By Stephanie King
Sex workers around the world have long been criminalized and persecuted by police and government alike. By failing to recognize sex work as labor, sex workers are consistently denied health benefits and employment regulations that protect other workers' health and safety. As MADRE Executive Director Yifat Susskind wrote in an article entitled Sex Workers' Rights Are Human Rights,
Criminalization and stigmatization of sex work makes workers more vulnerable to human rights violations. For example, if a sex worker suffers abuse on the job or poor working conditions, she or he has no legal recourse. Even seeking emergency medical care can make a sex worker vulnerable to prosecution.
Last week, the US government expressed a welcome change in policy toward sex workers, stating that “…no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution.” This statement was issued in response to over 200 recommendations put forth to the US government by this year’s UN human rights evaluation. This marks the first time that the US government officially denounced discrimination against sex workers and is a firm step toward ensuring that sex workers' rights are once and for all recognized as human rights.