Amnesty International has voted in favour of adopting a policy that supports the “full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work.” That is to say, they will be developing a policy that supports the decriminalization of pimps, brothel-owners and of men who buy sex, as well as the degendered “sex worker.”
For those unfamiliar with the debate, opponents of full decriminalization and of Amnesty’s position advocate for a model that decriminalizes those who sell sex (mainly women and girls) but that criminalizes those who exploit and otherwise harm prostituted women (i.e. pimps, johns and brothel-owners).
A press release published today specifies: “The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.” This sentence certainly sounds positive, in terms of Amnesty’s desire to end exploitation, but is naive at best. There is no way to ensure “legal protection” of those in prostitution when you legalize the very abuse and exploitation that the sex trade is based on. At its root, prostitution is about exploitation — that is, a scenario wherein a man pays a desperate and/or marginalized woman to provide him with sexual services because she has no other choice. The very idea of prostitution is one that says women are not fully human, that they are things that men have the right to use and abuse, that men’s sexual pleasure is more important than women’s humanity. The relationship between a john and a woman he buys is not one of equality — he is, in fact, paying for the right not to respect her.