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 

No Amnesty for Sexual Exploitation by Demand Abolition


No Amnesty for Sexual Exploitation

Amnesty International is on the verge of approving a misguided resolution calling for global decriminalization of commercial sex. Demand Abolition stands with human rights activists and organizations from around the world opposing this policy. Such a move would legitimize the sexual exploitation of people across the globe, especially women and children.

Amnesty’s decision-making entity, the International Council Meeting (ICM), meets every other year to direct its International Board. This year, the ICM meets in Dublin, Ireland August 7 to 11. On the agenda is a “Draft Policy on Sex Work,” which endorses decriminalization of sex-buying, pimping and brothel-owning – not just selling.

The draft policy does make some valuable recommendations: People sold for sex are typically desperate and vulnerable. We agree with Amnesty that they should not be arrested, but need help escaping prostitution, including services for housing, treatment for substance abuse, job training, and medical care. But there are many troubling aspects of the resolution’s wording which must be addressed before it’s allowed to move forward.

For instance, the proposal suggests that buying sexual access to a person is fine as long as it’s “consensual.” But far from consenting, most prostituted people perceive themselves as having no choice. The vast majority enter the sex trade as minors, or because of economic desperation, psychological manipulation, threats, or actual violence. Decriminalizing the predatory practice that keeps them vulnerable isn’t “harm reduction,” as Amnesty claims—it’s an endorsement of a system that exploits hundreds of thousands of children and adults each year.

Listen to survivors

Equally damaging is Amnesty’s description of “sex work.” Being coerced into the sex industry via force, manipulation, or a lack of options is not a career choice; it’s exploitation of the worst kind. As Vednita Carter, founder of the survivor-led organization Breaking Free, puts it:

“Prostitution is not ‘sex’ and it is not ‘work.’ It is a harmful practice steeped in gender and economic inequalities that leaves a devastating impact on those of us who were or are ‘in the life.’”

Those who profit from the sex trade may claim decriminalization makes life safer for “sex workers,” but research says otherwise. Reports from Germany and the Netherlands, countries with some of the world’s most profitable sex trades, shows that the legalization of commercial sex leads to an explosion in prostitution, including the sale of trafficked women and children, without a reduction in violence.

However, countries like Sweden, Norway, and Iceland—where buyers are criminalized but prostituted people are protected and offered help—have substantially fewer instances of sex trafficking and related crimes.  But the research Amnesty has shared with its delegates makes little note of this successful approach, known as the Nordic Model.

Amnesty nearly passed a similar proposal in 2014, but thanks to public outcry from human rights advocates the vote was delayed—until now. On Aug. 7, Amnesty’s International Council will vote on the revived proposal for decriminalization.

Several prominent human rights leaders have already weighed in. We invite others to join the chorus and open up the thinking of Amnesty members. Please watch President Jimmy Carter’s appeal to Amnesty International — and sign his petition asking them to reconsider this policy.

Also, we invite you to use the following tweets, asking Amnesty to uphold the organization’s long tradition of protecting people from human rights violations.

Like @Amnesty, I support decriminalizing prostituted people…but NOT their pimps, who fuel #violenceagainstwomen. #questionsforamnesty

.@Amnesty Sex buying is not a victimless crime. It deprives vulnerable people of their basic human rights. #NoAmnesty4Pimps

Violence is the one of the predominant causes of death among prostituted people. @Amnesty

When sex is paid for, the buyer is often the only one with the real choice. @Amnesty, I support victims, not exploiters. #NoAmnesty4Pimps

.@Amnesty: Legalizing commercial sex exploits thousands of vulnerable adults and trafficked children. #NoAmnesty4Pimps #Questionsforamnesty

.@Amnesty Buying sex isn’t a human right, it’s #violenceagainstwomen. #NoAmnesty4Pimps #questionsforamnesty

.@Amnesty Buying sex isn’t a human right, it’s #violenceagainstwomen. #NoAmnesty4Pimps #questionsforamnesty

Sex buying is the ultimate form of entitlement. Tell @amnesty it’s a human rights violation, not a privilege #NoAmnesty4Pimps

“Sex industry normalizes violence because it’s paid for.” It’s wrong for @amnesty to support it.

Paying for sexual access to a person is not a right—its exploitation. @amnesty must listen to survivors


The King Center and The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference Stand Against the Decriminalization of Prostitution

ATLANTA, August 7, 2015 – On the day after The King Center commemorated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Center stands in solidarity with faith and social justice leaders in opposing Amnesty International’s pending vote for the decriminalization of prostitution. Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of The King Center and the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, expressed deep disappointment regarding the proposed decriminalization.

In an open letter issued this week to faith-based activists in New York, Dr. King said, “For a globally recognized human rights organization such as Amnesty International – that has historically shed light on the darkness of human and civil rights violations – to vote on a policy that would call for the decriminalization of pimping, brothel owning and sex buying, is beyond reason. It is not only appalling, but is morally reprehensible and irresponsible to the overall well-being of humanity.”

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), modeled after the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), one of the oldest African American faith-based organizations, which was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., did not hesitate to answer the call against this social injustice. President and founder of the NHCLC, Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, who leads over 500,000 evangelical church congregations worldwide, states, “Decriminalizing prostitution and related activities serves no other purpose than to amplify the financial incentive for individuals that deny the image of God in children and primarily women around the world.” .

