Prostitution Rights for Sex Workers in Asia

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Prostitution is a major issue around the world. Prostitution is illegal in most countries and therefore sex workers are not given the rights they deserve in order to carry on their work. Police raids and crackdowns have pushed them into hiding, often forcing them to see their clients secretly. However, this endangers their lives because they are more prone to violence by clients, and it also keeps them from seeking help from police if they are subject to violence. This is clearly portrayed in Tajikistan, where sex workers meet their clients at places such as clubs, restaurants, bars and hotels. However, if they are arrested for their sex work, they are jailed for only two weeks.

Similarly, in other countries such as India and Katmandu, Nepal, there have been frequent allegations that sex workers face violence, rape and blackmailing from police, who use these as a weapon to fight against sex workers. In India prostitution is not illegal. However, owning or managing a brothel or making a profit from women who engage in sex worker are considered crimes. There are over three million sex workers in India. Most of them choose to be sex workers out of necessity to survive as opposed to choosing it willingly. Women who are divorced or abandoned by their husbands are emotionally pressured to be a sex worker due to lack of money and support to take care of their children or themselves. Besides the social stigma they face, they are still not afforded basic human rights, particularly when police mistreat them. Fortunately, the chairmen for the Nation Commission for Women, Lalitha Kumaralangalam, supports sex workers’ rights and argues that legalizing prostitution will improve the working conditions of women, and decrease the number of women and children who bcome victims of sex-trafficking.

In Katmandu, Nepal, there are about 11,000 to 13000 girls and women in the sex industry. Sex workers have been overwhelmed by police raids and crackdowns. However, activists are leaning more towards regulating this sector than making it illegal. For example, the president of the Community Action Center in Nepal states that police actions against sex workers cannot bring desired change until the government deals with it more deeply through national strategies and policies backing the overall cause. Due to prostitution and sex work, former home minister Bam Dev Gautam issued new rules that require businesses to close by 11pm. However, this has led to heavy protest by bar and restaurant owners. Many activists urge the government to better regulate this entertainment sector where business can thrive.

Source: Abdulfattoh Shafiev, “Sex Never Stops Selling. Even in Conservative Tajikistan,” Global Voices, October 19, 2015,

Background Sources (pre-2015):

“2006 Law Prevents Sex Workers’ Harassment.” Times of India, November 3, 2014,

Anjali Subedi, “Sex Workers Denounce Raids, Call on Govt to Regulate the Sector,” My Republica, January 31, 2014,

Tamiris Esfandiar, “Tajikistan’s Prostitution Crackdown Worries Activists,” EurasiaNet, January 8, 2014,

Student Researcher: Sonam Dorjee (Sonoma State)

Faculty Evaluator: Amber Keig (Sonoma State)