Category: News Archive

“our lives do matter”: pressuring the State Dept to end rights abuses faced by US Sex Workers

On February 20, 2015 Janet Duran–a representative of the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance and a network of organizations using international human rights strategies to bring attention to rights abuses faced by sex workers–traveled to the District of Columbia to present a statement during a meeting organized by the US State Department. This “civil society consultation” was held in advance of the Second Universal Periodic Review of the United States, that is scheduled for May 11 at the United Nations in Geneva, and included representatives from various United States government agencies. In  its prior Universal Periodic Review process,  the US accepted Recommendation  86,  requiring it to “undertake 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.” Even though Recommendation 86 is considered a very important step forward in global acknowledgement that the United States should improve its policies and actions to protect the rights of sex workers, the US government has taken no action since that time to do so. Janet Duran addressed the State Department and other government agencies to make clear the reality of the rights violations faced by sex workers across the United States:

I stand before you today to bring to your attention to the numerous ways in which sex workers’ human rights continue to be violated due to criminalization. The biggest problem is that most of the violence which they fall victim to is at the hands of the very people who should be protecting them.

I have been a witness to law enforcement and people in positions of security and power allowing fellow law enforcement brethren to engage in said illegal activities with no recourse for their actions.

This is where criminalization makes things even more dangerous because at any time we can become victims of sexual assault or other violence and know full well if an attempt is made to report any act of violence during the alleged commission of an “illegal sex act,” we become vulnerable to retaliation and even more violence and even death.

If we do try and report it’s not only the police that further makes us victims but also at the hands of attorneys on both ends. We will not go report if we know that prosecutors will question our motives and yell at us when we question the corruption and misconduct the arises from trying to report.

The constant harassment of repeated and constitutional rights violations further make us distrust police. Misconduct manifesting itself as lost statements and police reports falsified to protect the accused by their law enforcement comrades. The prosecutorial misconduct we face when we are treated as criminals when we are victims.

When that pertinent fact, according to the attorney general’s office, is left out of the report but it’s not important enough to be investigated because according to various victim rights attorneys, who were also former prosecutors, no prosecutor will ever prosecute a case involving sex workers because no real crime is committed because they say we don’t matter.

But our lives do matter.

In this spirit, I call on you all to implement  Recommendation  86  to ensure the human  rights  of sex  workers  including  the rights  to  healthcare,  education  and housing;  and  the right   to  be  free  from  violence  by  government  and non-government  actors. I call on you to take  measures  to  decrease  violence towards my community by  implementing  campaigns  to  end  the  harms  of  stigmatization  and  criminalization.
Preparing to enter the State Department Civil Society Consultation in D.C.

Preparing to enter the State Department Civil Society Consultation in D.C.

 

Monica Jones Prevails #standwithMonica

Today an Arizona Superior Court Judge ruled that the guilty verdict against Monica Jones be reversed because of procedural errors during her trial earlier last year. Monica is elated and in a telephone interview earlier today noted that, “this is a win and the truth has come out. It has taken many months for the appeal to rectify a decision that the first judge announced in less than a minute.” At the April 2014 trial, when Judge Hercules–in the absence of clear evidence–found Ms Jones guilty of “manifesting prostitution,” he stated she was not a “credible” witness because of  having a prior conviction for prostitution. His abrupt decision shocked a packed court room of observers and supporters of Monica Jones.

Judge Mclennan–who vacated the ruling today–found that the trial court had erred in “considering the Defendant’s potential punishment in assessing her credibility.” Judge Hercules had argued that because Monica Jones had acknowledged having  a prior conviction that she had a “motive [to lie] to avoid a mandatory 30-day sentence.” Today’s reversal shows that a defendant who is innocent also has motive to deny having carried out the act in question and the “fact that a defendant testifies that he or she did not commit the crime is not a valid indicator whether the defendant is testifying truthfully or falsely.” The reversal, however, did not draw any conclusions in regards to the Constitutional arguments to invalidate the “manifestation statute” brought by Monica Jones and her legal team.

