UN Women Petition: Meaningfully Consult Sex Workers Now!

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NSWP is rallying a call for UN Women to engage in a meaningful consultation with sex workers as they develop their policy on sex work. NSWP has started an online petition here, and encourage all sex workers, sex workers’ rights activists, and allies to sign and share the petition.

The signatories of the petition call on UN Women to:

  • engage in a meaningful consultation with sex workers in developing their policy on sex work.
  • ensure their sex work policy respects, protects and fulfils the human rights of sex workers and recognises the agency and self-determination of sex workers.

The UNAIDS Joint Programme on AIDS, of which UN Women is a Co-Sponsor, already has a sex work policy. The UNAIDS policy is founded in UN Human Rights treaties. It was developed following a meaningful consultation process with sex workers and other stakeholders.

NSWP received an invitation from UN Women to participate in a formal e-consultation on the 7 September 2016. However, such a process is biased towards those with privilege and will exclude the majority of sex workers in the global south who have limited access to the Internet. Mot sex workers in the global south are not literate in the colonialist languages of the United Nations and are not familiar with UN treaties and documents that guide UN Women, and around which their consultation is framed.

UN Women believe it is important to hear “from various people and groups, agencies and organizations which have an interest in this issue including: sex workers / sex worker groups, survivors of prostitution and groups representing them, feminist and women’s rights organizations.” While sex workers are named first, the process being used and the failure to organise any national or regional sex worker consultations shows either an ignorance about the reality of sex workers lives, a failure to recognise the centrality that sex workers should play in the development of sex work policies and programmes or a desire to limit the involvement of sex workers in the development of this policy.

NSWP believes it is essential that sex workers are provided with opportunities to meaningfully engage in consultations that will impact upon them. NSWP commends Sex Workers and Allies South Asia [SWASA] who will organise a face to face consultation with sex workers in the South Asian region. The goal of the consultation is to gather their voices and to document what a meaningful consultation process is for women who are marginalised and discriminated against even within the women’s movements.

Experience has taught sex worker communities - at local, national, regional and global levels - that policies imposed without being informed by the lived experiences and meaningful involvement of sex workers can often have a severe detrimental effect on the lives of sex workers and their families. In light of sex workers experiences with such harmful policies NSWP offers UN Women a draft framework for a human rights affirming approach to sex work for consideration and further consultation during the development of their policy.

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