Category: Policy Updates

Updated UPR Statement

As we prepare for the delayed Universal Periodic Review of the United States that will now be held on November 9, 2020, we are providing the following updated statements for missions and interested parties.

COVID19, Racism, Police Brutality and Human Rights Violations of Sex Workers, People in the Sex Trades, and People Profiled as Such, for the 2020 Universal Periodic Review of the U.S.A.

CONTRIBUTORS: New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, Desiree Alliance, The Outlaw Project, Best Practices Policy Project and the Black Sex Worker Collective

In the US criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers, and those profiled as such, prevents our communities from exercising our human rights. Violations include: violence perpetrated by law enforcement and ICE; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during incarceration; denial of due process and protection in the justice system; denial of rights to housing, healthcare, reproductive rights, education, income, employment and economic justice. People of color, transgender people, migrants, street based sex workers, homeless, youth, and people living with HIV/AIDS bear a high burden of these violations. The US government has engaged in a sustained campaign to roll back the rights of transgender people. Transgender people are assumed to be sex workers by the authorities, leading to incarceration and immigration detention, where they are harmed, highly vulnerable to sexual assaults, and killed.

The impact of COVID19 illustrates the failure of the US Government to respond to protect our fundamental human rights. This pandemic has hit Black, Hispanic (especially migrant workers), and Indigenous peoples especially hard due to structural racism. In this context, sex workers face the same issues as many others frontline workers such as domestic workers, restaurant workers, and cleaning staff in hospitals. Workers are having to work without harm reduction materials and without personal protective equipment (PPE). Many have lost their jobs due to closures. Yet, sex workers are denied benefits, such as the economic stimulus package, as are undocumented immigrant workers. 

In  2018, the U.S. passed rights violating restrictions via the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) limiting the sharing of vital safety information for sex workers online and causing economic harm and social marginalization.The US government is now rushing through new legislation but we cannot advocate for our human rights due to restrictions because of COVID19. Sex worker rights advocates are denied access to counter hastily drafted legislation such as the pending Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act EARN IT ACT 2020 that will further impact our ability to communicate online. 

The United States is facing a crisis in terms of police violence against Black communities and, as this occurs, the crisis at the border continues. Policing and stings against our communities continue even in the context of the pandemic. Sex workers who live in border towns are not safe. The unregulated power border patrol agents go unchecked and give free reign to violence as evidenced by the serial murders of three sex workers in Laredo Texas, and a fourth narrowly escaping with her life from U.S. Border Agent Juan David Ortiz. 

Previous UN Body Recommendations: In prior UPR process, the U.S. accepted Recommendation 
86, requiring it to “[u]ndertake 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.” The U.S has pursued policies that directly contradict this commitment, putting sex workers at heightened risk of human rights abuses. In 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee challenged the U.S. Justice Department’s claim that arresting people for sex work is a humane or effective way to fight trafficking, and called on the U.S. to align its anti-trafficking initiatives with human rights norms, which reject criminalizing sex workers.

Key Recommendations

The above coalition recommends that the United States of America:

  • End the criminalization of sex workers lives by repealing federal laws, federal, state, and local laws that criminalize sex work, and eliminate anti-prostitution policies that undermine protection for human rights of sex workers. At a minimum, the US should immediately stop arresting and incarcerating people in sex trades.
  • Repeal legislative barriers, including FOSTA/SESTA, that violate the freedom of assembly and association of sex workers so that they may organize in defense of their health and rights. Stop the passage of the EARN IT ACT.
  • Vigorously investigate and put an end to policing practices targeting transgender people.
  • Cease the racist profiling of Black people, vigorously investigate police misconduct and put an end to policing practices targeting Black sex workers.
  • Address the atrocities of current immigration and migration border policies in the United States that impact all immigrants including sex workers at the border. Remove “participation in prostitution” as grounds for removal from the country, from the category of “crimes of moral turpitude” and as grounds for denying visas/legal status to individuals seeking to visit, reside in, or become citizens of the United States. 
  • Demilitarize and defund police, border agents, and other state agents who are using military grade armaments against vulnerable populations such as sex workers, immigrants and transgender people, and protestors.
  • Provide COVID19 relief to everyone in the US, including sex workers and undocumented immigrants.
  • Provide comprehensive health care services for the communities most impacted by COVID19, such as African Americans, Indigenous communities and incarcerated people, including sex workers.
  • Protect health by releasing anyone who has been detained or incarcerated for prostitution related offences or because of anti-trafficking statutes that have targeted sex workers, transgender people, immigrants, Black women and youth.