The Carter Center, founded by President Jimmy Carter, known for speaking against social and civil injustices, is taking action by inviting all to watch President Carter’s appeal for the Nordic model and to join President Carter and The Carter Center in taking action through this online petition.

The King Center challenges Amnesty International to abandon the proposal that would decriminalize pimps and buyers, and align with President Carter. We also encourage other human rights advocates to join us in solidarity by supporting the Nordic model.

Dr. Bernice A. King feels that economic disparity and unequal distribution of wealth is an underlying source of this issue. She challenges the delegates of Amnesty International to take the following words from her father to heart before they cast their votes in Dublin, Ireland.

“The stability of the large world house which is ours will involve a revolution of values…we must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing”-oriented society to a “person”-oriented society.

When machine and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A civilization can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy.”

National Centre on Sexual Exploitation

Washington, DC – Amnesty International, the human rights group, voted on August 11, 2015, to adopt a policy in favor of decriminalizing prostitution. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) denounces this decision as irresponsible advocacy in favor of a system that does immense and indelible harm to women, children, and men around the world.

Amnesty International claims to “campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.” Yet, decriminalization of brothel-keeping and soliciting is a gift to pimps, sex traffickers, and sex buyers that enshrines in law a right to buy and sell other human beings. Such laws do not protect the human rights of persons in prostitution, but guarantee that their dehumanization and exploitation will continue.

“Amnesty International has failed to remain true to its mission of ‘preventing and ending grave abuses.’ The types of abuse and brutality that comprise daily life in the sex trade are nothing short of torture. By voting in favor of a policy to decriminalize prostitution, Amnesty International has abandoned the victims of abuse and exploitation to the whims of pimps and sex exploiters,” said Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of NCOSE. “Today we lament that the cause of human rights for the sexual exploited has taken a giant step backwards.”

Evidence substantiates the fact that the sex trade does immense physical and emotional harm to those in it. A study by Farley et al. reports that 64% of adults in prostitution experienced threats with a weapon and 71% were physically assaulted. Another study found 50% of women prostituting outdoors and 26% of those indoors (saunas and flats) experienced violence within the past six months. It’s not surprising that in a survey of prostituted persons across nine countries 89% said they wanted to escape.

Amnesty International’s Sex Trade Decision: Not in Our Name by Janice C. Raymond

The big word in Amnesty’s defense of voting to decriminalize the sex industry is protection.  All was done to protect the women in prostitution. We were told that the right to buy sex and the right to pimp are measures necessary to protect women in prostitution. In the lead up to the vote, the organization was offended by those who pointed out that its alleged objective of protecting women is a protection racket for pimps and prostitution users.

Amnesty’s policy goes far beyond decriminalizing the women but also decriminalizes the perpetrators — the men who procure women and those who buy them for sexual gratification by contributing the funds that keep sexual slavery alive and well.

What poses as Amnesty’s masquerade of protection for women in prostitution?

An alleged poverty program for poor women. It was Ken Roth, the director of Human Rights Watch, tweeting his support for Amnesty’s proposal to decriminalize the sex industry, who gave this game away in saying: “Why deny poor women the option of voluntary sex work?” Ken joined the chorus of johns who spout a welfare narrative to justify their sexual exploitation by turning it into a virtue. He echoed the American prostitution user interviewed in the Philippines: “These girls gotta eat, don’t they? I’m putting bread on their plate. I’m making a contribution.”

A policy initiated by the perpetrators who are beneficiaries.  As Julie Bindel first revealed, Amnesty took to heart the lobbying of Douglas Fox, co-founder of a UK escort agency who claimed credit for Amnesty’s draft policy advocating full decriminalization of the sex industry. In 2008 as a member of Amnesty, Fox urged the organization not only to support “sex workers” by promoting full decriminalization but also pushed his associates in the sex industry to join the organization and lobby from inside. “Getting Amnesty on side will be a huge boost to our morale… we need to pursue them mercilessly and get them on side,” he said. Amnesty tried to distance itself from Fox by arguing he was not a current member and had no input into the policy, but his fingerprints and those he represents were all over it.

Read more at Portside

Amnesty International is about to make sex trafficking easier, worldwide by Swanee Hunt

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — In many countries, including the United States, it’s no harder to buy a human being for sex than to get a pack of cigarettes. Now a leading human rights group, Amnesty International, is about to make it even easier to purchase sex by endorsing one of the most exploitative human rights abuses of our time.

At its bi-annual summit in Dublin on Aug. 7, “Irony International” will vote on a proposal advocating decriminalization of prostitution — not just selling, but also pimping and buying sex, worldwide. The rationale: women will be safer when all of those involved — including pimps, brothel owners, and buyers — don’t operate underground.

I’ve supported Amnesty for decades, yet I find no logical or ethical basis for the view that pimps’ and buyers’ rights trump the right not to be exploited when you’re scared, poor, and have suffered all kinds of abuse. Decriminalizing commercial sex overall isn’t reducing harm, it’s endorsing a system that exploitsuntold numbers of people worldwide.

It is certainly right to decriminalize the selling of sex, especially when we provide exit strategies to those who want to get out. (Most say that they want to leave but don’t see any choice.) But the evidence is clear: vindicating pimps and johns won’t improve the lives of “sex workers.”

Read more at The Global Post

Swanee Hunt is the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy and Senior Advisor at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard Kennedy School. She founded Demand Abolition, a non-profit working to end demand for illegal commercial sex.