Statements for Sex Workers' Rights in the 56th UN Human Rights Council

The 56th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council was marked by troubling challenges, particularly with the presentation of the problematic and stigmatising "prostitution report" by the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls. To our dismay, the report equated sex work with gender-based violence and advocated for criminalising clients - an approach which as we know has catastrophic consequences for sex workers. 


Noteworthily, many of the submissions for the report were published only on the same day as the presentation, and some, including ESWA’s, NSWP’s and several of our members were entirely excluded. These can still be accessed on the alternative repository hosted by Count Me In!  It begs the question what the Special Rapporteur is hoping to achieve by silencing the key experts on the topic. Still, the inputs remain a valuable source of information, as they include submissions from governments, as well as international and intergovernmental institutions.  


The report was met with strong resistance from progressive countries and organisations, and of course sex workers themselves, who came to Geneva from all over the world, constituting the biggest delegation of sex workers in the UN up to date. A wide array of voices, including ESWA’s, called for a rights based approach and recognition of sex work as work. ESWA collected their statements from UN’s library and compiled them into one document which can be used for further advocacy. The statements from Belgium, Luxemburg and International Planned Parenthood Federation (all in favour of sex workers rights) are missing from the UN website.


Read all the statements in support of sex workers' rights here!


The council was accompanied by two notable events: Decriminalising Sex Work: A Human Rights Imperative, a side event organised by Sexual Rights Initiative and The Global Network of Sex Work Projects, and a protest under a banner “Bodily Autonomy for All: Our rights, Our power”. 


Sabrina Sanchez, ESWA’s Executive Director gave a first-hand account of the protest: 

“It was incredible. The Special Rapporteur passed our rally on her way out of the UN building, so we know that she heard our chants!”


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