Category: News Archive

Impact of cancellations due to COVID-19

In 2020, our organizations in various coalitions have been planning to host the following events and engage in the following human rights processes:

  • a sex worker led parallel session and a fundraiser at the Commission on the Status of Women,
  • the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United States including writing a collective report, advocating for key issues with permanent missions, hosting a working group on sex work at the USHRN, planning to attend pre-sessions at the UN in Geneva and the UPR itself that should be held in May 2020,
  • a sex worker rights networking session at the Allied Media Conference in June 2020,
  • AIDS2020 in San Francisco and HIV2020 in Mexico City (both planned for July 2020).

The United Nations cancellation of almost all of the Commission on the Status of Women in the afternoon/evening of March 2, 2020 dismantled the work of our sex worker and trans led organizations stretching back to October 2019. On Friday March 6, 2020 our two representatives who had been scheduled to attend vital UPR pre-meetings planned by UPR-Info in Geneva were told that they were part of a cohort that had been locked out of the UN itself while other pre-selected groups (the selected speakers from larger NGOs such as the Human Rights Campaign) will still be allowed in. Work that sex worker and trans led groups has been preparing for since March 2019 to raise key issues about sex worker rights and intersections with migration, trans justice, and economic justice is now derailed.

We have been asked to retool and reschedule by having events at other times and in other formats, and working around UN restrictions. We will do all that we can but we want to place the actions that we can and cannot take in a political context.

  1. Most of our organizations have no paid staff at all and only one of us has recently brought on a part time administrator. Re-planning events places tremendous strain on us.
  2. We have expended all of our extremely limited resources and there are no more resources to pay for events to happen at another time or to make up for changes that multi-million dollar global agencies make. Our organizations and our members live week to week and day to day.
  3. Our exclusion is systematic. The fact that our representatives had their UN accreditation cancelled is a result of being denied speaker slots and forced into the audience (while more privileged groups were given the space to speak). A public health crisis is not an excuse for cancelling the access of those who already had the least access. 
  4. Every epidemic has led to the blaming and exclusion of sex workers, drug users, LGBT communities and immigrants. The history of HIV/AIDS is so present for us. Hysteria about coronavirus makes all in our communities vulnerable and deflects from the failures of States that know full well how to address respiratory infections but have not been doing so. Our right to health includes acknowledgement that we the marginalized are not the risk but that governments should have strengthened public health systems long ago, worked with us to provide trainings for frontline health workers, provided testing to those who wish to have it for coronavirus, and making sure that senior living centers were safe and clean.
  5. As sex workers, we stand with all the cleaners who are our heroes in ensuring public health. Sex workers need rights and so should domestic workers and cleaners be uplifted and paid more. The stigma of doing societies’ “dirty work” must be challenged.

In solidarity,

The Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, Moral High Ground Productions, the Outlaw Project and the Black Sex Worker Collective

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

#FreeGigi update: write letters of support

Gigi testified on March 1 and she was calm and clear even though the case is a very difficult one. After the presentation of all the evidence the Judge decided to take first degree charges off the table. After more than 6 hours of deliberation the jury returned yesterday March 2 with a verdict of guilty of second degree murder. In Maryland sentencing is carried out by the presiding Judge. Sentencing in this case will occur on May 9. Anyone who has had experience working with Gigi (or being the recipient of Gigi’s amazing support) can write a letter for the judge to read before she sentences Gigi. The letter should be to Judge Daneeka V. Cotton. The letter should be brief and state that you know Gigi Marie Thomas, state how long you have known her and the capacity in which you know her (ie that you worked with her at Y or Z place, that you received services from her, etc). Then in your own words you should speak to your experience of what Gigi has offered you/the community/society and what she can continue to contribute. Anything that you think will help Judge Daneeka V. Cotton make her decision as to the sentence for Gigi. Letters should be mailed to Gigi’s attorney who is: David M. Simpson, 6404 Ivy Ln, Ste 408, Greenbelt, MD 20770. Please send letters as soon as possible so that they may be submitted in a jacket to Judge Daneeka V. Cotton. We learned that sending in letters too late is not ideal as judges prefer to read them well in advance of the sentencing.

Please read more about Gigi Thomas here and please contribute to her fundraiser…. “As a society we have become used to hearing the news of another transgender woman being killed. In this case Gigi did not die. She lived. She is one of our leaders surviving.” Ceyenne Doroshow.

Women’s March 2017: As Expected, the Erasure of Sex Workers Rights

UPDATE January 18, 2017: Yesterday wording affirming the rights of sex workers was returned to the Women’s March Statement. The attempt to erase the presence of sex worker rights and sex workers’ voices in feminist spaces was reversed because of widespread public outcry. We must be honest with ourselves that until the criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers’ lives and work ends, sex workers can be erased with the stroke of a pen, one phone call to the cops and by putting up another piece of anti-sex worker legislation (yes, it is so easy to pass those laws under the guise of ending trafficking). The threat is always there. And so resistance is needed daily. We honor the fortitude of Janet Mock for her clear statement on why she wrote the line, “…and we stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements.” And how and why she rejects the “continual erasure of sex workers from our feminisms.” Historically and today the people who have primarily stood up boldly for sex worker rights have been transgender women of color. We remain committed to highlighting the leadership of transgender people of color for the rights of sex workers.

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January 17, 2017: The presence of anti-sex worker rights advocate Gloria Steinem as co-chair of the Women’s March this weekend in Washington, D.C. meant that it was almost certain that the Women’s March would back away from its surprisingly forward thinking statement on sex work.The original statement read, “We believe that all workers – including domestic and farm workers – must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage, and that unions and other labor associations are critical to a healthy and thriving economy for all. Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and we stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements.”

Today advocates noted that the Women’s March Statement has been changed to remove any mention of sex worker’s rights. The statement now reads, “Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and we stand in solidarity with all those exploited for sex and labor.”

It is not so much that Steinem directly put pressure on the Women’s March to erase sex workers’ rights organizing from the page–though she most certainly would have–but more that the agreement to place an advocate who has so clearly spoken out against both the rights of transgender people and sex workers as a co-chair means that these issues are contested by the groups and advocates in the lead. In 2017, failing to recognize sex workers’ rights in the United States is simply unacceptable. Honoring both sex worker and trans leadership is the way forward.