Category: Petition

UN Women’s 2 Week Extension Fails to Fix its Process

On September 7th of this year, UN Women distributed an email with the subject line: “Consultation Seeking Views for UN Women.” In the text of the email, UN Women sought comments for a forthcoming policy on sex work. Sex worker rights and other advocates raised multiple concerns with UN Women’s process and its proposal to draft another U.N. agency policy on sex work. They pointed out that UN Women failed to conduct in-person regional and national consultations for its process, opting instead for a brief, month-long online comment period that will exclude countless voices of directly impacted people. The questions UN Women asks sex workers and others to answer in order to participate in the consultation reference bureaucratic UN language and processes without providing adequate explanation.


Prior engagement by relevant UN agencies on this issue, including UNAIDS, has involved meaningful, lengthy sex worker consultation processes and arrived at policies that uphold human rights protections for sex workers and people engaged in sex trades. UN Women, as a cosponsor of UNAIDS, therefore already has a position supporting decriminalizing sex work as part of a broader agenda of human rights protections for sex workers. While the framing of its consultation process appears directed at fully reconsidering these questions, advocates pointed out that it is the existing policy that must be UN Women’s minimum standard and guide for any further elaboration of its approach to sex work. In addition, Best Practices Policy Project expressed its alarm to UN Women at the fact that the Policy Director in charge of UN Women’s process, Purna Sen, has publicly indicated her belief that sex work should be abolished, and cannot therefore be said to support human rights for sex workers.


UN women sent an email on Oct. 17 to policy advocates stating, “UN Women has heard the calls for an extended period of consulting time.” The email announced a deadline extension of two weeks for submissions. This deadline extension does not represent a genuine effort on the part of UN Women to create a truly consultative process. Two weeks is an inadequate amount of time to resolve the issues that advocates raised, including the lack of in-person local and regional consultations, the lack of engagement of sex workers in shaping the process to begin with, the lack of transparency in its process, and UN Women’s failure to look to current UN agency policies on the issue as a minimum standard and guide. Without addressing these foundational issues, UN Women’s process is still illegitimate and may do more to harm human rights protections than to assert them. By responding to calls for transparency and meaningful in-person consultations with a simple fifteen-day extension, UN Women is sending the message that communities that face discrimination don’t need to be meaningfully consulted—that UN agency officials and resource-rich NGOs can simply represent them. Ignoring the feminist principle of meaningful consultation with groups most impacted by an issue at hand sets a deeply harmful precedent and example for the broader UN community, and it must not be allowed to continue.

The Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) is continuing to call for signatories to their petition to put pressure on UN Women about the process. The petition is available in 5 language (English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Russian) here:

The NSWP is also encouraging those concerned about the process to highlight the issues in social media. The Best Practices Policy Project supports these actions and encourages all our allies to continue speaking out on the issues.


Sample tweets:


We have signed this submission to @UN_Women with 86 orgs for their consultation on #sexwork #sexworkiswork


We are one of 86 signatories of this letter to @UN_Women with #sexwork-ers and allies


We ask @UN_Women to meaningfully include #sexwork-ers in the development of their policy on sex work


Please sign the @GlobalSexWork petition. @UN_Women, meaningfully include sex workers in policy development!


We support the human rights of #sexwork-ers and have signed this @UN_Women petition please sign and share!


Sample Facebook messages:


We co-authored this submission to UN Women with 86 sex workers’ rights and women’s rights organisations. We are calling on UN Women to engage in a meaningful consultation with sex workers in the development of their policy on sex work.


Please sign and share the Global Network of Sex Work Projects’ Petition. They are petitioning UN Women to engage in a meaningful consultation with sex workers as they develop their policy on sex work.


Please sign and share this NSWP petition. They are urging UN Women to adopt a rights affirming approach to sex workers’ rights and to consult with sex workers in the development of their policy on sex work.

