Tag: UPR

Report to the UN Human Rights Council Periodic Review UPR: We Want Our Voices Heard!

The Black Sex Worker Collective (BSWC), the Outlaw Project, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance (NJRUA), Best Practices Policy Project (BPPP), and Desiree Alliance, are calling on sex workers rights advocates and allies to join us letting the world know about the abuses sex workers face in the United States. We are collecting information from sex workers and organizations and are happy to meet in person, talk on the phone, text, receive information by email and reports via our online survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/UPR2020 (deadline to fill out the survey is September 12, 2019).

What is the UPR? The United Nations (UN) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a session to hold member countries responsible for their human rights records. The United States is being reviewed in 2020 for the first time in five years. By September 2019 we will write a report on the human rights abuses sex workers face and sex workers will then travel to Geneva, Switzerland to speak to member countries about the criminalization of our communities.

The US is obligated to uphold everyone’s human rights, including the rights to housing, education and healthcare; the right to be free from arbitrary arrest, due process violations, and invasions of privacy; the right to be free from torture and inhumane treatment; the rights of migrants; as well as rights related to the US obligation to eliminate racial discrimination.

It is well known that the US violates these rights on a routine basis when it comes to sex workers, or people profiled by the police, social workers and service providers as sex workers. The UPR provides a space for the world to hear about how the US has violated human rights over the past four years. Due to the current policy approaches in the US, we plan to include in our report information about the experiences of migrants, trans folks, people in street economies and document the economic impacts of US policies worldwide, but having said that we want to hear from every one and about every issue

Fill out the survey or email us to set up a time to speak:  bestpracticespolicyproject@gmail.com, blackSWCollective@protonmail.com, newjerseyrua@gmail.com, director@desireealliance.org, theoutlawprojectinc@gmail.com
We will be collecting information until September 12, 2019.

Why is the UPR important? In2010, BPPP and Desiree Alliance submitted the first shadow report to the U.N. Human Rights Council outlining human rights violations, e.g., police abuse and targeting, institutionalized discrimination, lack of legal protection, and violence ignored by the local governments.  As a result of the report and advocates speaking out in Geneva before the U.N. Human Rights Council, the US adopted Recommendation 86, which states that the US agrees to:  

Undertake awareness-raising campaigns for combating stereotypes and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people, and ensure access to public services paying attention to the special vulnerability of sex workers to violence and human rights abuses.

This was the first time the U.S. agreed to address sex workers’ rights violations directly at the U.N. However, we have seen very little change since the adoption of the recommendation.  Sex workers continue to experience violence, stigma, discrimination, and targeting, especially at the hands of the police and the criminal justice systems. We want to hold the U.S. Government responsible for not fulfilling its obligations in accordance with Recommendation 86.  We want to further highlight issues that continue to go unreported. 

DOJ Report on Baltimore Police Shows Harms of Criminalization of Commercial Sex

Contact:

Jacqueline Robarge, Power Inside | jrobarge at powerinside.org (410) 889-8333
Darby Hickey, Best Practices Policy Project | darbyhickey at gmail.com (202) 250-4869
Katherine M Koster, SWOP-USA | katherine at swopusa.org (877) 776-2004

DOJ Report on Baltimore Police Shows Harms of Criminalization of Commercial Sex

Statement from Power Inside, Best Practices Policy Project, and Sex Worker Outreach Project-National (SWOP-USA)

The August 10th U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigative findings on the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) reveals police abuse and misconduct that sex workers have documented for years. According to the DOJ findings, BPD officers “fail to meaningfully investigate reports of sexual assault, particularly for assaults involving women with additional vulnerabilities, such as those who are involved in the sex trade.” In addition to ignoring sexual assault reports, the DOJ reports, officers themselves targeted, raped, and sexually assaulted sex workers, noting that such conduct “is not only criminal, it is an abuse of power.”

The DOJ details the BPD’s sweeping racial bias and unconstitutional practices that include racial profiling, degrading strip searches, excessive force, abusive language, and erroneous arrests. According to the report, African American sex workers and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are particularly impacted by biased policing and are repeatedly targeted for stops without cause. The DOJ noted that, “BPD’s application of city ordinances banning loitering, trespassing, and failing to obey an officer’s order violates the Fourteenth Amendment.” Once stopped, sex workers of color or those perceived as sex workers are treated with a magnified level of disrespect and abuse.

