Sex Work and Human Rights
In attempts to eradicate sex work, policymakers, law enforcement officials and others often overlook or even violate the basic human rights of sex workers. •
Sex workers are human beings like anyone else and are entitled to human rights under numerous internationally-agreed upon standards for treatment of all people, regardless of profession.
It is ironic that sex workers’ human rights are often jeopardized by the very policies intended to help them. However, policies based on the assumption that sex work is inherently dehumanizing can never recognize or improve the reality of sex workers’ lives. The rights to life, safety, free speech, political action and access to information and to basic health and education services are as important to sex workers as to anyone else. No one should lose these human rights because of the work they do.
Reducing stigma and discrimination against sex workers will make it easier for those who may wish to leave this work to do so. For example, many sex workers say that it is their criminal records that inhibit them from finding other work when they choose to do so.
Health is a Human Right
International agreements dating to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights hold that “the highest attainable physical and mental health standards” are a basic human right. It is important to note that sex workers need access to comprehensive health care, including reproductive care. This information kit addresses HIV/AIDS, as many harmful U.S. and international policies are focused on HIV/AIDS.
Studies show that the most vulnerable sex workers are at high risk for suffering sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. 1 Because they are often treated as social outcasts or criminals, sex workers can be difficult to reach with information and tools for protecting themselves and others.
Creating opportunities for sex workers to take the lead in protecting themselves and others is...
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