Category: Campaigns

UN Women: Sex Workers Will Not Be Silenced

UN Women has sent out an email survey to develop an organizational policy position on sex work. Sex worker lead organizations and allies have critiqued this process. Ruth Morgan Thomas of the Network of Sex Work Projects has said that this process is “not an accountable, transparent way to connect with sex workers” because it uses complex bureaucratic UN language and because the process is occurring on an extremely short time frame (UN Women’s consultation ends October 16, 2016 extended to Oct 31, 2016).

BPPP received an email from UN Women about the consultation as a follow up to a meeting we had with the agency earlier this year. We agree with our colleagues that the process is extremely difficult to access. Further, confusion within UN Women regarding their own ability to hear the voices of sex workers calls the consultation process into question. Purna Sen, the Director of UN Women’s Policy Division who is leading the consultation process and the development of the policy, has written that prostitution is a form of violence against women and was a keynote speaker in 2007 with Catherine MacKinnon and Sheila Jeffreys.

What can sex worker lead organizations and their allies do? Here are some suggestions.

  1. sign this Call for UN Women to Meaningfully Consult Sex Workers as they Develop Policy on Sex Work and/or publicize the petition on social media and in your networks.
  2. develop and share our own organizational stances on UN Women’s policy process and what we want. We can send our own letters of concern to the Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (the Executive Director of UN Women), comment in the media, post about the policy process, and make our own demands clearly about how to have a better process, up to and including saying that UN Women should not proceed with a policy process at all at this time.
  3. engage with UN Women email consultation process critically and on our own terms, and support sex worker lead organizations to engage in the process should they wish. UN Women must acknowledge our responses. The NSWP has sent in a response which is a useful example of how we may engage with this process.

How to send a response to UN Women’s consultation: UN Women is asking for “people and groups” to send responses to the following three questions to consultation@unwomen.org by 16 October 2016 with the subject title “Written submission.” According to the UN Women, “these questions relate to the current framing of the UN’s work, around Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.” However, people do not have to respond to the questions as UN Women has framed them, and can simply write in their own terms about the ways in which sex workers’ human rights should be actualized. According to UN Women emails should include “your name” and “organization and title, if relevant.” Please note that UN Women will post all responses online, but, “if you do not want your submission to be posted for reasons of confidentiality or for any other reason, please note this on your response.”

1) The 2030 Agenda commits to universality, human rights and leaving nobody behind. How do you interpret these principles in relation to sex work/trade or prostitution?

2) The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls. The SDGs also include several targets pertinent to women’s empowerment, such as: a) reproductive rights; b) women’s ownership of land and assets; c) building peaceful and inclusive societies; d) ending the trafficking of women; e) eliminating violence against women. How do you suggest that policies on sex work/trade/prostitution can promote such targets and objectives?

3) The sex trade is gendered. How best can we protect women in the trade from harm, violence, stigma and discrimination?

UN Women is asking that responses to the above questions be kept to a maximum of 1,500 words in total.

Monica Jones calls for justice for #13blackwomen

The following call to action is from human rights advocate Monica Jones. Find her on Facebook and twitter to follow this call to action:

There is a tragedy that happened. 13 black women of African descent were sexually assaulted by white police officer 13BlackWomenDaniel Holtzclaw. This monster is on trial and being judged by a jury of his peers, a jury of 8 white men and 4 white women. His attorney has described him as an “all-American good guy” and said his accusers have “street smarts like you can’t imagine.”

What does this disparaging statement about having “street smarts” really mean?

The women he targeted were marginalized, many had been arrested before and had been charged with doing sex work and/or with using or having drugs. His method of finding victims was based on finding women who had these kinds of charges, this is the reason he chose them.

One of his victims said that reason she did not come forward was because “I didn’t think anyone would believe me.” Most of the 13 women said the same thing. That no one would believe them.

This is the reason why most sex workers and marginalized victims do not come forward, because they are afraid that their voices will not be heard. With him being a white male, with him being a police officer and them being black and marginalized, they feared that they would be discounted.

Sadly their statements are TRUE. There has not been any national outcry about this racially motivated, class-based, gender-based sexual violence perpetrated by a white male police officer. Most importantly the women had records. They were criminalized already.

We can resist this silence and raise our voices to highlight the violence against these women, because no one should be denied justice because of their “criminal record.” The injustice system criminalizes all marginalized people, no matter what they do.

Join us in seeking more media coverage about this and similar cases. We need for sex worker organizations to rise up in defense of these women. We need people of color organizations to rise up and fight back. We need women’s rights, human rights, anti-violence and anti-sexual assault groups to join us. This is how you can do this:

  • by blacking out your FB profile picture or using the profile picture attached

  • using the #13blackwomen on social media when sharing this story

  • tweet for national media coverage, asking why there is no coverage?

  • resisting the stigmatizing of these women because of the charges that have been placed on them for sex work and drug use

  • write press releases, opinion pieces, blog posts

  • if you are a journalist or connected to the press, write a feature article about this story

  • start a petition asking for media coverage and that the DOJ to look into this case.

 

13BlackWomen

Notes of exclusion: the US Conference on AIDS, 2015

Earlier this year the Best Practices Policy Project contacted the organizers of the 19th Annual US Conference on AIDS to inquire as to how we might convene a panel or event about the impact of HIV related issues and policies on sex workers and people in the sex trade. During our initial call, we explained that sex worker lead organizations are now creating the first national level report on these issues and wanted to share our progress during the conference. Despite follow up communications to numerous USCA representatives in the months that followed, we never received any formal reply and not one of our applications for scholarships to attend was successful. The financial barriers to attending are significant: for all intents and purposes costs preclude any member of a sex worker lead organization from attending or even applying to attend. In order to even apply for scholarships, small and minimally funded organizations like BPPP are required to pay a fee of $250 or more. The conference registration fee itself is $800 and a sandwich bought at the conference site costs $18. Even though we received no support to attend some of our representatives–Derek Demeri of New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, Sharmus Outlaw and members of SWOP USA and chapters–have found a way to enter the event. The USCA belatedly responded to pressure from sex worker organizations to provide space for one panel Sex Worker Visibility and the United States’ National HIV/AIDS Strategy which conference organizers scheduled on the last day of the conference at 8.30 am (Sunday morning). Please join us on social media to learn more about the presentations #nothingaboutuswithoutus #USCA2015 #sexworkerrights
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Amnesty International: essential policy decision

Tomorrow Amnesty International will begin the process of adopting a draft policy that will defend the human rights of sex workers and call for the decriminalization of sex work. The Best Practices Policy Project is joining with organizations and human rights advocates to support the policy. The most important sources of information for the Best Practices Policy Project are sex workers themselves–such as a sex worker from New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance who has shared her experiences in a video–many of whom have spoken out publicly for the very first time in defense of the policy. After considering the issues, we urge you to send a letter to Amnesty International, just as the Best Practices Policy Project and our allies at Desiree Alliance and NJ Red Umbrella Alliance have, to ask the Amnesty International Council to stand firm and protect the human rights of sex workers. For those unable to write a letter, the global Network of Sex Work Projects has a petition that only takes a few seconds to sign. Representatives of Amnesty International can also show their support by ensuring that their representatives adopt the policy.
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