Sex workers have become more mainstream since the arrival of Only Fans. Influencers like Belle Delphine and Ms. Puiyi make sex work more popular and commercialized. However, sex workers are one of the most dangerous professions in the whole world. In Malaysia, the topic of sex is still taboo. Sex; most people are too focused on the act of sex rather than the underlying issues of it. Sex has lots of implicit issues that can be discussed in-depth. Here, in this post, we are going to discuss the situation regarding sex workers in Malaysia.
What Is a Sex Worker?
Generally, a sex worker is someone who exchanges sexual acts, services, products, or performances in return for compensation, which is usually money and gifts. It is like buying and selling activities. It is a consensual act.
Sex Workers Term:
Sex workers is a term to refer to anyone who works in the sex industry, doing different professions and work. To put it simply, sex workers are those who sell their own erotic work. Most people probably recognize sex workers as those who work as prostitutes, Only Fans creator, cam girls, strippers, porn stars, and agency escorts. Yes, they are indeed sex workers! However, there are more sex workers in the industry.
A proper definition quoted in an academic study stated that “sex worker” refers to the group of people, female, transgender, male, under-age, immigrant, native, etc., who actively choose to exchange sexual services for money or payment in kind (defined by Lin, 1998a; 1998b; Ng, 2004).
How Did Sex Workers Exist in Malaysia?
Sex workers existed due to the demand available. Basic economic principles state that when there is demand, there will be supply. Therefore, sex workers existed for one of these reasons.
Treated Poorly with Inequality:
For centuries, sex workers are treated poorly. Equality is what every human deserves. My theory on why sex works like prostitution and cam girls are looked down on is that they are under-represented.
Prostitution is a textbook example of underrepresentation. Prostitutes being objectifications. Prostitution is still stigmatized as no one on the highest levels represents it. Celebrities, influencers or politicians are unlikely to publicly advocate for the legalization or decriminalization of prostitution. Activists have been trying to bring awareness to these issues. Instead, this issues is exploited to earn political points.
Until today, sex workers in Malaysia were underrepresented. Little progress have achieved recently. For instance, Ms. Puiyi is a famous influencer in Malaysia who has an Only Fans account and has huge followers. She blurs the line between influencer and sex worker. She represents the sex workers in Malaysia.
Prostitution in Malaysia:
Try to search for some information regarding prostitution in Malaysia. A quick YouTube search will tell you that we are lacking a spotlight on these issues. The videos are from years ago. It contain little to none content. Basically, sex education is so backwards in Malaysia. So do the articles, postings, and videos of sex workers in Malaysia. We can see that they can’t speak freely, and these underlying issues will remain buried.
“We are so focused on the act of sex that we are blinded to the issues underneath it"
Dangers That Sex Workers Usually Face:
- Disregard as Part of the Community
This is one of the biggest issues for sex workers. Discrimination, inequality, and stigma are some of the things that sex worker are facing. They are associated with name such as whore, bitch, slut and other harsh words.
It is very common among sex workers. There are three types of assault that they face, which are financial violence, sexual violence, and physical abuse. Sex workers still continue their work while knowing these risks. Some of the most common assaults that sex workers face are clients pulling out condoms when they are having intercourse. This is one of the sexual assaults that they face.
Consent should be continuous during intercourse. It is not just a one-time thing. That is what some of their clients have forgotten about. Most prostitutes are facing this issue. Sex workers have the right to choose, to reject, to continue or to stop. Prostitutes have their boundaries as well. They should been heard.
More threats that they are facing:
- Scams and traps
- Human Rights
The Law of Sexual Activities in Malaysia
When looking through laws in Malaysia, we have to look at several laws. Malaysia practiced mixed legal systems; Common Law, Islamic Law and Customary Law. Then, the Malaysian legal system comes from the sources of Written and Unwritten law.
Looking at the aspect of law and sex work in Malaysia, we must look at Common Law and Sharia Law.
- Common Law: According to Section 327 of the Penal Code, soliciting for prostitution in any place and knowingly living on the earnings of being a prostitute are illegal.
- Sharia Law: This law is only imposed on Muslims. Section 21 of the Sharia Criminal Offenses Act states that “any woman who prostitutes herself” is sentenced to receiving fines and whipping. Basically, under the Syariah Criminal Offenses (Federal Territories) Act 1997 [Act 559], there are several acts related to prostitution, starting from Section 21 to Section 373.
Is It Illegal To Sell Sex?
Although ‘selling sex’ is wrong, other related acts such as solicitation for the purpose of “prostitution” and public annoyance are prohibited. Prostitutes that behave in a disruptive or indecent way on or near any public road or in any public venue are also illegal. There are other Sharia regulations that apply to Muslim individuals at the state level. Zina (adultery) and khalwat (being alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not a spouse or family member), can also be use against sex workers and customers. There are also certain Sharia laws in place at the state level that expressly criminalize “prostitution.”
Sex Work is Actually Empowering.
Some harsh words existed, like “bohsia” or “pelacur,” which sounded very degrading. Pejorative and harsh words are usually used by uneducated people. In my opinion, being called a pelacur (prostitute), a whore, or a slut doesn’t hurt me. In fact, I admired that word. Can you imagine how hard the sex workers’ lives are? Working while facing danger every single day and continuing their daily life by working, knowing that the danger will always harm them. It is actually empowering. They are the embodiment of empowerment.
Legalizing sex workers as a legal job in Malaysia is quite hard. Activist keep trying to fight for legalizing sex work. As a result, nothing happened. Sex work has been legal in Singapore. This benefits of legalizing sex work is that the country as sexual activities can be in better control than before.
Sex Workers’ Rights is a Human Right
Last but not least, sex workers deserve equality. Since sex workers are not legal jobs, they do not have the normal benefits that other Malaysians normally enjoy. They don’t have access to insurance, housing funds, bonuses, or allowances. We need to change our mindset regarding sex workers. They deserves respect. A sex worker is a human being. Let’s hope that this matter will be brought to the spotlight in the future.