Category: Campaigns

U.S. Sex Worker Rights Activists Call for U.N. to Hold U.S. Government Accountable

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | May 8, 2015

CONTACTS: Geneva- Monica Jones 602-575-9332, Derek Demeri jdemeri20@gmail.com;

United States- Janet Duran- 973-900-4887, Penelope Saunders- 917-817-0324, penelope.saunders@gmail.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.

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Monica Jones speaks at the United Nations: Protect sex workers’ rights, end racist & transphobic policing

Human rights defender Monica Jones, along with other human rights activists, were in Geneva at the United Nations this past week to educate officials about rights violations happening in the United States. The U.S. is up for review of its human rights record in May as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Ms. Jones’ fight for justice was highlighted at the U.N. previously in 2014 during a review of U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This video captures Monica Jones presenting to officials about the need for strengthened protections for the human rights of sex workers, and the need to end racist and transphobic policing. Read an in-depth piece on what Ms. Jones is doing in Geneva on Truthout.org.

U.S. Advocates Meet with UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

Call for Support for Rasmea Odeh, Monica Jones & Anti-Police Violence Activists

For Immediate Release–March 23, 2015

Contacts: Rasmea Defense Committee, #Justice4Rasmea: Hatem Abudayyeh, hatem85@yahoo.com, 773.301.4108

Best Practices Policy Project, #StandWithMonica: Darby Hickey, 202.250.4869

Community Justice Project: Meena Jagannath, meena@floridalegal.org

Geneva–Human rights advocates from the U.S. met Friday in Geneva with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, to call for support for human rights advocates in the U.S. who face police harassment, arrest and other state violence for their efforts to stand up for their rights and the rights of others. The advocates were part of a U.S. Human Rights Network delegation in Geneva that is educating the UN Human Rights Council about rights violations in the U.S. in advance of its review of the U.S.’ human rights record in May. They asked the Rapporteur to monitor the cases of Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh, of transgender and sex worker rights activist Monica Jones, as well as the ongoing harassment of activists at the forefront of nationwide protests against racist policing and police brutality.

Rasmea Odeh, 67 years old, is deputy director of the Chicago-based Arab-American Action Network, and has lived in the U.S. for 20 years. Advocates informed the Rapporteur that she faces imprisonment and deportation because of her work on behalf of the Arab immigrant community and for Palestinian human rights. Federal authorities alleged that Odeh did not disclose her conviction in Palestine 45 years ago by an Israeli military court, an institution with a long record of human rights violations. At the time of her arrest in Palestine, Odeh, then a 22 year-old student, was forced into a confession while being subjected to 25 days of physical and sexual torture. Odeh never committed a crime, and her arrest and conviction by an Israeli military court were unlawful. During her recent sentencing hearing, federal authorities branded this community advocate and torture survivor a “terrorist.” Odeh was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment, followed by deportation, but her sentence has been stayed pending appeal.

Monica Jones updated the Rapporteur about the danger she faces as an activist for transgender and sex worker human rights. The target of discriminatory police profiling, she was wrongfully arrested under an anti-prostitution police sweep program in Phoenix, called Project ROSE, a day after speaking out publicly against the program. After a long fight and an appeal, a judge dismissed Monica Jones’ charges earlier this year. However, the unjust laws she was arrested under remain in place, and like many transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, she is threatened by regular harassment by police, who use these laws to intimidate and harm members of communities already enduring rampant discrimination.

Advocates also informed the Rapporteur about the persistent threats and violence that those organizing throughout the U.S. for justice in the wake of the police killing of Mike Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri, and countless other unarmed people of color. Examples include the arbitrary arrests and continued police surveillance and harassment of activists in Ferguson and St. Louis, MO. Numerous other activists have complained of such harassment across the country, demonstrating a concerning trend towards targeting of those who have been visibly organizing against police brutality and racism in the past several months.

“We are pleased that the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders is taking note of the harassment that people in the U.S. face, simply for standing up for human rights,” said Meena Jagannath, attorney with the Community Justice Project based in Miami, which works with the Dream Defenders and helped submit a report to the UN Committee Against Torture on behalf of the parents of Mike Brown and Ferguson-St. Louis groups last November. “We hope the global community can impress upon the U.S. government the importance of respecting the right to dissent.”

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Press Release: U.S. Sex Worker Rights Activists to Advocate Before UN Human Rights Council

March 12, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS: Geneva team- Monica Jones 602-575-9332, J.M. Kirby: jm.kirby@law.cuny.edu;

United States- Janet Duran- 973-900-4887, Penelope Saunders- 917-817-0324, penelope.saunders@gmail.com

 

U.S. Sex Worker Rights Activists to Advocate Before UN Human Rights Council

Advocates Call for Justice as the UN Reviews the U.S. Human Rights Record

Geneva– Representatives of U.S.-based sex worker rights organizations will travel to Geneva, Switzerland next week, March 15-21st, to meet with members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), and to call for greater human rights protections. As the HRC prepares for a review of the U.S.’ human rights record later this spring, civil society organizations from throughout the U.S. are traveling to Geneva to educate members about violations of civil, political, economic and social human rights in the U.S.

For Monica Jones, a human rights advocate and transgender woman of color from Phoenix, AZ, the issues she will raise while in Geneva have directly impacted her own life. The target of discriminatory police profiling, Monica Jones was wrongfully arrested under an anti-prostitution police sweep program in Phoenix, called Project ROSE. After a long fight and an appeal, a judge dismissed Monica Jones’ charges earlier this month. However, 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.”

Sex worker rights advocates participated in the prior review of the U.S. via the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, through which countries’ human rights records are submitted to scrutiny every four years. As a result, the U.S. adopted Recommendation 86, obligating it to increase human rights protections for sex workers. 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, demonstrating that the U.S. has failed to live up to the promises of Recommendation 86.

The report, written in consultation with sex workers and their allies throughout the country, shows that criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers, and those profiled as such, exposes them to rape, extortion, assault, 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 crime, and thus denies justice or support to sex workers who seek help. At a recent civil society meeting organized in advance of the UPR by the U.S. State Department, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance member Janet Duran told officials that “most of the violence [sex workers] fall victim to is at the hands of the very people who should be protecting them.”

Advocates are concerned that the U.S. exports stigma and discrimination through policies such as the “anti-prostitution loyalty oath” attached to development funding. “We will ask the world to hold the U.S. accountable for making sex workers vulnerable to human rights abuses,” said J.M. Kirby of the Best Practices Policy Project. “Our country should be promoting human rights for all, including sex workers, not shaming people because of the work that they do.”

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