Reducing Violence Against Sex Workers
What are the Policy Options?
In November 2010, the current human rights record of the United States was reviewed by the United Nations Human
Rights Council. As part of this process, members of the U.N. made a series of recommendations toward improving
human rights in the U.S. In recommendation #92.86, member state Uruguay called on the Obama Administration to
undertake awareness-raising campaigns for combating stereotypes and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and
i and ensure access to public services paying attention to the special vulnerability of [sex]
ii to violence and human rights abuses.”iii
This recommendation from the global community highlights human rights issues that have gone unnoticed for too
long. Sex workers—that is people who engage in sexual commerce for income and subsistence needs—are members
of families and communities in all parts of the United States. Because of stigma and criminalization sex workers—and
those profiled as such—are subjected to violence and discrimination, and are impeded from accessing critical services,
such as healthcare, and the right to equal protection under the law. State agents themselves, specifically police officers,
commit physical and sexual violence against sex workers. These abuses are particularly rampant in poor and working
class, urban, majority African-American and immigrant communities and also greatly affect lesbian, bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) people. Globally, the U.S. federal anti-prostitution policies, such as the “anti-prostitution
pledge,” have had dire consequences for international HIV/AIDS efforts.
The U.S. Federal Government can show progress in addressing human rights abuses against sex workers by a)
accepting recommendation #92.86, and engaging in concrete, politically-feasible steps that can minimize human
rights abuses including at a minimum:
1. Building capacity for states to address human rights violations through research and dialogue.
2. Modifying or eliminating existing federal policies that conflate sex work and human trafficking and prevent
sex workers from accessing services such as healthcare, HIV prevention and support.
3. Investigating and preventing human rights abuses perpetrated by state agents, such as law enforcement
4. Investigating the impact of criminalization, including state level criminal laws, on sex workers and other
Context and Importance of the Problem
People of all gender identities and sexual orientations are involved in sex work in the U.S. work in a wide array of
settings such as clubs, brothels, in their or other’s homes, in hotels, outdoors, and in other spaces. Sex workers are
also family members and community representatives; many are parents; many work in other forms of employment or
study while also being involved in sex work.
Violence and other forms of human rights abuses against sex workers are endemic in the United States. All sex
workers face these issues but outdoor workers, transgender people, people of color, migrants, low-income people and
youth consistently bear a heavy burden of police abuse and harassment, institutional discrimination, and violence.
Violence stems from many sources including a widespread belief that sex workers are not eligible for police or legal
protection because of criminalization.
iv Police themselves often do not protect sex workers or perpetrate abuse
themselves. In a New York City-based study, 27% of sex workers surveyed had experienced violence at the hands of
v Another study in Washington D.C. found that more than 50% of sex workers who went to the
police for assistance were either ignored or further abused by officers.
vi Lack of protection from violence, stigma, and
human rights abuse by state agents has a devastating impact; in one study the standardized mortality rate for death by
homicide among sex workers was nearly 18 times higher than the general population.
vii Criminalization and stigma
affect sex workers in a myriad of other ways including a cycle of arrest, incarceration, exclusion from housing,
healthcare, education and other job opportunities, and re-imprisonment.
If prostitution was legal , then many of these problems could be solved
BASELESS MY SWEET PETARD
Again this seems to be an issue involving a country other than Canada with a vastly different criminal law regime - state based criminal codes.
Perhaps you can find some relevant evidence that applies to Canada and the issue under discussion in this thread so your opinions vis a vis CANADA
are not so badly uninformed.
A good start would be to read the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Prostitution Reference - Reference re ss. 193 & 195.1(1)© of Criminal Code (Canada), (the Prostitution Reference)
,  1 S.C.R. 1123 - that would be relevant.