Making sense of the UPR.

So, with all the news happening in the Sex Worker activism camps around the UPR process, I thought it would be wise to try and make sense of it all, which I will be trying to do with this post.

UPR is the Universal Periodic Review, and each of the 192 countries in United Nations Human Rights Council are reviewed every 4 years.  This year (well 2010-2011) is the review period for the United States, and is the first time the US has been reviewed.  Basically the US writes a report about their status in regards to human rights and each of the 192 countries gets a chance to tell the US how they feel about the report, and anything else in regards to human rights.  Next, the United States gets to respond. In their response for each item the countries told the US about, they can support or not support the item.  But of course since we are talking about whole countries this process takes a long time (about a year total). Since we as sex workers are part of the Human Rights world, we are interested in what happens, and below is what happens as it concerns us as sex workers:

So in August of 2010, the US gave their report (PDF).

In November of 2010, the countries told the US what they thought of their report.  This is where it finally gets interesting to us as sex workers, for Uruguay had this to say (report in PDF):

92.86. Undertake awareness-raising campaigns for combating stereotypes and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, and ensure access to public services paying attention to the special vulnerability of sexual workers to violence and human rights abuses (Uruguay);

We of course were VERY pleased with what Uruguay said, and promptly started organizing, to see how we can get the US to accept this recommendation and show their support.  So we started organizing, and we built a special group for this process with lots of broad support (See our group’s webpage for more information).  With all of this organizing we managed some success, and this is what the United States said in response:

86. 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, as this recommendation suggests.

This is of course awesome, but our work is not yet done, for that we’ve started a new campaign that takes place this Wed March 18th called 86 the violence, don’t let us be a target. A brief video about it is here:

Hopefully this helps make this whole process easier to understand!

3 Responses

  1. “86. 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, as this recommendation suggests.”

    uhhh…can you guess what’s missing?

    yep…gender identity/expression, and you know the violence stats on trans females in sex work.

    fix the headline to read:
    “BREAKING US acknowledges rights of *some* sex workers” and I might buy it.

  2. @voz As a trans person myself, I LOVE that you bring this up! So it’s sort of complicated, and nobody seems to know what’s up, as far as details, because Uruguay included us, and the US response says, yes we agree.

    Notice they also don’t mention People of Color(PoC), Outdoor workers, People with Disabilities, or anything of the sort either. One bring up the question, do they need to specifically label all the intersecting identities that connect with Sex Workers (because if so, it would be an infinite list!).

    We all know if you are a PoC, Outdoor (sometimes called street based) or have a transgender identity AND do sex work, that your chances of abuse and violence sky rockets. So it would be nice if they specifically said these things, but they don’t.

    So personally I think it’s bad that the US didn’t specifically add in PoC,Trans,Outdoor to the list, though even Uruguay missed 2 of these items in their comment to the US. So I agree it’s a fail.

    Overall I think we all need to realize that pushing rights for any one group at the exclusion of any others does everyone a disservice, and ensures that none of us get the rights we deserve.

  3. Unless the terms “sexual orientation” and “person in prostitution” were defined elsewhere, those two terms as used in UPR 86 do not automatically exclude anyone — except those who aren’t prostitutes and trans people, as Voz and Tara have pointed out.

    A major stereotype of a “person in prostitution” tends to be outdoor workers, or a trafficked person working in a massage parlor (and these stereotypes tend to include people of color too).

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