The Guardian view on Amnesty International’s call to decriminalise sex work: divisive and distracting

Amnesty International is one of the great organisations of the modern world. Few can have done more to establish the simple propositions that human rights matter and that they matter for everyone. It has exalted the lowly and brought down the mighty from their seats. And it is poised to make a serious mistake.

The organisation’s international council meeting in Dublin which starts on Friday this week will consider a motion urging that sex work be decriminalised. This is in itself a contestable position. There are many feminists who recoil from it. The letter signed by film actors who are normally reliable allies of Amnesty shows how damaging it is. On the other hand there is a body of professional opinion quoted in the Amnesty proposal, which argues that decriminalising sex work minimises the harm done to sex workers and allows it to be more effectively regulated.

The Amnesty proposal is carefully framed to avoid the obvious evils. It is not as silly or immoral as headlines can make it appear. It would only apply to adults over 18 who were working without coercion, deceit or violence. It addresses a real, global problem, which is that sex workers are almost everywhere treated as outcasts who may be exploited at will. Their rights are routinely violated, in part because they are sex workers. Nonetheless, the organisation should reject the policy.

Read more at the Guardian


The Framing of Gender Apartheid: Amnesty International and Prostitution by Taina Bien-Aime

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise…

Maya Angelou

What would happen if every country decriminalized prostitution? Not just the few that have already disastrously done so, but what if every government legitimized pimps and brothel owners and failed to hold men accountable for purchasing human beings for sex? Would the United Nations and its member states launch a #2050 Agenda for Investing in the Sex Trade as a Solution and Sustainable Development for Women and Girls, Especially the Most Indigent?

What marketing slogans would ensue? Might public agencies launch poverty alleviation campaigns? “First Nations, Indigenous, Aboriginal, African-Americans and Global South Populations: Are you Poor, Young, Incested, Transgendered, Homeless? With our help, the Sex Trade will provide you with shelter, food, free condoms and the opportunity to contribute to your (or a foreign) country’s Gross National Product. No experience or education required.”

These are not teasers for Margaret Atwood’s next novel, but a concept set forth by Amnesty International, one of the most prominent and respected human rights organization in the world.


Read more at the Huffington Post

Buying Sex Should Not Be Legal by Rachel Moran

DUBLIN — HERE in my city, earlier this month, Amnesty International’s international council endorsed a new policy calling for the decriminalization of the global sex trade. Its proponents argue that decriminalizing prostitution is the best way of protecting “the human rights of sex workers,” though the policy would apply equally to pimps, brothel-keepers and johns.

Amnesty’s stated aim is to remove the stigma from prostituted women, so that they will be less vulnerable to abuse by criminals operating in the shadows. The group is also calling on governments “to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.”

The Amnesty vote comes in the context of a prolonged international debate about how to deal with prostitution and protect the interests of so-called sex workers. It is a debate in which I have a personal stake — and I believe Amnesty is making a historic mistake.

I entered the sex trade — as most do — before I was even a woman. At age 14, I was placed in the care of the state after my father committed suicide and because my mother suffered from mental illness.

Within a year, I was on the streets with no home, education or job skills. All I had was my body. At 15, I met a young man who thought it would be a good idea for me to prostitute myself. As “fresh meat,” I was a commodity in high demand.

For seven years, I was bought and sold. On the streets, that could be 10 times in a night. It’s hard to describe the full effect of the psychological coercion, and how deeply it eroded my confidence. By my late teens, I was using cocaine to dull the pain.

Read more here at New York Times 

Equality Now Letter to Amnesty International

Salil Shetty
Secretary General
Amnesty International
By email:

Steven W. Hawkins
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA
By email:

Amnesty International Board of Directors

Dear Mr. Shetty, Mr. Hawkins, and the Amnesty International Board of Directors

29 July 2015

We write to you in regard to Amnesty International’s “Draft Policy on Sex Work” (the “Draft Policy”), circulated in advance of the International Council Meeting to be held in Dublin, Ireland between 7-11 August 2015, which proposes the decriminalization of all aspects of the sex trade, including decriminalization of pimps, brothel keepers and buyers.

Equality Now is an international human rights organization working to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the globe. Sex trafficking is one of Equality Now’s four program areas. Based on our years of experience working with survivors of the sex trade, we see the clear links between prostitution and sex trafficking and the incompatibility of the commercial sex trade with gender equality. We see curbing (as opposed to facilitating) the commercial sex trade as being essential to promoting gender equality and protecting the rights of women.

