United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women and girls

Sep 29, 2023

We want to draw your attention to the United Nations Working Group on the discrimination against women and girls, which has reaffirmed their position that fully decriminalizing sex work is the only policy that reduces violence and supports human rights.

This affirmation is a direct challenge to prohibitionist feminists who are currently advocating for laws that criminalize clients, landlords, and people who help facilitate sex.

Please read and share this position paper.

Sex workers worldwide suffer widespread discrimination and violations of their human rights. While the sex workers rights movement has been growing, human rights jurisprudence on violations of sex workers’ rights is limited. Barriers to sex workers’ access to human rights accountability mechanisms and highly polarised views on the relationship between sex work, feminism and human rights have restricted any real progress in protecting the human rights of sex workers.

The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls considers that it is high time for discrimination, marginalisation and stigmatisation of sex workers to be addressed by human rights bodies so that their human rights are protected. The Working Group proposes full decriminalisation of adult voluntary sex work from a human rights perspective, as it holds the greatest promise to address systemic discrimination and violence and the impunity for the violations of sex workers’ rights.

This 2023 position paper, informed by the views of sex workers, aims to raise the visibility of violations of sex workers’ human rights under different policy regimes, to clarify and re-affirm international human rights standards and to make recommendations for States and other stakeholders, to further realise the human rights of sex workers. The Working Group’s hope is also to contribute to building solidarity among movements and ensuring that ‘no one is left behind’.

Read the position paper: Eliminating discrimination against sex workers and securing their human rights