Tag: Recommendation 86

“our lives do matter”: pressuring the State Dept to end rights abuses faced by US Sex Workers

On February 20, 2015 Janet Duran–a representative of the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance and a network of organizations using international human rights strategies to bring attention to rights abuses faced by sex workers–traveled to the District of Columbia to present a statement during a meeting organized by the US State Department. This “civil society consultation” was held in advance of the Second Universal Periodic Review of the United States, that is scheduled for May 11 at the United Nations in Geneva, and included representatives from various United States government agencies. In  its prior Universal Periodic Review process,  the US accepted Recommendation  86,  requiring it to “undertake 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.” Even though Recommendation 86 is considered a very important step forward in global acknowledgement that the United States should improve its policies and actions to protect the rights of sex workers, the US government has taken no action since that time to do so. Janet Duran addressed the State Department and other government agencies to make clear the reality of the rights violations faced by sex workers across the United States:

I stand before you today to bring to your attention to the numerous ways in which sex workers’ human rights continue to be violated due to criminalization. The biggest problem is that most of the violence which they fall victim to is at the hands of the very people who should be protecting them.

I have been a witness to law enforcement and people in positions of security and power allowing fellow law enforcement brethren to engage in said illegal activities with no recourse for their actions.

This is where criminalization makes things even more dangerous because at any time we can become victims of sexual assault or other violence and know full well if an attempt is made to report any act of violence during the alleged commission of an “illegal sex act,” we become vulnerable to retaliation and even more violence and even death.

If we do try and report it’s not only the police that further makes us victims but also at the hands of attorneys on both ends. We will not go report if we know that prosecutors will question our motives and yell at us when we question the corruption and misconduct the arises from trying to report.

The constant harassment of repeated and constitutional rights violations further make us distrust police. Misconduct manifesting itself as lost statements and police reports falsified to protect the accused by their law enforcement comrades. The prosecutorial misconduct we face when we are treated as criminals when we are victims.

When that pertinent fact, according to the attorney general’s office, is left out of the report but it’s not important enough to be investigated because according to various victim rights attorneys, who were also former prosecutors, no prosecutor will ever prosecute a case involving sex workers because no real crime is committed because they say we don’t matter.

But our lives do matter.

In this spirit, I call on you all to implement  Recommendation  86  to ensure the human  rights  of sex  workers  including  the rights  to  healthcare,  education  and housing;  and  the right   to  be  free  from  violence  by  government  and non-government  actors. I call on you to take  measures  to  decrease  violence towards my community by  implementing  campaigns  to  end  the  harms  of  stigmatization  and  criminalization.
Preparing to enter the State Department Civil Society Consultation in D.C.

Preparing to enter the State Department Civil Society Consultation in D.C.

 

Update on the United Nations’ UPR process

Best Practices Policy Project and other groups working for the human rights of sex workers and people in sex trade has been engaging with the latest round of the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This is a continuation of excellent grassroots community organizing around the last round of the UPR in 2010/2011. We submitted a shadow report along with our friends at Desiree Alliance and SWOP-NYC.

You can view the United States’ assessment of its own human rights record as reported to the Human Rights Council here. Now that the government has submitted their report, the next steps for grassroots advocacy are to contact the US government about our shadow reports, as well as contact the diplomatic missions of other countries to encourage them to submit recommendations to the US to support the human rights of people in sex trades. We are participating in several upcoming opportunities for these activities

If you would like to contact policy makers in the US or in the diplomatic missions of other countries, this one-page summary may be helpful.

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).

A Call to Action on Sex Work and HIV

Organizers in the United States representing communities of sex workers and people in the sex trade have produced a call to action in regards to US policies affecting sex workers and people in the sex trade for distribution during the International AIDS Conference (IAC) to be held in Washington, D.C. in July 2012. The group of organizations and advocates organizing to highlight the rights of sex workers during the IAC are demanding that the U.S. government make good on its 2011 commitment “that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on… their status as a person in prostitution”

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