Author Archive

#GivingTuesday for Transgender Leadership for #SexWorkerRights

Organizations in the United States working for the rights of sex workers face significant barriers to funding including a foundation sector dominated by the belief that sex workers need saving rather than rights and limits because of priorities. Sex worker-led organizations in the United States received just 1% of global non-governmental grantmaking for sex worker rights in 2013.

Sex worker-led organizations in the US have continued to exist–and have achieved tremendous victories–through the personal sacrifices made by sex workers who have worked for years at a time as unpaid volunteers. The death of Sharmus Outlaw, a renowned black transgender leader for the rights of sex workers, in July 2016 reminded us how unsustainable this approach is. Her friends and colleagues had to fundraise to make up a shortfall for her funeral expenses.

Sharmus story is not an exception. It is not unusual to learn that some of our most important transgender leaders of color do not have enough to pay their bills in life. Nor is it unusual that we have to pass the hat to raise funds to bury our leaders when they die. What we have learned in 2016 is that it never was possible for transgender leaders of color to live for years without fair payment for the incredible work they have done for sex worker rights. Here are some suggestions for this #givingTuesday2016 to invest in transgender leadership of color for sex worker rights.

  1. send a tax deductible donation to BPPP to support program work led by Monica Jones and invest in the development of her new organization The Outlaw Project. All individual donations received between today November 29 and December 1, 2016 will be earmarked for this purpose.
  2. donate to this private fundraiser to ensure that #GigiThomas, local D.C. hero for sex workers and the trans community, has legal representation that conveys her experience as a transgender woman of color who fought for her life.
  3. and lastly, maybe you’d prefer to pay someone for their work, rather than donating? A suggestion is to hire a sex worker. Next time you or anyone else you know would like a sex worker to speak to a class, be a panelist at an event, present as a keynote or give a training, pay that person with a speaker’s fee, honorarium, and provide–if you can–a per diem and accommodation. US sex worker leaders don’t get paid (remember only 1% of global funding reaches US sex worker-led organizations), time spent sharing their experience with you is work. Pay them what you think any expert in their field should be paid. Sex work is work. Presenting to a college class is work.


Monica Jones Speaking Tour

Human rights advocate Monica Jones will be traveling to the NYC area for meetings and events associated with the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking. Ms Jones will be speaking to her experience as transgender leader who was arrested by a misguided anti-trafficking initiative called Project ROSE and about the campaign she lead to raise awareness of the rights violations perpetrated by police, social workers and services providers in the name of ending “sex trafficking.” Her work on these issues sparked global awareness of the rights violations experienced by transgender women of color in the United States as a result of anti-trafficking policies. During her campaign she was joined by leading advocates such as Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and many others. A video of Monica and Laverne Cox at an event at the Herberger Theater Center organized the ACLU and sex worker rights organizations in defense of Ms Jones is available here.

Ms Jones is available for speaking engagements the NY/DC/PA area December 5 to 14, 2016. She is a dynamic speaker who has presented on transgender rights, HIV/AIDS, feminism, sex work, social work, and the law at events during the Commission on the Status of Women in NY, the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, International AIDS Conferences in Melbourne, Australia and Durban, South Africa, and the Association of Women in Development in Brazil. Ms Jones is the recipient of the SPARK! Authentic Life Award in 2015, was honored as one of the Trans 100 in 2015 and received the Diversity Advisory Committee of Phoenix College Award in 2012. Ms Jones is the founder of The Outlaw Project, an organization based on the principles of intersectionality to prioritize the leadership of people of color, transgender women, gender non-binary people and migrants for sex worker rights. She has presented at universities across the United States introducing students of all levels to key issues relating to transgender experience, rights, sex worker rights, workers rights, gender justice, the law and social work. Ms Jones may be contacted by email at monica6022006@gmail and by text/voice to (602) 483-9772.