Our full report is available at www.bestpracticespolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/SWCoalition_UPR36_USA_2019.pdf

Dept. of State NGO “Consultation” Regarding US UPR 2020

The US State Department hosted one consultation for the upcoming Universal Periodic Review on January 27, 2020 at the Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C. This occurred one week before the United States will finalize its report to the United Nations. If you were unable to attend, and many of our partner groups could not, then submit your thoughts on the human rights record of the United States and what the State Department should say to USUPR2020@state.gov. Last year a coalition of sex worker rights organizations submitted a national report to the United Nations for the Universal Periodic Review in May 2020. Below is a summary of BPPP’s statement that was presented in person by our coordinator yesterday.

The Best Practices Policy Project, an organization that is dedicated to supporting the health and rights of sex workers and related communities in the United States, will present about issues emerging from our coalition report submitted for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). We would like to note that many of our partner organizations who worked on and contributed to our coalition UPR report could not access this consultation process. They are the Desiree Alliance, the Outlaw Project and the Black Sex Worker Collective. We cannot make up for their absence. However, we will raise some of our key concerns. We are pleased to see that our colleague from the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance is able to be here today.


Throughout the U.S. and at the borders criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers, and those profiled as such, prevents them from exercising their human rights and has directly resulted in rights violations by state agents. The current U.S. administration is violating the rights of immigrants as many others here have noted today. We would like to provide some information about this that has not yet been stated. The intersection of this with anti-prostitution policies has resulted in the death of migrant sex workers at the hands of state agents, the incarceration of migrant sex workers in rights violating detention centers, and deportation. The U.S. government has engaged in a sustained campaign to roll back the rights of transgender people. Transgender people are assumed to be sex workers by the authorities, leading to incarceration and immigration detention, where they are harmed, highly vulnerable to sexual assaults, and killed. We bring to your attention to the cases of Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman who died while seeking asylum in 2018, Layleen Polanco, an Afro-Latina transgender woman died in solitary confinement in 2019, and Yang Song, an immigrant woman who died as a result of a NYC anti-prostitution raid in 2017. In a previous UPR the United States accepted recommendation 86 that required that the US “…“[u]ndertake 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.” The US has passed new laws since the last UPR, such as the 2018 Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). This legislation limits the sharing of vital safety information for sex workers online and causes economic harm and social marginalization, including violating the right to freedom of association and assembly that have been affirmed at the US Supreme Court. This new law is undermining HIV programs, a serious situation given that the needs of sex workers are not adequately addressed in the US.


Our question is as follows, and we hope that the State Department will respond to this in the forthcoming report: “what has the United States done to stop rights violations against sex workers and to reduce vulnerability to violence of sex workers and communities often affected by violations due to being assumed to be sex workers?” This question also relates to the acceptance of UPR recommendation 86 in 2011.

Key Facts About Human Rights Violations & Sex Work ~ For the 2020 UPR of the U.S.A.

Our organizations are members of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) and so have been offered the opportunity to include some of our key concerns in the network’s report. BPPP, NJRUA, BSWC, Desiree Alliance and the Outlaw Project created the summary to send to the USHRN this last week.

