(SOME) Sex Workers (representing the voice of all) Attend 61st Commission on the Status of Women meeting in NYC and hold Parallel Session on Sex Workers and Economic Empowerment Submitted by NSWP on 17 April 2017 Author: North America and the Caribbean Regional Correspondent. The sixty first session on the United Nations convening Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) took place in New York City in the United States of America from 13 – 24 March of 2017. The central theme for this years meeting was the development of a roadmap for ‘Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work’. A 17 page report detailing the Commission’s conclusions and plans for action was released, highlighting points of focus based on the input of all member states.
Throughout the document there was no mention of sex work or other forms of street-based or criminalised labour. However, there is a policy specifically encouraging the creation and implementation of anti-trafficking strategies, the point specifies that the work should integrate a “human rights and sustainable development perspective”.
The document outlines the need to raise public awareness, enforce legal frameworks, and to increase international cooperation to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls to “modern slavery and sexual exploitation.” It is unclear what this will look like on the ground. Also missing from the document were policy points pertaining to the implementation of rights and opportunities for transgender women in the workplace.
(SOME) Sex workers from across the globe (who were invited) attended the UN convening. Some agencies within the UN family have advocated for the worldwide decriminalisation of sex work, such as UNAIDS and UNFP. Penelope Saunders, Coordinator at Best Policy Practice Project (BPPP), stated that over the past decade the CSW has failed to provide a unified stance on sex work due to the oppositional views on criminalisation by representatives present. While a focus on sex work was limited at the conference (SOME) USA-based NSWP organisations planned a separate parallel event with a talk by Beyonce Karungi of Transgender Equality Uganda, Elena Reynaga of RedTraSex and Aisha Mohammed of Philly Red Umbrella Alliance. The panel was moderated by Monica Jones, a US activist, who in 2015 spoke to a UN Human Rights Council Session about her experience of being profiled as a black trans woman and arrested for prostitution. Penelope Saunders spoke of the importance of holding a conversation about economic justice inclusive of sex work. Many member states push for the Swedish Model. This model has been shown to violate the human rights of sex workers, as outlined in NSWP’s Advocacy Toolkit: The Real Impact of the Swedish Model on Sex Workers. Saunders said that within the United States, amongst some sex worker advocates, support for the Swedish Model had been growing. “We felt strongly that this parallel session would be a moment to challenge the false perception [that the Swedish model is favored over other forms of legal oppression] by speaking to what workers need to thrive as sex workers and not focusing discussion on the human rights abuses faced by sex workers per se.”
Moderator Monica Jones spoke of the importance of including sex workers in the roadmap for Women’s economic empowerment: “What we need to address is how sex work provides economic empowerment to those who would otherwise not have access to work. Decriminalizing sex work provides economic empowerment to people who would otherwise not have access to employment, as it is a workplace that does not exclude people based on education level, transgender status or disabilities.” In reaction to the UN document responding only to sex work within the framework of sexual exploitation, Jones said “the fight against sex trafficking needs to be directed by women of color, since they are the people most impacted by the policies of the anti-trafficking movement.”
Bloggers note: Ms. Jones – I have to disagree. ALL styles of sex workers have been affected by sex trafficking policy and the policing of our industry. Sex workers and sex trafficking victims are all colors and cultures. The women lost before your strife should not be forgotten. Those to be affected tomorrow may be different than who we are now.
Please Know: Susan Walsh went missing reporting on Russian sex trafficking in NY and NJ long before Project Rose. Donna Gentile was murdered by police long before you took to the microphone. Amber Batts just came home to her children. She is still prisoner under house arrest, charged as a sex trafficker.
We ALL are hurt by bad policy.
Respect. Come on.
Bloggers note: I remain hopeful in the future NSWP will inform of before events happen to gather diverse feedback to present at meetings, even if not approved for formal chapters due to a lack of nonprofit status or whatever else required for shared association.