Equality Now shares many of the aspirations laid out in the Draft Policy, including that those sold for sex should not be criminalized and their human rights protected. We particularly agree with the Draft Policy’s analysis that “[w]omen face entrenched gender discrimination and structural inequality in most societies and bear a disproportionate burden of poverty….” and “….also make up the majority of sex workers globally.” However, the Draft Policy fails to take this analysis to the next level and ignores international law on women’s rights and on transnational organized crime in its recommendation to decriminalize the sex industry.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (“CEDAW”) and the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (“Palermo Protocol”) which supplements the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, are relevant here:

 CEDAW, often referred to as the Women’s Rights Bill, calls on states parties to suppress “all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of the prostitution of women” (Article 6). The CEDAW Committee, comprised of global experts on women’s human rights, has weighed in on exploitation of women that is endemic in the commercial sex trade. In its General Recommendation 19 on violence against women, the Committee stated that sex trafficking and “new forms of sexual exploitation, such as sex tourism . . . are incompatible with the equal enjoyment of rights by women


. . . they put women at special risk of violence and abuse” and that “the propagation of pornography and the depiction and other commercial exploitation of women as sexual objects, rather than individuals, … contributes to gender-based violence.” (Paras. 14 and 12).

  •   The commercial sex trade is inextricably linked to trafficking. The Palermo Protocol defines “trafficking in persons” to include the recruitment, transfer and harbouring of another through force, fraud or coercion for exploitation, and states that ‘[e]xploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation.’ It specifies that the consent of a victim is irrelevant if any of the above means are used. It also requires states parties to enact policies to “discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons, especially women and children, that leads to trafficking.” The 1949 Convention on the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others recognizes in its preamble that prostitution “and the

    .” Moreover, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons has recommended that “[s]tates parties should be encouraged to criminalize the use of prostituted persons as a way of fulfilling their obligation under … the Protocol.”1 The CEDAW Committee, in its examination of states parties, has repeatedly asked them to discourage the

    demand for prostitution.2

  •   The link between prostitution and trafficking has also been affirmed in regional policies. The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1983 on Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe (2014) states that ‘


    Clearly international law views the commercial sex trade as incompatible with upholding the rights of women and curbing sex trafficking. The Draft Policy that seeks to decriminalize buyers, pimps and brothel keepers would indeed facilitate the commercial sex trade.

    Finally, while police harassment can subject women to further injustice, violence and abuse, the answer is not decriminalization of the pimps, brothel keepers and buyers but holding law enforcement and state actors accountable under the law for such abuse.

    As a partner human rights organization created specifically to fill a need that Amnesty was not addressing in the early nineties — namely focusing on women’s rights — we urge you to take a fresh look at your Draft Policy in light of international law and to listen to survivors of the sex trade from all spectrums, including those who advocate for a legal approach that decriminalizes those in prostitution but criminalizes traffickers, pimps, brothel keepers and buyers of commercial sex.

    Yours sincerely,

    Yasmeen Hassan
    Global Executive Director

The Betrayal of Amnesty International by No Amnesty For Pimps

(originally published at No Amnesty for Pimps)

Amnesty International, you have failed women. With your policy to promote and stand by the decriminalization of prostitution you have thrown us to the dirt and in our place put the all-mighty pimp/trafficker/buyer on a pedestal which towers over our human rights as women. It casts an ominous shadow over women that will take decades for us to crawl out from under. That is, it will take decades unless you reverse this egregious decision.

The glorified and erroneous imagery of the “happy hooker” presenting themselves as arm jewelry at the sides of wealthy clients is never the full story. Most women in prostitution have suffered childhood sexual abuse, domestic abuse, and homelessness. (I could go on but it would take a tome to list it all). The few, and when I say few I mean approximately 2% according to most studies, who do perform this form of prostitution known as escorting are the loudest voices promoting decriminalization. They effectively drown out the ever present murmur of the remaining 98% of broken and battered prostituted women their clients leave in their wake. But they are only the loudest because they are funded by the buyers. As well, these 2% rarely engage in only one form of prostitution. Most women, myself among them, worked the high end but also had ads in weekly papers, online, and would just as quickly don a ball gown as we would turn a trick out of a motel to make a buck. Amnesty, you are not listening to the reality of the situation, you’re listening to the men destroy or who make money off the backs of women.

So, how exactly can you claim infinite wisdom on the topic of consent? How can you in your entitled state of privilege discern the difference between the 2% and the rest of us? When men pay for sex (and yes the majority of buyers are men and the majority of prostituted people are women) they pay for a lie, they pay for fantasy and in doing so they throw consent to the wind along with their ethics, morals and compassion. In essence, they’ve cut off any part of themselves that even slightly resemble humanity, and so have you. In ignoring this you are essentially telling men it’s quite alright for them to use women as masturbatory aids, equating them with inanimate sex toys to be used and disposed of when the batteries run down.



