outside the police station. Many people told us they sell sex as a matter of survival, and that they face severe violence and stigma from clients, police, families and communities," these are according to researchers.

The report states that sex workers face a range of abuses from clients, family and others, including rape, sexual or physical assault and sometimes murder.

In 2010, a study of 593 sex workers (441 women, 96 men and 56 transgender) in Port Moresby found that over a period of six months, 46 per cent of sex workers surveyed had been subjected to physical violence in the course of their work and 50 per cent had been subjected to rape by clients or police.

These figures underscore the high risk of physical and sexual violence for sex workers, who are predominantly women.

In a country where an estimated two thirds of all women report sexual violence or rape in their life time and there are little or no support services for women who endured violence, sex workers are at extraordinarily high risk of violence because of the additional stigma and discrimination they face and the criminal status of their work.

"Sex workers we spoke to feel unable to seek protection of the law when crimes are committed against them. Many feared reporting crimes would be futile or expose them to further violence from the police or perpetrators," says Shuetze.

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