Throughout the U.S., criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers, and those profiled as such, prevents them from exercising their human rights. Violations include: violence perpetrated by law enforcement and ICE; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during incarceration; denial of due process and protection in the justice system; denial of rights to housing, healthcare, reproductive rights, education, income, employment and economic justice. People of color, transgender people, migrants, street based sex workers, homeless, youth, and people living with HIV/AIDS bear a high burden of these violations. U.S. policies undermine the health and rights of sex workers internationally by requiring that organizations seeking funding adopt a policy against sex work. Additionally. in 2018 the U.S. passed rights violating restrictions via the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). This legislation limits the sharing of vital safety information for sex workers online and causes economic harm and social marginalization. The current U.S. administration is violating the rights of immigrants. The intersection of this with anti-prostitution policies has resulted in the death of migrant sex workers at the hands of state agents, the incarceration of migrant sex workers in rights violating detention centers, and deportation. The U.S. government has engaged in a sustained campaign to roll back the rights of transgender people. Transgender people are assumed to be sex workers by the authorities, leading to incarceration and immigration detention, where they are harmed, highly vulnerable to sexual assaults, and killed.

Photo by PJ Starr, September 20, 2019

Previous UN Body Recommendations: In prior UPR process, the U.S. accepted Recommendation 
86, requiring it to “[u]ndertake 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.” The U.S has pursued policies that directly contradict this commitment, putting sex workers at heightened risk of human rights abuses. In 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee challenged the U.S. Justice Department’s claim that arresting people for sex work is a humane or effective way to fight trafficking, and called on the U.S. to align its anti-trafficking initiatives with human rights norms, which reject criminalizing sex workers.

Key Recommendations for inclusion via USHRN: The United States of America should:

  • End the criminalization of sex workers lives by full decriminalization (anti-criminalization) of sex work and eliminate policies, such as “zero tolerance” of prostitution, “prostitution free zones,” and loitering measures, that undermine protection of and respect for human rights of sex workers. Sex workers should also be able to expunge any criminal records relating to these laws.
  • Vigorously investigate and put an end to policing practices targeting transgender people.
  • Repeal SESTA/FOSTA and eliminate other federal policies that conflate sex work and human trafficking and prevent sex workers from accessing services such as healthcare, HIV services and support.
  • Address the atrocities of current immigration and migration border policies in the United States. Migrant and immigrant sex workers are especially affected by these laws as they are under no protections of federal guidelines. 
  • Remove “participation in prostitution” as grounds for removal from the country, from the category of “crimes of moral turpitude” and as grounds for denying visas/legal status to individuals seeking to visit, reside in, or become citizens of the United States.

Monica Jones Speaking Tour

Human rights advocate Monica Jones will be traveling to the NYC area for meetings and events associated with the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking. Ms Jones will be speaking to her experience as transgender leader who was arrested by a misguided anti-trafficking initiative called Project ROSE and about the campaign she lead to raise awareness of the rights violations perpetrated by police, social workers and services providers in the name of ending “sex trafficking.” Her work on these issues sparked global awareness of the rights violations experienced by transgender women of color in the United States as a result of anti-trafficking policies. During her campaign she was joined by leading advocates such as Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and many others. A video of Monica and Laverne Cox at an event at the Herberger Theater Center organized the ACLU and sex worker rights organizations in defense of Ms Jones is available here.

Ms Jones is available for speaking engagements the NY/DC/PA area December 5 to 14, 2016. She is a dynamic speaker who has presented on transgender rights, HIV/AIDS, feminism, sex work, social work, and the law at events during the Commission on the Status of Women in NY, the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, International AIDS Conferences in Melbourne, Australia and Durban, South Africa, and the Association of Women in Development in Brazil. Ms Jones is the recipient of the SPARK! Authentic Life Award in 2015, was honored as one of the Trans 100 in 2015 and received the Diversity Advisory Committee of Phoenix College Award in 2012. Ms Jones is the founder of The Outlaw Project, an organization based on the principles of intersectionality to prioritize the leadership of people of color, transgender women, gender non-binary people and migrants for sex worker rights. She has presented at universities across the United States introducing students of all levels to key issues relating to transgender experience, rights, sex worker rights, workers rights, gender justice, the law and social work. Ms Jones may be contacted by email at monica6022006@gmail and by text/voice to (602) 483-9772.

monicajones2016speakingtour