Association for the Development and Promotion of Women's Leadership

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Who do you work with?

The Women’s Leadership Initiative Centre (WLIC) is the first sex-worker-led community-based organization in Laos. In 2018, APNSW organized a national workshop on Community Empowerment and Human Rights in Vientiane, Laos. During the training a group of sex workers explored the possibility of starting a sex worker organization in Laos. Since its inception, WLIC is working for community empowerment and leadership building to end violence, stigma and discrimination. We recognize that community empowerment is critical to improve the quality of life of sex workers. We also conduct outreach to mobilize sex workers. The aim of mobilization is to unite sex workers in their efforts to access key services, particularly health care, and to demand quality from service providers.

How are sex workers involved in your organisation?

The organization is for the sex workers and by the sex workers. All the staff at the organzation from the sex workers community. The decision makers are sex workers and all activities impliment by sex workers. So sex workers are meaningfully involave with the organzation. 

Which of NSWP priority areas does your organisation work on?
Oppose the criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work and support its recognition as work
Advocate for universal access to health services, including primary health care, HIV and sexual and reproductive health services
Speak out about violence against sex workers, including violence from police, institutions, clients, and intimate partners, while challenging the myth that sex work is inherently gender-based violence
Oppose human rights abuses, including coercive programming, mandatory testing, raids and forced rehabilitation
Challenge stigma and discrimination against sex workers, their families and partners, and others involved in sex work
What are the two main challenges that the sex workers you work with face

Sex work in Laos is regarded as a criminal activity and can be subject to severe prosecution. Female sex workers (FSW) in Laos face countless human rights violations due to stigma, discrimination, and weak policy and legal frameworks that violate or fail to protect their rights. Women in sex work are of-ten perceived as criminals. However, there is a wide range of laws that create an atmosphere of crimi-nalization of sex work and thus the sex worker; for example, soliciting and running a brothel is illegal. This contradiction in law manifests in daily life: sex workers in Laos are subjected to harassment, vio-lence and may face criminal charges. Sex workers are not seen as ‘normal citizens’ who have equal right to life and livelihood because of their income-generating activities. Stigmatization of sex work contributes to their social isolation and to VASW in private and public spaces. In Laos law enforcing agencies often resort to the arbitrary detention of sex workers to extort money under threat of arrest and physical violence. There are hundreds of reports where sex workers are ar-rested. In recent years, sex workers have been charged with drug peddling and with human trafficking. Selling drugs and human trafficking are serious charges that are often ineligible for bail; in these cas-es, police officers seek larger bribes from sex workers not to book them under these charges. SWs across the country experience endemic levels of human rights violations due to social, legal, po-litical, and economic environments which foster anti-SW violence and deny SWs equitable health ser-vices, safe housing, and decent working conditions. Systemic and institutionalized violence against SWs VASW not only violates SWs’ rights but inhibits public health initiatives from achieving robust penetration within SW communities. Overwhelmingly, interventions and programs are designed to ad-dress the symptoms and effects of VASW, such as condom distribution and STI management, while failing to address the root violence of criminalization and discrimination. SWs are not involved in programs which target our communities for intervention. With most SW-related programming managed by Government and non-sex worker organizations, SWs are largely excluded with our voices marginalized and needs neglected. In some organizations, the involvement of SWs is simply tokenism, rather than the promotion of self-determination of SWs and their communities.There is a pressing need to provide access to free or low-cost services in which sex workers can seek support, legal advice, and redress for crimes and human rights abuses perpetrated against us. Gender inequality, stigma, and discrimination against sex work enables the police, clients, intimate partners, and general society to perpetrate violence against SWs with impunity. To achieve SWs’ full and pro-tected human rights within contexts of criminalization, social marginalization and political erasure, SW communities must engage in innovative ways to share knowledge, learnings, and strategies to build the community power and organizational resilience that drives life-affirming change.  It should be men-tioned that at this point there is no sex workers friendly and or sex workers lead intervention in the county.

Describe other areas of your work

In fact, all of our works is to improve the quility of life of sex workers. Promote, protect and respect the human rights of sex workers. We seek a Laos where all marginalized communities of the Laos will live an environment with equal Respect, Rights, Status and Dignity. We hope for a social order without discrimination based on class, gender, religion or occupation. We want to see Laotian people live in peace in a country that is only starting to recover from the conflicts of the late 20th century.