Category: Campaigns

Decoding the “Equality Model”

The following is a work in progress as we quickly examine the roots of a bill, the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act, that was was introduced in the New York state Senate by New York Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter on Monday March 25, 2021. The purpose of the bill is to criminalize people associated with sex work and provide additional resources for policing, a form of criminalization that sometimes is referred to as the “Nordic Model.” The text of the bill is not yet publicly available leading to a moment in advocacy when we find ourselves responding to an issue without having the text before us. An important approach at BPPP, an approach that is shared by many of our coalition members in this case specifically the BSWC, is to review original source to decode exactly what is happening with new legislation, “terms of service” and other documents. Often when we dig deeper we find that the outcomes are far worse than we ever could have gleaned from reading press reports. We encourage everyone to follow the BSWC and sign on to materials the BSWC is developing.

Since the text of the introduced bill, the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act,  is not available we reviewed Senator Liz Krueger’s tweets to find out more. Her tweets led us to the website of the New Yorkers for the Equality Model, illuminating the thinking behind the bill and the sleight of hand brought to bear in efforts to criminalize sex work, sex workers and to bolster policing at almost any cost to low income communities, immigrants and people of color.

The “bill summary” at the site hijacks the language of many years of advocacy to end the criminalization of sex workers and trans people’s lives in New York, without adhering to any of the policies that would actually create this change. The resources page for the “equality model” reveals the bill’s underlying anti-sex work philosophy, commitment to carceral approaches and equation of people’s efforts to secure their livelihood with violence.

While working in coalition to support efforts to educate about the bill, an advocate shared a link to an investigation by Propublica published in late 2020, that found that in New York City policing of the kind proposed by the “Equality Model” has targeted people of color and led to false arrests and sexual assaults by police officers. Since 2014 the city has had to pay over one million dollars in compensation to community members for rights violations.

Dept. of State NGO “Consultation” Regarding US UPR 2020

The US State Department hosted one consultation for the upcoming Universal Periodic Review on January 27, 2020 at the Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C. This occurred one week before the United States will finalize its report to the United Nations. If you were unable to attend, and many of our partner groups could not, then submit your thoughts on the human rights record of the United States and what the State Department should say to USUPR2020@state.gov. Last year a coalition of sex worker rights organizations submitted a national report to the United Nations for the Universal Periodic Review in May 2020. Below is a summary of BPPP’s statement that was presented in person by our coordinator yesterday.

The Best Practices Policy Project, an organization that is dedicated to supporting the health and rights of sex workers and related communities in the United States, will present about issues emerging from our coalition report submitted for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). We would like to note that many of our partner organizations who worked on and contributed to our coalition UPR report could not access this consultation process. They are the Desiree Alliance, the Outlaw Project and the Black Sex Worker Collective. We cannot make up for their absence. However, we will raise some of our key concerns. We are pleased to see that our colleague from the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance is able to be here today.


Throughout the U.S. and at the borders criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers, and those profiled as such, prevents them from exercising their human rights and has directly resulted in rights violations by state agents. The current U.S. administration is violating the rights of immigrants as many others here have noted today. We would like to provide some information about this that has not yet been stated. The intersection of this with anti-prostitution policies has resulted in the death of migrant sex workers at the hands of state agents, the incarceration of migrant sex workers in rights violating detention centers, and deportation. The U.S. government has engaged in a sustained campaign to roll back the rights of transgender people. Transgender people are assumed to be sex workers by the authorities, leading to incarceration and immigration detention, where they are harmed, highly vulnerable to sexual assaults, and killed. We bring to your attention to the cases of Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman who died while seeking asylum in 2018, Layleen Polanco, an Afro-Latina transgender woman died in solitary confinement in 2019, and Yang Song, an immigrant woman who died as a result of a NYC anti-prostitution raid in 2017. In a previous UPR the United States accepted recommendation 86 that required that the US “…“[u]ndertake awareness‐raising campaigns for combating stereotypes and violence against [LGBT people] and ensure access to public services, paying attention to the special vulnerability of sex workers to violence and human rights abuses.” The US has passed new laws since the last UPR, such as the 2018 Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). This legislation limits the sharing of vital safety information for sex workers online and causes economic harm and social marginalization, including violating the right to freedom of association and assembly that have been affirmed at the US Supreme Court. This new law is undermining HIV programs, a serious situation given that the needs of sex workers are not adequately addressed in the US.


Our question is as follows, and we hope that the State Department will respond to this in the forthcoming report: “what has the United States done to stop rights violations against sex workers and to reduce vulnerability to violence of sex workers and communities often affected by violations due to being assumed to be sex workers?” This question also relates to the acceptance of UPR recommendation 86 in 2011.