Unfortunately, this mistreatment is not unique to Baltimore. In 2014 at the United Nations review of the U.S. human rights record, sex worker groups presented documentation of widespread human rights abuses in the U.S. against sex workers and those profiled as engaging in commercial sex, including documentation from Baltimore. The documentation presented in 2014 was a follow-up to a 2010 U.S. human rights record review in 2010, when the U.S. Government agreed to address discrimination against sex workers

Despite this longstanding documentation of police abuse of individuals engaged in the sex trade, particularly African American cisgender and transgender women, the U.S. government has taken no steps to address these pervasive human rights violations. Just as the DOJ documented in Baltimore, throughout the country police officers assault and rape sex workers, ignore sexual assault claims brought by people involved in sex work and deliberately fail to investigate these abuses. Police officers also profile people, particularly transgender and cisgender women, as sex workers, stopping and arresting them on scant evidence. This profiling comes as part of the broader racial and gender profiling of African Americans and other people of color documented extensively by DOJ across the country.

These human rights violations are a direct result of criminalization of marginalized communities in general and the criminalization of sex work more specifically. To address them, states and municipalities should work against criminalization in general and towards the decriminalization of drug use and sex work. The federal government should issue guidance on racial and gender profiling, make state and local funding contingent on an end to such practices, and promote policies and practices which stop human rights abuses against people of color, transgender people, sex workers and those profiled as involved in commercial sex.

The crafting of the Baltimore’s DOJ consent decree, and those in other DOJ investigations, must meaningfully include sex workers, LGBT people, and marginalized survivors of violence that have been most impacted by neglectful and unconstitutional practices. Real reform must include robust reforms that are specific to marginalized communities.

Read the U.S. Department of Justice report:

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3009376/BPD-Findings-Report-FINAL.pdf

Listen to women in Baltimore describe interactions with the police:
https://soundcloud.com/powerinside/nobody_deserves
https://soundcloud.com/powerinside/favor
https://soundcloud.com/powerinside/culture­of­violence

Read reports submitted to the United Nations regarding human rights abuses of sex
workers by police:
2010 report to the Universal Periodic Review

2014 report to the Universal Periodic Review

For more recent documentation of police misconduct against sex workers, see:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ecyJz8t1f2aVVNLORhbDophNUDrxcEjo4
wbGFvCyLVM/edit?usp=sharing

 

Second UPR of US: Minimal Talk and No Action on Rec 86

During the first Universal Periodic Review of the United States in 2010, the Human Rights Council at the United Nations made Recommendation 86 to the United States to “…ensure access to public services paying attention to the special vulnerability of sexual workers to violence and human rights abuses.” The Obama Administration accepted the recommendation stating, “we agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution…” This position was repeated earlier this year in preparations for the 2015 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United States. However, now that the United States has made no mention of sex workers rights in its official response to the 2015 UPR, sex worker advocates are frustrated that there is no sign that Recommendation 86 will actually be implemented. Our concern is that the United States is failing to ensure that the human rights of sex workers are protected and that the systematic violations of sex workers–and people profiled as such–that have been documented by our organizations continue with impunity.

While other recommendations are followed up with plans of action, the U.S. government has failed to make any plans on actually implementing Recommendation 86 and ensuring sex workers have access to public services to ensure safety.

Unfortunately, sex workers continue to experience violence and extreme forms of discrimination from state actors across the country. In May of 2013, Monica Jones, a transgender woman of color in Phoenix, was arrested for “manifestation of prostitution” while on her way to a LGBT venue. These kinds of arrest are a common practice in which law enforcement profiles trans feminine people of color as sex workers. In late 2014, the North Jersey Regional Director of the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance was unconstitutionally arrested in relation to her prior prostitution charge with claims of an active warrant which were later discovered to be false. These actions were likely taken in retaliation for her efforts to speak out against police violence. In Alaska, anti-trafficking rhetoric has become so radioactive that Amber Batts was found guilty of trafficking herself. This is the reality that sex workers and people profiled as such have to endure.

The continuing human rights violations that sex workers experience are a direct result of the inaction the United States government has taken to address our concerns. The federal government has the capacity to set restrictions on human trafficking funding so they go to people who actually have been coerced in their labor, and not into the hands of law enforcement efforts that are incompatible with addressing these issues or towards forcing people out of the sex trade who do not want to leave. The federal government can end travel restrictions on those who trade sex that are often enforced in ways that reinforce racial stereotypes. Importantly, the federal government has the ability to formally recognize the labor of sex work and allow labor violations to be reported.

If the government is serious about enforcing Recommendation 86, then the sex worker community requires a plan of action, as current policies run contrary to their rhetoric that sex workers should not be discriminated against. This plan should incorporate ways to work with state and local governments to reverse the trend of using laws against prostitution, solicitation, and loitering to harass sex workers and those perceived to be sex workers. Sex workers want the talk about rights to result in meaningful action.

By Derek Demeri, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance; Penelope Saunders, Best Practices Policy Project; and Cristine Sardina, Desiree Alliance.

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.