AMNESTY International is a hugely respected organisation with an impressive track record of exposing and campaigning against torture and repression worldwide. Not for nothing does it have millions of members across the globe.
But sometimes even the best-intentioned movements get things spectacularly wrong. Amnesty recently decided to back the decriminalisation of prostitution. Had the charity confined itself to campaigning for the release of all prostituted people from jails, and the decriminalisation of them, I would have warmly applauded. It is an abomination that tens of thousands of women whose only crime is having been driven into selling their bodies to feed their children are incarcerated in prisons across the world.
Instead, along with many other women, including a large number of Amnesty’s own membership, I am left dismayed. Why? Because the charity is also calling for the decriminalisation of pimps, brothel keepers and the vast global industry whose profits are built from the exploitation of girls, women and young men mainly drawn from the depths of the extreme poor.
I want to see real alternatives to prostitution, backed by the United Nations and other global bodies, so that those ensnared within the industry have a visible and realistic route out of the twilight zone. But if we are to build a world in which all human beings are equal, those who demand to rent the orifices of other human beings and those who make themselves rich by degrading other human beings should not be legitimised.