FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | May 8, 2015
CONTACTS: Geneva- Monica Jones 602-575-9332, Derek Demeri firstname.lastname@example.org;
United States- Janet Duran- 973-900-4887, Penelope Saunders- 917-817-0324, email@example.com
U.S. Sex Worker Rights Activists Call for U.N. to Hold U.S. Government Accountable
U.N. to Review US Government Human Rights Record on May 11th
Geneva–Representatives of U.S.-based sex worker rights organizations are in Geneva, Switzerland, meeting with members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), and advocating for greater human rights protections. The HRC will hold its quadrennial Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the U.S.’ human rights record on May 11th at 9am (3am EST), at the U.N. in Geneva. The UPR is a peer-based review process, through which the human rights record of each member state of the U.N. is subject to scrutiny by fellow governments, which call on other each other to address and end violations of civil, political, economic and social human rights in their own countries.
In advance of the review this year, advocates with Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance, and Sex Workers Outreach Project-NY submitted a report to the HRC. Written in consultation with sex workers and their allies throughout the country, the report shows that criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers, and those profiled as such, exposes them to rape, extortion, physical violence, harassment, and discrimination at the hands of law enforcement. Criminalization and stigma can also lead to denial of housing, healthcare, parenting and other reproductive rights, education, incomes, and employment. The report demonstrates that the legal system frequently fails to recognize that sex workers can be victims of violence, and thus denies justice or support to sex workers who seek help.
For Monica Jones, a human rights advocate and transgender woman of color from Phoenix, AZ, the issues she is raising in Geneva have directly impacted her own life. Like many transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, she is threatened by regular harassment by police, who use anti-sex work laws to intimidate and harm members of communities already vulnerable to discrimination. “As long as the police can target my community using these anti-sex work laws,” Ms. Jones notes, “we will never be safe from violence, including the violence of incarceration.”
The UPR of the U.S. comes as major uprisings are sweeping the country in response to persistent police violence and murders of people of color. Sex worker communities, particularly those of color, are all too familiar with the rampant profiling, harassment and violence that police carry out throughout the U.S. Sex worker rights advocates in Geneva are in solidarity with the #blacklivesmatter movement and other similar racial justice movements that seek to end police brutality. “We refuse to be silenced when the criminalization and stigmatization of our communities means our voices and existence don’t matter to those who hold power,” said Derek Demeri, a member of the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, who is in Geneva. Demeri pointed out that one of the many detrimental effects of stigma and criminalization is increased risk to sex workers’ health and wellbeing. “The U.S. is obligated to uphold the right to health under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet municipalities criminalize possession of condoms, jeopardizing the health of sex workers and other communities and placing them at risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” he said.