Call For Solidarity in the Wake of Homeland Security Raid and Arrests at RentBoy

In the weeks since the raid of RentBoy in August 2015 we have worked to show solidarity with those arrested while raising awareness about the broader issues of how sex workers and people in the sex trade are policed and how law enforcement works systematically to target people of color, immigrants, LGBTIQ and other communities. Please join our call for solidarity by sending an email to and stay tuned for forthcoming events and actions about the issue.

Call For Solidarity in the Wake of Homeland Security Raid and Arrests at RentBoy: Human Rights for Sex Workers and all People Targeted by Policing and Surveillance

We the undersigned condemn Homeland Security’s raid and arrests at the Rentboy office in New York and demand immediate dismissal of criminal charges against the Rentboy staff. We offer up a unifying call to work together to increase awareness of the long history of human rights organizing by sex workers and by others who face homophobic, transphobic, and racist policing. This raid causes us to recall the history of policing of sexuality by unconstitutional laws against “sodomy” and “crimes against nature.”  We also place this latest raid in a broader context of actions carried out by a richly resourced police and surveillance apparatus that profiles, imprisons, tortures and kills migrants, Muslims, people of color, people with no and low incomes, people with disabilities, dissidents, and LGBTIQ people.

Many are now calling for “decriminalization of sex work.” We are aware that some forms of “decriminalization” can actually leave many communities even more vulnerable to police abuse and arrest. Law enforcement will target any communities perceived to be “left out” of law reform efforts with greater force as policing resources are refocused in the wake of reform. We therefore commit to fighting for solutions that account for all the ways that people are vulnerable to policing and imprisonment. Demands must come from those most directly impacted by stigma, policing and prisons; including sex workers and people in sex trades, people of color, migrants, people living with HIV/AIDS, and LGBTIQ communities, particularly transgender women of color.

We support progressive changes to all the laws and policies that are used to oppress sex workers and people profiled as sex workers. This means that we demand that change be sufficient to, for example, protect queer youth of color who are discriminatorily targeted for “stop and frisk” by police, abused, and arrested for sex work, or for “loitering” or other “quality of life” offenses. If migrant sex workers or migrants profiled as sex workers can still be locked up in ICE detention facilities, or denied basic necessities because of border imperialism, any decriminalization campaign will be far from complete. If transgender women of color can be profiled as sex workers just for walking down the street and arrested, our struggle for justice is unfinished.

Sex workers and people in the sex trades throughout the country have a long history of organizing against the many forms of abuse they face as a result of stigma and criminalization. For years, they have worked to draw attention to the fact that police rape, assault, harass, and extort sex workers and those presumed to be sex workers, with impunity. They have shared their stories of being denied justice for rape or other violence committed against them, all because of their sex worker status. They have decried the harmful effects of arrest and imprisonment, which include denial of housing, education and other benefits, not to mention violence they endure while detained.

Federal, state and local governments continue to heap resources onto these same abusive police and justice systems. Today, arrests, discrimination and abuse are often endorsed by funds distributed to law enforcement in the name of “fighting trafficking.” Indeed, the federal government’s model state legislation on addressing trafficking calls for jail sentences for sex workers. We know that this approach to potential coercion in any labor sector does not help people secure their human rights, and that the inaccurate conflation of all sex work with trafficking denies sex workers the room to organize for better conditions.

We reject “solutions” that do nothing more than increase resources for the same police forces that abuse our communities. We also reject the notion that sex workers are either “victims or whores” who must be jailed—a flawed paradigm that has justified sex workers’ continued exclusion from debates and decision-making that directly impact their lives. It is sex workers and people in the sex trades themselves who must have the right to determine the extent and nature of state intervention that they may want in their lives, rather than having such interventions imposed on them by people who view them in this limited paradigm.
We commit to working in broad alliance for the human rights of sex workers and people in the sex trades, with special attention to lifting up and supporting the voices and leadership of those communities most directly impacted by stigma and criminalization.


Best Practices Policy Project

New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance

BAYSWAN (Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network)

Desiree Alliance

Project SAFE, Philadelphia

SWOP Tampa Bay

SWOP Orlando

Please email to add your name to this list and to work in the solidarity in the months to come as the RentBoy case proceeds.