UN Women’s 2 Week Extension Fails to Fix its Process

On September 7th of this year, UN Women distributed an email with the subject line: “Consultation Seeking Views for UN Women.” In the text of the email, UN Women sought comments for a forthcoming policy on sex work. Sex worker rights and other advocates raised multiple concerns with UN Women’s process and its proposal to draft another U.N. agency policy on sex work. They pointed out that UN Women failed to conduct in-person regional and national consultations for its process, opting instead for a brief, month-long online comment period that will exclude countless voices of directly impacted people. The questions UN Women asks sex workers and others to answer in order to participate in the consultation reference bureaucratic UN language and processes without providing adequate explanation.


Prior engagement by relevant UN agencies on this issue, including UNAIDS, has involved meaningful, lengthy sex worker consultation processes and arrived at policies that uphold human rights protections for sex workers and people engaged in sex trades. UN Women, as a cosponsor of UNAIDS, therefore already has a position supporting decriminalizing sex work as part of a broader agenda of human rights protections for sex workers. While the framing of its consultation process appears directed at fully reconsidering these questions, advocates pointed out that it is the existing policy that must be UN Women’s minimum standard and guide for any further elaboration of its approach to sex work. In addition, Best Practices Policy Project expressed its alarm to UN Women at the fact that the Policy Director in charge of UN Women’s process, Purna Sen, has publicly indicated her belief that sex work should be abolished, and cannot therefore be said to support human rights for sex workers.


UN women sent an email on Oct. 17 to policy advocates stating, “UN Women has heard the calls for an extended period of consulting time.” The email announced a deadline extension of two weeks for submissions. This deadline extension does not represent a genuine effort on the part of UN Women to create a truly consultative process. Two weeks is an inadequate amount of time to resolve the issues that advocates raised, including the lack of in-person local and regional consultations, the lack of engagement of sex workers in shaping the process to begin with, the lack of transparency in its process, and UN Women’s failure to look to current UN agency policies on the issue as a minimum standard and guide. Without addressing these foundational issues, UN Women’s process is still illegitimate and may do more to harm human rights protections than to assert them. By responding to calls for transparency and meaningful in-person consultations with a simple fifteen-day extension, UN Women is sending the message that communities that face discrimination don’t need to be meaningfully consulted—that UN agency officials and resource-rich NGOs can simply represent them. Ignoring the feminist principle of meaningful consultation with groups most impacted by an issue at hand sets a deeply harmful precedent and example for the broader UN community, and it must not be allowed to continue.

The Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) is continuing to call for signatories to their petition to put pressure on UN Women about the process. The petition is available in 5 language (English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Russian) here:

The NSWP is also encouraging those concerned about the process to highlight the issues in social media. The Best Practices Policy Project supports these actions and encourages all our allies to continue speaking out on the issues.


Sample tweets:


We have signed this submission to @UN_Women with 86 orgs for their consultation on #sexwork #sexworkiswork


We are one of 86 signatories of this letter to @UN_Women with #sexwork-ers and allies


We ask @UN_Women to meaningfully include #sexwork-ers in the development of their policy on sex work


Please sign the @GlobalSexWork petition. @UN_Women, meaningfully include sex workers in policy development!


We support the human rights of #sexwork-ers and have signed this @UN_Women petition please sign and share!


Sample Facebook messages:


We co-authored this submission to UN Women with 86 sex workers’ rights and women’s rights organisations. We are calling on UN Women to engage in a meaningful consultation with sex workers in the development of their policy on sex work.


Please sign and share the Global Network of Sex Work Projects’ Petition. They are petitioning UN Women to engage in a meaningful consultation with sex workers as they develop their policy on sex work.


Please sign and share this NSWP petition. They are urging UN Women to adopt a rights affirming approach to sex workers’ rights and to consult with sex workers in the development of their policy on sex work.