And so while Monica has prevailed, her quest to end the profiling of so many in the community under the vague and discriminatory statute of “manifestation of prostitution” has not yet ended. “Today is a only small step for women, trans women and sex workers who have been convicted under this law, there is still so much more to be done to end the injustice of the arrests,” Ms Jones said. “I hope that my case is an inspiration for others. I hope this is a precedent for sex workers who have been charged to stand up and fight for their rights. I hope we see more and more individuals fighting against these types of charges.” Monica is currently in discussions with her legal team about how further constitutional challenges to the manifestation statute can be made.

The future is seems much brighter for Monica now that the guilty verdict has been reversed. “I’m really excited that I’ve won this case,” she said with relief, “Its been a long journey but the love and support that I got along the way kept me strong. I want to send my thanks to all who helped me on this journey.” Monica Jones plans to continue her studies and her human rights work for sex workers, women of color and the transgender community.

this #fundingFriday 4 #sexworkerrights support 2 activists who lost their house to a fire

This coming #fundingFriday 4 #sexworkerrights BPPP will raise awareness about a community fundraiser in support of Kini Seawright and Peggy Plews who are both advocates for the rights of sex workers, prisoners and parents.

Kini of Seawright Prison Justice Project

Kini of Seawright Prison Justice Project

Peggy and Kini lost their house and belongings in a house fire in Michigan. They had very recently moved there from Phoenix, Arizona. Their role in progressive politics in Phoenix is beyond dispute. They have opened their home, shared their food, fought in the streets and given everything they had to help people victimized by the police and prison industrial complex. Kini and Peggy were there at the very first meeting of SWOP Phoenix in 2013, the posters for the first rally was made at their house, on their porch. They encouraged so many people–including the ACLU AZ–to #standwithMonica during the recent years of campaign  lead by Monica Jones to challenge the Phoenix “manifestation” statute. Both Peggy and Kini are artists and writers. Peggy is the creator of magnificent public chalking art challenging injustice. Kini is a contributor to the anthology Red Umbrella Babies and recently joined the editorial collective to take a larger role in the book process.

They are trying to raise $600 to help them pay a deposit on a new place and rebuild their lives, but we at BPPP think as a community of sex workers and allies we can do so much more than that. Let’s make a nice surprise for them and take this to $1000 or more.

What is #fundingFriday 4 #sexworkerrights? Last July in preparation for the International AIDS Conference, sex workers from around the world created a consensus statement and began occupying #fundingFriday every week to raise awareness of the lack of resources for projects by and for sex workers. We follow this sex worker lead campaign supported by Scarlet Alliance and sex workers globally. Throughout 2015 the Best Practices Policy Project will highlight community fundraisers to support the things that sex workers find important.

Peggy Plews of Arizona Prison Watch at a chalking action in 2011

Peggy Plews of Arizona Prison Watch at a chalking action in 2011

Today is the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers

STATEMENT BY PENELOPE SAUNDERS (BPPP) FOR DECEMBER 17 VIGIL HOSTED BY THE NEW JERSEY RED UMBRELLA ALLIANCE IN BRUNSWICK NJ

We have gathered here to honor and remember sex workers and people in the sex trade affected by violence.

Today is the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers.

This day was initiated in 2003 by a group of people I know very well. Artist and sex worker Annie Sprinkle had the idea of a memorial event for the women killed by the so-called “Green River Killer” in Washington State. My friend Robyn Few, the founder of SWOP USA, and her colleagues such as Stacey, Carol Leigh, Michael and many others on the west coast, organized an event and kept the spirit of Annie’s idea alive year after year. Now December 17 is acknowledged in so many places and by so many different voices.

This is a day of peace and remembrance but we also use this day to express the conviction that burns in our hearts that no one should be the victim of violence because they are a sex worker or because they are profiled as such.

This is a day that we listen to sex workers and the organizations and networks of sex workers. We do not make assumptions about the violence experienced by sex workers. We are reminded by sex workers that violence against them is committed primarily by the police. We are reminded that other abusers think they can get away with murder because “nobody cares about sex workers”. We are reminded that violence against sex workers is not just violence against sex workers—it is also violence against trans people, against people of color, against drug users, against immigrants, against youth, against the homeless.

To remember those we have lost in the last year and in every year before this year, I invite you to light a candle. We will now begin to read the names of those we wish to remember…