Last week, the U.S. government made history by condemning violence and discrimination against sex workers—for the first time ever.
At a recent United Nations evaluation of the United States’ human rights record (the Universal Periodic Review of the U.N. Human Rights Council), the international community gave the U.S. more than 200 recommendations to improve its human rights record. Uruguay specifically called on the Obama administration to “undertake awareness-raising campaigns, campaigns for combating stereotypes and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, and ensure access to public services by paying attention to the special vulnerability of sexual workers to violence and human rights abuses.”
Led by the efforts of a new group called Human Rights for All: Concerned Advocates for the Rights of Sex Works and People in the Sex Trade (HRA), CHANGE helped mobilize more than 125 organizations to join forces in a sign-on letter urging U.S. State Department officials to accept Uruguay’s recommendation.
These advocacy efforts translated into a significant victory. Last week, the U.S. released a report to the U.N. affirming 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.”
For the U.S. government, this is a groundbreaking step forward in working to end stigma and discrimination against LGBT individuals and sex workers and to ensure their access to critical health services.
However, there is much more work to be done. The U.S. anti-prostitution pledge is still in place—a policy that requires all organizations that receive global HIV/AIDS funding to explicitly oppose prostitution. This policy makes it extremely difficult to provide much-needed health services to women, men, and transgender people in the sex sector. Advocates can now point to the U.S. government’s statement in their efforts to remove this discriminatory policy from U.S. global HIV/AIDS funding.
For more information on these developments and resources on sex workers and human rights, please see the following:
* Press Release: “Breaking: U.S. Acknowledges Human Rights Needs of Sex Workers,” Human Rights for All.
* Community sign-on letter to State Department officials
* Human Rights for All website
* CHANGE policy brief on the anti-prostitution pledge
* CHANGE and American University Washington College of Law publication on human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, the sex sector and human rights
Thank you to everyone who supported these efforts, and let’s continue working together to keep the momentum going!
*Note written by Kim Whipkey, Senior Associate for Advocacy and Outreach at CHANGE – Center for Health and Gender Equity.