PRESS RELEASE: Sex Worker Rights Groups tell the United Nations how the U.S. violates human rights

PRESS RELEASE

Contacts: 

Janet Duran (212) 882-1161/N’Jaila Rhee newjerseyrua@gmail.com

P. Saunders, bestpracticespolicyproject@gmail.com

Cris Sardina, director@desireealliance.org

Akynos, blackSWCollective@protonmail.com

Monica Jones, theoutlawprojectinc@gmail.com

Sex Worker Rights Groups tell the United Nations how the U.S. violates human rights


Newark, NJ – October 3rd, 2019  – Today, the Black Sex Worker Collective, the Outlaw Project, Desiree Alliance, BPPP and New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance submitted a shadow report to the United Nations.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a United Nations session to hold member countries responsible for their human rights records. The United States is being reviewed in 2020 for the first time in five years. Today we submitted a 10 page shadow report to the United Nations about the human rights abuses sex workers face and in the coming months sex workers will travel to Geneva, Switzerland to speak to member countries about the criminalization of our communities.

“We are calling on the United States to immediately end the atrocities of current border policies in the United States that impact all immigrants, including sex workers,” says Janet Duran of New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance. “Our report documents the death of migrant sex workers at the hands of state agents, the incarceration of migrant sex workers in rights violating detention centers, and the deportation of vulnerable people back into harm’s way. The deaths of people like Yang Song and Roxsana Hernandez must not happen again.”

The U.S. is obligated to uphold everyone’s human rights, including the rights to housing, education and healthcare; the right to be free from arbitrary arrest, due process violations, and invasions of privacy; the right to be free from torture and inhumane treatment; the rights of migrants; as well as rights related to the U.S. obligation to eliminate racial discrimination. The U.S. violates these rights on a routine basis when it comes to sex workers and people in the sex trade. The UPR provides a space for the world to hear about how the U.S. has violated human rights over the past four years. 

“The U.S. government has engaged in a sustained campaign to roll back the rights of transgender people and we are calling out these abuses at the UN so that the world will learn what is happening,” says Monica Jones, founder of the Arizona based Outlaw Project, “We believe that member states of the UN will agree that it is time to put an end to anti-sex work policing practices targeting transgender people.”

To download a full copy of the report pls visit: http://www.bestpracticespolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/SWCoalition_UPR36_USA_2019.pdf

To download a short one page summary of the report pls visit:

To learn more about the UPR process visit:  tinyurl.com/UPR2020info

Key Facts About Human Rights Violations & Sex Work ~ For the 2020 UPR of the U.S.A.

Our organizations are members of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) and so have been offered the opportunity to include some of our key concerns in the network’s report. BPPP, NJRUA, BSWC, Desiree Alliance and the Outlaw Project created the summary to send to the USHRN this last week.

Throughout the U.S., criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers, and those profiled as such, prevents them from exercising their human rights. Violations include: violence perpetrated by law enforcement and ICE; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during incarceration; denial of due process and protection in the justice system; denial of rights to housing, healthcare, reproductive rights, education, income, employment and economic justice. People of color, transgender people, migrants, street based sex workers, homeless, youth, and people living with HIV/AIDS bear a high burden of these violations. U.S. policies undermine the health and rights of sex workers internationally by requiring that organizations seeking funding adopt a policy against sex work. Additionally. in 2018 the U.S. passed rights violating restrictions via the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). This legislation limits the sharing of vital safety information for sex workers online and causes economic harm and social marginalization. The current U.S. administration is violating the rights of immigrants. The intersection of this with anti-prostitution policies has resulted in the death of migrant sex workers at the hands of state agents, the incarceration of migrant sex workers in rights violating detention centers, and deportation. The U.S. government has engaged in a sustained campaign to roll back the rights of transgender people. Transgender people are assumed to be sex workers by the authorities, leading to incarceration and immigration detention, where they are harmed, highly vulnerable to sexual assaults, and killed.

Photo by PJ Starr, September 20, 2019

Previous UN Body Recommendations: In prior UPR process, the U.S. accepted Recommendation 
86, requiring it to “[u]ndertake awareness‐raising campaigns
 for combating stereotypes and violence against [LGBT people] 
and ensure access to public services, paying attention to the
 special vulnerability of sex workers to violence and human rights abuses.” The U.S has pursued policies that directly contradict this commitment, putting sex workers at heightened risk of human rights abuses. In 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee challenged the U.S. Justice Department’s claim that arresting people for sex work is a humane or effective way to fight trafficking, and called on the U.S. to align its anti-trafficking initiatives with human rights norms, which reject criminalizing sex workers.

Key Recommendations for inclusion via USHRN: The United States of America should:

  • End the criminalization of sex workers lives by full decriminalization (anti-criminalization) of sex work and eliminate policies, such as “zero tolerance” of prostitution, “prostitution free zones,” and loitering measures, that undermine protection of and respect for human rights of sex workers. Sex workers should also be able to expunge any criminal records relating to these laws.
  • Vigorously investigate and put an end to policing practices targeting transgender people.
  • Repeal SESTA/FOSTA and eliminate other federal policies that conflate sex work and human trafficking and prevent sex workers from accessing services such as healthcare, HIV services and support.
  • Address the atrocities of current immigration and migration border policies in the United States. Migrant and immigrant sex workers are especially affected by these laws as they are under no protections of federal guidelines. 
  • Remove “participation in prostitution” as grounds for removal from the country, from the category of “crimes of moral turpitude” and as grounds for denying visas/legal status to individuals seeking to visit, reside in, or become citizens of the United States.