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Sex Worker Rights Advocates Speak at UN Criticizing Stigmatizing Report

Sex Worker Rights Advocates Speak at UN Criticizing Stigmatizing Report

GENEVA, Switzerland — Several sex worker rights organizations and advocates gave earlier this week input at the United Nations office in Geneva, addressing a recent controversial report by its Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls to the Human Rights Council, which made broad claims about sex work and adult content, and also endorsed different forms of criminalization.

The official call for input resulted in an interactive dialogue with Special Rapporteur Reem Alsalem regarding her report, which was widely criticized as parroting SWERF talking points.

The report conflates trafficking with prostitution and pornography, prostitution with pornography itself, and referred to the phrase ‘sex work,’ coined in 1979 by Carol Leigh, as a euphemism.

Sabra Boyd, of Sex Workers and Survivors United, had the chance to give her input about the report. Other speakers who weighed in against the report included Amnesty International, the EU representative, the Sisonke National Sex Workers Movement, Kenya Sex Workers Alliance, European Sex Workers’ Rights Alliance, Sexual Rights Initiative, and the World Health Organization.

The delegates from the Netherlands said that “viewing sex workers as more than mere victims is essential,” before asking for more details on how sex workers were engaged during the creation of the report.

Kholi Buthelezi of the Sisonke National Sex Workers Right Movement commented on a panel that “Saying we are ‘commodities of men’ is hurtful. It confuses trafficking with sex work and uses the code of feminist women and girls. We need the feminist movement to come on board. Our lives continue to be in danger.”

“Hearing from members of the global sex worker community clarified what we all have in common, a need for dignity and rights” said Jessica Stoya, who attended the meeting alongside Sinnamon Love. “We can only hope the U.N. officials took these perspectives into account.”

Ed. Note: Sex worker and advocates Jessica Stoya and Sinnamon Love attended the meeting and contributed to this report.

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