Fighting for the human rights of people in the sex trades
— Read on www.bestpracticespolicy.org/2020/03/10/impact-of-cancellations-due-to-covid-19/
Impact of cancellations due to COVID-19
In 2020, our organizations in various coalitions have been planning to host the following events and engage in the following human rights processes:
- a sex worker led parallel session and a fundraiser at the Commission on the Status of Women,
- the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United States including writing a collective report, advocating for key issues with permanent missions, hosting a working group on sex work at the USHRN, planning to attend pre-sessions at the UN in Geneva and the UPR itself that should be held in May 2020,
- a sex worker rights networking session at the Allied Media Conference in June 2020,
- AIDS2020 in San Francisco and HIV2020 in Mexico City (both planned for July 2020).
The United Nations cancellation of almost all of the Commission on the Status of Women in the afternoon/evening of March 2, 2020 dismantled the work of our sex worker and trans led organizations stretching back to October 2019. On Friday March 6, 2020 our two representatives who had been scheduled to attend vital UPR pre-meetings planned by UPR-Info in Geneva were told that they were part of a cohort that had been locked out of the UN itself while other pre-selected groups (the selected speakers from larger NGOs such as the Human Rights Campaign) will still be allowed in. Work that sex worker and trans led groups has been preparing for since March 2019 to raise key issues about sex worker rights and intersections with migration, trans justice, and economic justice is now derailed.
We have been asked to retool and reschedule by having events at other times and in other formats, and working around UN restrictions. We will do all that we can but we want to place the actions that we can and cannot take in a political context.
- Most of our organizations have no paid staff at all and only one of us has recently brought on a part time administrator. Re-planning events places tremendous strain on us.
- We have expended all of our extremely limited resources and there are no more resources to pay for events to happen at another time or to make up for changes that multi-million dollar global agencies make. Our organizations and our members live week to week and day to day.
- Our exclusion is systematic. The fact that our representatives had their UN accreditation cancelled is a result of being denied speaker slots and forced into the audience (while more privileged groups were given the space to speak). A public health crisis is not an excuse for cancelling the access of those who already had the least access.
- Every epidemic has led to the blaming and exclusion of sex workers, drug users, LGBT communities and immigrants. The history of HIV/AIDS is so present for us. Hysteria about coronavirus makes all in our communities vulnerable and deflects from the failures of States that know full well how to address respiratory infections but have not been doing so. Our right to health includes acknowledgement that we the marginalized are not the risk but that governments should have strengthened public health systems long ago, worked with us to provide trainings for frontline health workers, provided testing to those who wish to have it for coronavirus, and making sure that senior living centers were safe and clean.
- As sex workers, we stand with all the cleaners who are our heroes in ensuring public health. Sex workers need rights and so should domestic workers and cleaners be uplifted and paid more. The stigma of doing societies’ “dirty work” must be challenged.
The Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, Moral High Ground Productions, the Outlaw Project and the Black Sex Worker Collective