The Oakland Declaration

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law held a High Income Countries Dialogue in Oakland California on September 16th & 17th.  Over 50 representatives from civil society from high income countries came to discuss the intersections of HIV and the law and it’s impact in their countries. Sex worker rights advocates from 10 countries drafted a 10 point Declaration.

1.     Implement decriminalization of sex work and associated practices including decriminalization of people who trade or sell sex; people who buy sex; and third parties such as brothel-owners, security personnel, managers, cleaning staff, intimate partners, roommates and children of sex workers.

2.     Eliminate the use of other laws to target sex workers for arrest, incarceration, punishment and deportation on a large scale. These include mandatory testing linked to sentencing enhancements and criminalization based on HIV status, sex offender registration, drug-related offenses and immigration restrictions on sex workers. They also include laws or by-laws/ordinances used to remove sex workers from public space and impinging on their freedom of movement such as vagrancy laws, no-prostitution zones, and pre-trial and probation conditions that bar sex workers from certain areas.

3.     Stop misusing anti-trafficking laws to further criminalize sex workers, deport migrants and incarcerate youth. Fund and support real and effective services for survivors of human trafficking that include survivors of labor trafficking, include survivors of all genders, and do not jail or coerce survivors to participate in the criminal justice system.

4.     Ensure that states provide access to sterile syringes, safer sex materials and other harm reduction materials; access to quality and confidential health care, including transgender-specific health care to people detained in prison or immigration detention. Ensure that transgender prisoners who are detained, are held in conditions that are safe and in conditions that respect their gender identity.

5.     Enforce the international legal mandate to decriminalize youth involvement in the sex trades, a mandate that no U.N. member state has fully implemented. Provide immunity from prosecution without conditions. End the law enforcement-focused approach to youth in the sex trades, which has resulted in mass policing, incarceration, and “rehabilitation” programs. These approaches cause exponentially higher HIV rates for state-involved youth and interfere with services by creating criminal disincentives for providers and conditioning services on arrest. Reorient state responses toward voluntary shelter and living wage alternatives.

6.     Ensure institutional accountability and redress for police violence against sex workers and ensure equal protection of the law for sex workers with regard to violence.

7.     End the discriminatory application of all of these laws to oppress specific racialized and migrant groups, such as people of African descent and Indigenous people in North America, and Roma people in Europe. This discrimination extends to gender expression or identity, especially women and including transgender women.

8.     End local, national, transnational (including UN) policies that purport to abolish sex work through initiatives to “end demand,” to raid and shut down brothels and to rehabilitate sex workers. Such measures institutionalize discrimination against sex workers with highly damaging effects on sex worker health and rights.

9.     Prioritize and fully fund effective HIV prevention, harm reduction services, and health services for sex workers with the understanding that sex workers are partners in combating the HIV epidemic. Ensure support for rights-based services for male sex workers, trans sex workers and youth in the sex industry.

10.  Repeal the United States Anti-Prostitution Pledge, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) restrictions and any other national or transnational funding restrictions that defund or prohibit health and rights services for sex workers. Countries such as the United States and Sweden must cease using foreign policy tools to pressure other countries to increase repression and criminalization of sex work.