Response to the UN Women’s call on: “Consultation seeking views on UN Women approach to sex work, the sex trade and prostitution”

Published on October 17, 2016

Response to the UN Women’s call on:
“Consultation seeking views on UN Women approach  to sex work, the sex trade and prostitution”
31 October 2016


This statement has been jointly prepared by 190 sex worker rights, women’s rights, and human rights organizations. 1

We are writing in response to UN Women’s call for submissions regarding UN Women’s policy on sex work. A number of sex workers’, women’s and human rights organizations have been engaging with UN Women for some months about this proposed policy, stressing the importance of a process that meaningfully engages with a broad range of sex workers’ and women’s rights organizations as essential to the policy development process.

While UN Women has stated that they are engaging in an open process, we are alarmed at the possibility that the end result will not support the human rights of sex workers.[1] For instance, the wording of question 3, to us, indicates an already established point of view, “The sex trade is gendered. How best can we protect women in the trade from harm, violence, stigma and discrimination?” However, it is imperative to clearly distinguish consensual sex work from human trafficking, as well as recognize that there are female, male and transgender sex workers. While we would agree that sex workers of all genders face discrimination, harm, stigma and violence, there is ample evidence showing that decriminalization of sex work is the best remedy to empower sex workers to advocate for their rights and to engage with state and non-state actors to secure their rights.

As a co-sponsor of UNAIDS, we urge UN Women to ensure that its new policy aligns with the recommendations from the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and the UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work which recommends:

“States should move away from criminalising sex work or activities associated with it. Decriminalisation of sex work should include removing criminal penalties for purchase and sale of sex, management of sex workers and brothels, and other activities related to sex work.”[2]


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