By Alisa Bernard, Survivor of prostitution, Organization for Prostitution Survivors Board Member, and student of psychology.


Read the rest of the statement at No Amnesty For Pimps

Does Amnesty International campaign for human rights – or men’s rights by Kvinnofronten


Does Amnesty International campaign for human rights – or men’s rights by Kvinnofronten

Amnesty International claims to be a human rights organization. Lately, however, Amnesty seems to exclude women from those who count as humans. Instead, Amnesty endorses guidelines that restrict women’s human rights.
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Amnesty International is currently discussing its policy on prostitution. The proposed new policy is a document* which is entirely based on old myths. The very same myths that the pro-prostitution lobby in many countries no longer succeed in implementing, as they have been contradicted by both research and experience during the last 10-20 years.
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The document contains a number of the pro-prostitution lobby’s usual arguments:

• They put buyers on par with sellers, as if there was no power structure between men and women in prostituion, as in society at large.
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• They criticize laws against prostitution without distinguishing laws that criminalize only the buyer/perpetrator, only the prostituted, or both at the same time.
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• They make a sharp distinction between what they call “sex work” and trafficking, and claim that Amnesty International is obviously against trafficking – thus ignoring that all prostitution share the same basis, as well as the broad research now showing how trafficking is increasing in countries where prostitution is legalized as “sex work”.
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• They claim that it is not prostitution, but society’s negative attitude towards “sex work” that creates health risks in prostitution, despite the fact that health risks – including violence – is an integral part of prostitution as such.
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• They reveal their derogatory view on people with disabilities, and make the experiences of womens with disabilites invisible, by claiming that people with disabilites need “sex workers” because they otherwise cannot “get” sex.
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• They compare views on prostitution with views on homosexuality, as if the daily and global sexual exploitatiton of mostly women and girls had anything to do with the sexual orientation of the exploited.
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• They refer to consent; “sex work” being good because it’s a matter of consenting adults, ignoring among other things the fact that the majority of everyone entering prostitution have earlier experience of sexual abuse, as children or adolescents. The most common age to enter prostitution is 14 years – so this “consent” is basically about adult men and sexual abused children/teenagers.
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• They accuse the majority of people in Sweden to be moralists, by claiming that laws against prostitution are based on puritanism and prejudice. (The Swedish Sex Purchase Act is supported by a large majority of the population.)

The reality of prostitution directly opposes these claims. The vast majority of all prostitution consists of men buying women and girls for their sexual use. It is, in fact, prostitution that comes from an old, puritanical sexual tradition, where the wife, as well as “the whore”, was supposed to be at the disposal of the heterosexual male. Prostitution is based on the sexuality of the buyer. The prerequisite of all prostitution is the expectation that the one being prostituted does not want to “have sex”, and is instead bought – that’s why the “sex trade” exists.
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Aside from this incomprehensible attitude towards prostitution, it turns out that Amnesty International has bowed down to the most patriarchal countries in the world when it comes to abortion. Thus, since 2007, Amnesty International supports women’s right to abortion only after rape or incest or if the woman’s life is in danger. Amnesty International has adopted this abortion policy despite having access to both new and old research proving that the amount of abortions do not decrease by prohibition – it only makes more women die in illegal abortions instead. According to the Chair of the Swedish Amnesty, Sofia Haldt, the reason behind this policy is that the organization has to “compromise” – failing to mention that this “compromising” is being made in a time when women’s right to abortion is threatened in several countries time and time again.
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Consequently Amnesty International is supporting limitations of the human rights of half the population – women. Without changing this course of development soon, Amnesty International can no longer be considered a human rights organization – because then it’s no longer campaigning for the human rights of all people.
Who benefits from this?
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If Amnesty International wants to keep its credibility as a human rights organization, it must immediately stop compromising women’s rights.
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We encourage Amnesty International to read Kvinnofronten’s collection of argument “Speaking of Prostitution” before adopting any new prostitution policy:
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Numbers don’t lie : Amnesty International promotes the killing of women

Dear Amnesty International,

After months and months of calling you, begging you to listen to prostitution survivors, front line NGOs, scholars & researchers, abolitionists organizations ; on August 11th, 2015, you decided to ignore decades of research and evidence exposing the harm of prostitution and the $ex industry by supporting and promoting the decriminalization of all aspects of prostitution.

As it has been demonstrated over and over, the decriminalization of prostitution literally KILLS women, the decriminalization of prostitution is a FAILURE and a disaster for human rights (but women aren’t human, right ?)

Here below are the numbers in Germany, the « paradise » you are now advocating for, like any other pimp lobby :

Their blood is on your hands.


Yours truly

Collectif Ressources Prostitution