Concerns about UN Women’s process for developing a policy on the rights of sex workers

The Best Practices Policy Project has submitted a letter of concern to UN Women about their email survey to ostensibly develop an organizational policy position on sex work. The full text of our letter of concern is below and is also available for download.

Sex worker organizations and allies have critiqued this UN process because it uses complex bureaucratic language and is occurring on an extremely short time frame (UN Women’s consultation ends October 16, 2016 October 31 extended deadline). BPPP is also concerned that process is biased towards harmful policies because it is being directed by UN Women Policy Director Purna Sen who has written that prostitution is a form of violence against women and who has dismissed sex worker rights organizing.

Writing a letter of concern about the process to the Executive Director of UN Women by email to <> is one of several actions groups can take, including signing this Call for UN Women to Meaningfully Consult Sex Workers as they Develop Policy on Sex Work and engaging with the UN Women email consultation process critically by October 16. The NSWP has sent in a response which is a useful example of how we may engage with this process.

October 11, 2016

H.E. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Director, UN Women
c.c.       H.E. Lakshmi Puri
Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations
Deputy Executive Director for Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships, UN Women
c.c        H.E. Yannick Glemarec
Assistant Secretary-General
Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Programmes, UN Women

Dear H.E. Mlambo-Ngcuka,

We write to echo fellow human rights advocates’ concerns about UN Women’s process for developing a policy on the rights of sex workers, and to call for UN Women to support a human rights-based approach to sex work and the sex trades. Best Practices Policy Project (BPPP) supports organizations and advocates working with sex workers, people in the sex trade and related communities in the United States, by producing materials for policy environments, addressing research and academic concerns and providing technical assistance. As other advocates have already pointed out, UN Women has failed to conduct in-person regional and national consultations for its process, opting instead for a brief online comment period that will exclude countless voices of directly impacted people. Prior engagement by relevant UN agencies on this issue has involved meaningful sex worker consultation processes and arrived at policies that uphold human rights protections for sex workers and people engaged in sex trades. These documents should guide UN Women’s further engagement on this issue.
We add that this type of process places enormous stress on sex worker organizations, which generally operate with limited or no funding, in environments marked by stigma and ostracism. Across the globe, these organizations are engaged in local, regional, and international struggles to eliminate discrimination, violence and other abuses their members face at the hands of police and other state and private actors. They struggle for the realization of their and their families’ basic human needs, including adequate health services, housing, food, water, education, and economic wellbeing. While it is critical that sex worker organizations be consulted for a policy that will directly impact their access to human rights, it is also important that agencies like UN Women recognize and accommodate for the obstacles they face. This means UN Women should meaningfully involve sex workers in developing the very process through which they will inform any policy that affects them, in order to ensure its accessibility. The principle of meaningful consultation of those most impacted by an issue at hand is at the heart of a feminist approach to social change, and one which we recommend UN Women adopt.
We are alarmed that UN Women’s process is being directed by Policy Director Purna Sen, who has equated sex work with violence against women, and who has portrayed the movement for sex workers’ human rights as one located in wealthier countries. Someone who has taken such a clear stance against recognizing sex workers’ human rights should not be in a position to direct policy development that will impact sex workers on a global scale. Her perspective fails to recognize the important leadership of extensive sex worker collectives and organizations in developing and global south countries. We are concerned that her views have already shaped UN Women’s current process, which has failed to ensure sex workers in developing countries, and sex workers with limited resources in developed countries, are meaningfully consulted.
We echo the call for UN Women to meaningfully consult sex workers across the globe in developing any policy related to sex work, and to ensure their statements uphold sex workers’ human rights and recognize sex workers’ agency and self-determination. We further ask that UN Women follow and publicize transparent, established research standards to determine both the quality of information it receives, and the amount of consultation with directly impacted communities necessary to inform its policy. At this juncture, we believe that without significant changes, the process UN Women has embarked on is neither legitimate nor helpful to the struggle for human rights.

Best Practices Policy Project