Sex worker rights are human rights

Today in Parliament, Abigail passed a motion calling on Labor to commit to protecting and ensuring the human rights of sex workers.

Abigail said:

I move:

(1)     That this House notes that in March 2024, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, together with the Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (IE SOGI), and the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls (WGDAWG) published a guide on the human rights of sex workers. The United Nations’ guide affirms that:

  • the criminalisation of sex work is a human rights violation,
  • sex workers worldwide suffer stigmatisation, discrimination, legal barriers and violations of their human rights, which prevents them from accessing essential services and increases their vulnerability to abuse and violence, and
  • these violations have largely remained unaddressed in international human rights law.

(2)     That this House notes that the United Nations experts in the guide called upon nation states and other relevant stakeholders to:

  • review relevant legislation and regulations in force to decriminalise sex work,
  • take a comprehensive approach to addressing the human rights of sex work and sex workers and their clients and related sectors or people who may be involved in the chain of service,
  • take preventive and rehabilitative measures to protect sex workers,
  • respect and protect the key principles of non-discrimination, equality, and privacy, as well as bodily integrity, autonomy, dignity, and well-being of sex workers,
  • ensure that people involved in sex work enjoy the right to access sexual and reproductive health services, and are free from violence or discrimination,
  • ensure that people involved in sex work have access to equal protection of the law in theory and in practice,
  • guarantee the right to health through prevention and care policies that are respectful of the gender identity/expression of trans women, particularly those who engage in sex work,
  • law enforcement officers must be trained on their obligations toward sex workers and protecting sex workers from violence,
  • states should also immediately cease the practice of detaining sex workers in “rehabilitation centres”,
  • states must adopt legislative, administrative, social, economic and other measures necessary to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish all acts of violence against sex workers, whether perpetrated by the state or by private individuals, and to ensure reparations for victims,
  • states should ensure the meaningful engagement and participation of sex workers in all their diversity in all legal, policy and programmatic implementation activities, and
  • states must take care not to conflate sex work and trafficking in legislation because it leads to the implementation of inappropriate responses that fail to assist either sex workers or victims of trafficking in realising their rights and, at worst, to violence and oppression.

(3)     That this House calls on the NSW Government to affirm its commitment to protect the human rights of sex workers in accordance with calls from the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, together with the Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (IE SOGI), and the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls (WGDAWG).

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