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.