Online and offline sex worker rights are human rights
The majority of sex workers are women. Many of these women experience physical and psychological abuse – including by the police – in the course of their work. We demand that sex worker rights – which include, among other, the right to privacy and the right to life, liberty and security online – be recognised as human rights. We call to decriminalise sex work as a way of ensuring better access to rights. Read the next following stories and sign the petition that we will hand in to the UN!
The Rustenberg case
In most countries, sex work is still being criminalised. In many contexts, this translates into direct harassment and abuse of sex workers by the police. A story published in South Africa’s newspaper Mail & Guardian on November 23, 2012, reports that sex workers in Rustenburg are victims of targeted abuse by three entities during raids: the police, a ‘Citizens’ Forum for Change’ and the municipality’s public safety department. “They are confronted by a convoy of marked police vehicles, pepper-sprayed, assaulted and searched before being shoved into a vehicle,“ the article reveals. The full story speaks of what seem to be clear violations of the fundamental human right to life, liberty and security (article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
In another case, this same fundamental human right is stamped to the ground by the clients of the sex trade themselves. The compelling video story of Muchaneta, who emigrated from Zimbabwe to South Africa in search of a better life for her family, is just one of many examples of abuse of sex worker. Muchaneta was a sex worker, she is a refugee, she is a mother and she is a storyteller. She is a human being first and foremost. We are demanding that she live in dignity.
Sex worker drop-in case
In a third case, on May 7 2012, police authorities in the Ugandan city of Gulu ‘dropped by’ a sex worker drop-in centre. They raided the small office and arrested two staff and three members of the Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA), a duly registered group that runs the centre. “We find this to be an attack on WONETHA and sex workers’ freedom of association, assembly, speech and expression, and we strongly protest against this,” said Macklean Kyomya, the group’s executive director. Beyond the listed human rights, the raid also raises the question of digital security. One of the three members that was arrested recounts the raid: “They started searching our office in every corner including the dust bin. They connected the computer and asked me the password, and opened the emails we send to our office in Kampala. They asked me if we have a flash disk which I said we didn’t… but we have a modem for our internet. They took it, along with papers, a printer, the cash book, a stapling machine, a puncher, a computer and a CPU”.
Not only does this specific raid interfere with article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the right to privacy), it also comes head-to-head with article 5.1 of APC’s Internet Rights Charter on the right to data protection, which insists that “Public or private organisations that require personal information from individuals must collect only the minimal data necessary and for the minimal period of time needed. They must only process data for the minimal stated purposes.” The full story can be read here.
Finally, in a recently published article, sex work advocates from several countries declared what “sex workers have been saying for years: ‘Decriminalisation is the best form of regulation for sex workers‘“. The advocates, meeting in Sydney in early November, mainly exchanged on their positive experiences in the Australian state of New South Wales, where sex work has been decriminalised since 1995. The article further finds that “currently the only jurisdictions with decriminalised sex work are New Zealand and New South Wales. Both have been praised in relation to their sex work legislation internationally, including in the recent UN report into Sex work, HIV and the Law.“
Sign this petition, we’ll send to the UN
Based on tangible negative results from jurisdictions where sex work is considered illegal and considering that decriminalisation is a precondition for sex workers to access their basic human rights, we demand that sex work be decriminalised both online and offline. We also demand that the authorities, including law enforcement, respect, defend and reinforce sex worker rights, as they are no different from human rights. Sign this petition in order to put those public and private entities under pressure. Those same authorities which continue to use violence against sex workers, and women sex workers in particular.
In March 2013, the petition will be handed over to Rashida Manjoo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Anand Grover, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Our goal is to gather 1,000 signatures by the end of March 2013.
The anonymous photo is under Creative Commons license