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Celebrating Amnesty’s Policy; our work for rights continues

On Tuesday we at Best Practices Policy Project joined the collective cheer of sex workers and allies around the world when Amnesty International, during its International Council Meeting, voted to adopt a stance of decriminalization of sex work as a way to promote human rights. The decision came after years of research and debate at the global human rights organization–BPPP and many others encouraged Amnesty International to adopt this position. Practically, this does not change policies or laws anywhere. However, having a widely known and respected human rights group make this decision should help bolster the arguments of sex worker rights activists about the harms of criminalization. While that symbolic victory is important, the decision should also mean that Amnesty International will proactively research and publicize human rights violations against sex workers and related communities.
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Amnesty International: essential policy decision

Tomorrow Amnesty International will begin the process of adopting a draft policy that will defend the human rights of sex workers and call for the decriminalization of sex work. The Best Practices Policy Project is joining with organizations and human rights advocates to support the policy. The most important sources of information for the Best Practices Policy Project are sex workers themselves–such as a sex worker from New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance who has shared her experiences in a video–many of whom have spoken out publicly for the very first time in defense of the policy. After considering the issues, we urge you to send a letter to Amnesty International, just as the Best Practices Policy Project and our allies at Desiree Alliance and NJ Red Umbrella Alliance have, to ask the Amnesty International Council to stand firm and protect the human rights of sex workers. For those unable to write a letter, the global Network of Sex Work Projects has a petition that only takes a few seconds to sign. Representatives of Amnesty International can also show their support by ensuring that their representatives adopt the policy.
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Countries Make Recommendations to U.S. at the United Nations

The United States underwent its second round of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Monday, a human rights mechanism at the United Nations meant to hold countries accountable by subjecting them to review at the Human Rights Council. Sex worker rights activists Monica Jones and Derek Demeri were present in Geneva, Switzerland, for the review. They had asked representatives of other countries to raise the issue of sex worker rights with the U.S. during the review. While none of the 117 countries making recommendations specifically discussed sex work, many recommendations about policing and law enforcement cover the rights violations that are committed against sex workers and others profiled as such.

After the session concluded, Jones and Demeri participated in the civil society consultation with the U.S. government delegation to Geneva. They voiced their concerns about rights violations against people involved in sex trade, violence against trans women, particularly trans women of color, and deaths of people incarcerated due to negligence or violence by jail and prison personnel. “I want to know what you are doing to address violence against trans women,” Jones asked the government delegation, noting how poverty, violence, incarceration, and isolation affect trans women uniquely. “We support recommendations to end police brutality, as the violence that sex workers face is most often at the hands of police,” said Demeri. He added that the U.S. government should also take steps to fix its flawed approach to human trafficking, should stop the practice of using condoms as evidence of prostitution, and should uphold the rights of sex workers and related communities including queer youth, trans women, and women living in poverty. You can hear their remarks here:

The advocacy efforts of Jones, Demeri, and others at the United Nations builds on years of work by sex worker rights activists and allies. During the UPR process in 2010, Uruguay called on the United States to end violence against sex workers, and the U.S. government accepted the recommendation. Unfortunately, very little has been done since that time by the federal government to protect sex workers’ rights. The situation has actually deteriorated, as national and local policies and practices harming sex workers, and those profiled as such, increase every year, often under the banner of fighting human trafficking. Next steps for the UPR include encouraging the U.S. government to accept most of the recommendations made by other member countries, and pushing policy makers to support sex worker rights.

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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