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U.S. Government Condemns Violence & Discrimination Against Sex Workers

By Rachel Farris

March 15, 2011

This article was provided by the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance.

U.S. Government Condemns Violence & Discrimination Against Sex Workers

"We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution."

This is a familiar sentiment to prevention justice activists, but it comes from an unfamiliar corner: for the first time, the U.S. government has taken a stance on the human rights of sex workers.

This formal condemnation of violence and discrimination against sex workers comes in response to a report by the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR, a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN member states once every four years, took place in November 2010 in Geneva, Switzerland.

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A broad coalition of sex workers, family members, sex workers' rights groups, researchers and human rights activists known as Human Rights for All: Concerned Advocates for the Rights of Sex Workers and People in the Sex Trade came together to urge the State Department to accept UPR Recommendation #86. In Recommendation #86, member state Uruguay called on the Obama Administration to "undertake awareness-raising campaigns for combating stereotypes and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and [transgender people], and ensure access to public services paying attention to the special vulnerability of [sex] workers to violence and human rights abuses."

On Friday March 18th sex workers will stage demonstrations in cities across the country to celebrate adoption of Recommendation #86.

The acknowledgement of sex workers' rights and vulnerability to violence and discrimination as a distinct issue from human trafficking is a key victory. The special vulnerability of sex workers to HIV infection -- particularly transgender sex workers and people of color -- makes this declaration by the U.S. government an encouraging step forward for prevention justice. We stand with allies for the human rights of sex workers and will closely follow the U.S. government's "serious efforts" to end discrimination and violence against this community!

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