In preparation for Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), UN Women convened an Expert Group Meeting on the priority theme: “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.” The meeting was at the International Labour Organization (ILO) Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, from 26 to 28 September 2016. The report included recommendations about sex work, including the decriminalisation of sex workers and clients in order to safeguard the human rights of sex workers.
The recommendations about sex work included:
- Recognise that sex work is work and protect the terms and conditions of those who may freely choose to engage in the exchange of sex.
- Ensure that sex workers have access to health care and social protection and that they are not discriminated against in national laws and policies.
- Recognise organisations of sex workers as legitimate unions and associations and include them actively within collective bargaining frameworks and institutions.
- Decriminalise sex work and the purchase of sex but hold those to account who are exploitatively profiteering from its existence.
The views expressed in the report (available below) do not represent the views of UN Women, but they represent the views of the experts convened by UN Women.
These recommendations come at an interesting time. UN Women is currently developing a policy on sex work, without meaningfully including the lived experiences of sex workers. UN Women launched an e-consultation on 7 September 2016, and have made it clear they have no intention of broadening their consultation process beyond this exclusionary e-consultation. NSWP has since launched a petition asking UN Women to meaningfully include sex workers in the development of their policy. One hundred and ninety sex worker-led organisations, women's rights organisations, and human rights organisations are also calling on UN Women to adopt a rights-based approach to sex workers' rights.
NSWP launched the #AreWeNotWomen campaign to highlight how some in the women's movement, including UN Women, are excluding sex workers in the development of policy about sex work. It will not be possible for UN Women to develop a credible human rights based position on sex work if they do not recognise and respect the diverse realities and lived experiences of all sex workers.