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Monica Jones speaks at the United Nations: Protect sex workers’ rights, end racist & transphobic policing

Human rights defender Monica Jones, along with other human rights activists, were in Geneva at the United Nations this past week to educate officials about rights violations happening in the United States. The U.S. is up for review of its human rights record in May as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Ms. Jones’ fight for justice was highlighted at the U.N. previously in 2014 during a review of U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This video captures Monica Jones presenting to officials about the need for strengthened protections for the human rights of sex workers, and the need to end racist and transphobic policing. Read an in-depth piece on what Ms. Jones is doing in Geneva on Truthout.org.

Press Release: U.S. Sex Worker Rights Activists to Advocate Before UN Human Rights Council

March 12, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS: Geneva team- Monica Jones 602-575-9332, J.M. Kirby: jm.kirby@law.cuny.edu;

United States- Janet Duran- 973-900-4887, Penelope Saunders- 917-817-0324, penelope.saunders@gmail.com

 

U.S. Sex Worker Rights Activists to Advocate Before UN Human Rights Council

Advocates Call for Justice as the UN Reviews the U.S. Human Rights Record

Geneva– Representatives of U.S.-based sex worker rights organizations will travel to Geneva, Switzerland next week, March 15-21st, to meet with members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), and to call for greater human rights protections. As the HRC prepares for a review of the U.S.’ human rights record later this spring, civil society organizations from throughout the U.S. are traveling to Geneva to educate members about violations of civil, political, economic and social human rights in the U.S.

For Monica Jones, a human rights advocate and transgender woman of color from Phoenix, AZ, the issues she will raise while in Geneva have directly impacted her own life. The target of discriminatory police profiling, Monica Jones was wrongfully arrested under an anti-prostitution police sweep program in Phoenix, called Project ROSE. After a long fight and an appeal, a judge dismissed Monica Jones’ charges earlier this month. However, 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.”

Sex worker rights advocates participated in the prior review of the U.S. via the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, through which countries’ human rights records are submitted to scrutiny every four years. As a result, the U.S. adopted Recommendation 86, obligating it to increase human rights protections for sex workers. 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, demonstrating that the U.S. has failed to live up to the promises of Recommendation 86.

The report, written in consultation with sex workers and their allies throughout the country, shows that criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers, and those profiled as such, exposes them to rape, extortion, assault, 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 crime, and thus denies justice or support to sex workers who seek help. At a recent civil society meeting organized in advance of the UPR by the U.S. State Department, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance member Janet Duran told officials that “most of the violence [sex workers] fall victim to is at the hands of the very people who should be protecting them.”

Advocates are concerned that the U.S. exports stigma and discrimination through policies such as the “anti-prostitution loyalty oath” attached to development funding. “We will ask the world to hold the U.S. accountable for making sex workers vulnerable to human rights abuses,” said J.M. Kirby of the Best Practices Policy Project. “Our country should be promoting human rights for all, including sex workers, not shaming people because of the work that they do.”

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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

U.S. POLICING REFORM MUST ADDRESS ABUSES AGAINST PEOPLE IN SEX TRADES

This week Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new initiative to address police misconduct and abuse. Days before this announcement, sex workers, people in the sex trades and advocates submitted a report to the United Nations (UN) on human rights violations committed in the U.S. against sex workers, people in the sex trades, and those profiled as such. The abuses documented in the report make clear that no effort to reform policing in the U.S. can be effective without addressing mistreatment by law enforcement of these highly marginalized communities.

In the report to the UN Human Rights Council, Best Practices Policy Project (BPPP), Desiree Alliance and Sex Worker Outreach Project-NYC (SWOP-NYC) documents extensive violations of the right to equal protection before the law, the right to be free of cruel and inhuman punishment, and the right to health. Across the country, anti-prostitution laws and policies, coupled with discriminatory practices, create an environment in which police profiling and mistreatment of communities of color, transgender people, young people and immigrants occurs with impunity. In many U.S. jurisdictions, arrestees face harsh sentencing laws and receive inadequate legal defense. Due process violations are also rampant. Laws that criminalize a person’s HIV status—found to be a cruel and unusual punishment by the UN—are applied to sex workers across the country, while health care and other social service providers routinely mistreat people who have traded sex for money. Policy and funding shifts have undermined the work of important harm reduction and human rights groups working with people involved in sex trade, including forcing some critical organizations to close.

Citing examples from Baltimore to Phoenix, from New Orleans to Chicago, the report draws on the most recent research and media reports on human rights abuses against people in sex trades as well as interviews with sex workers and advocates. The report’s list of recommendations starts by calling on the U.S. government to make good on a commitment it made in 2011 to the UN to address discrimination and violence against sex workers.

As the country grapples with abuses by law enforcement in the aftermath of the high profile events in Ferguson, Missouri, it would be a mistake to leave certain communities out of the discussion on policing and discrimination. The recommendations from the report give Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department plenty of ideas to work on as they move forward with addressing the problems with law enforcement in the U.S.

BPPP, Desiree Alliance and SWOP-NYC submitted the report to the UN as part of the Universal Review Period (UPR), a periodic process by which the UN Human Rights Council examines the human rights record for UN member states. Other countries will make their recommendations to the U.S. about ways to improve human rights during the UPR session in Geneva, Switzerland in April 2015.

Groups representing sex workers and people in sex trades have recently submitted reports to the UN regarding the U.S. obligations under international treaties such as the International Covenant to Eliminate Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UPR report was endorsed by Power Inside (Baltimore), BreakOUT! (New Orleans), Casa Ruby (D.C.), Solutions Not Punishment Coalition (Atlanta), Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) USA and chapters in Phoenix, Tucson, Seattle, and Tampa Bay, Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance, Monica Jones/Stand with Monica Campaign (Phoenix), Red Umbrella Project (NYC), and St. James Infirmary (San Francisco).