National Amnesty groups who oppose decriminalisation

Ghana

Philippines

Israel:

תגובת סניף אמנסטי אינטרנשיונל ישראל בנושא מדיניות התנועה באשר לא/נשים בזנות:

בהצבעה שקיימה האסיפה העולמית של התנועה, התקבלה עמדה הקוראת לאי-הפללה מלאה – בכלל זה של לקוחות וצדדים שלישים, ובלבד שאינם כרוכים בפגיעה בא/נשים בזנות ובהפרת זכויות האדם שלהם/ן. כמו-כן, העמדה שנתקבלה ממשיכה ומדגישה את התנגדות התנועה לסחר בבני אדם, לניצול מיני של קטינים, ולכל צורה של כפיית מין על אדם בניגוד לרצונו/ה. סניף ישראל התנגד מאז ראשית תהליך ההתיעצות של התנועה לעמדת אי-ההפללה המלאה שנתקבלה. עמדת הסניף הישראלי כפי שהובעה בנייר עמדה קראה לאימוץ ״המודל השבדי״ של הפללת הלקוח וצדדים שלישיים.  

Luxembourg:

Le forum mondial de prise de décision d’Amnesty International, le Conseil international (CI), a émis, mardi 11 août à Dublin, un vote crucial en faveur de la protection des travailleurs et des travailleuses du sexe.

“Les travailleurs et travailleuses du sexe constituent l’un des groupes de personnes les plus marginalisés au monde et sont, dans la plupart des cas, constamment confrontés au risque de subir des discriminations, des violences et des atteintes à leurs droits fondamentaux. Notre mouvement mondial a ouvert la voie à l’adoption d’une ligne de conduite relative à la protection des droits humains des travailleurs et des travailleuses du sexe, laquelle aidera Amnesty International à structurer son travail à venir sur cette question importante”, a déclaré Salil Shetty, secrétaire général d’Amnesty International.   ….

Sweden

Swedish Amnesty rejects the endorsement of sex purchasing proposed by Amnesty International.

At its annual meeting in Malmö this weekend, the Swedish section will adopt a clear position against legalizing the prostitution system.

TEXT: ERIK MAGNUSSON, , published May 8, 2014 05:30

Last winter, Amnesty International wreaked an outcry among Swedish women when its International Secretariat in London presented a proposal to the organization advocating the decriminalization of buying and selling sex.
Under this proposal, recourse to prostitution would become a human right for both men and women.

Legalization is described as a way to give prostituted people greater autonomy.
Ever since the proposal was presented, the Swedish section of Amnesty International worked aon a response to this consultation, one that rejects the parent organization’s proposal. Swedish Amnesty has endeavored to anchor each syllable of its response in local associations and women’s organizations.

“We are taking a decision this weekend. We have examined the issue from all angles. Our proposal is well established,” says Sofia Halth, chair of the Swedish chapter of Amnesty.

“We oppose the policies proposed by the International Secretariat. We are proposing our own starting points for how we want to work on this issue,” she adds.

According to the Swedish official response, it is only appropriate for the selling of sex to be legalized. This is consistent with the Swedish Sex Purchase Act (of 1999) and described as « an important step in preventing abuse … by police and other actors. »

On the other hand, Swedish Amnesty is firmly opposed to the decriminalization of buying sex and pimping.

The Swedish Sex Purchase Act has already been copied by Norway and Iceland. France is currently adopting a similar legislation. Belgium, Finland, Ireland and the UK are looking to introduce similar laws.

However, there are countries such as Denmark, Holland and Germany who have no plans for a law on sex purchasing akin to the Swedish-Norwegian pattern (a.k.a. as the « Nordic model »).

There is much anger among Amnesty members in Sweden against plans by the parent organization to globally decriminalize sex purchasing, but Sofia Halth puts it diplomatically when she comments on the proposal by Amnesty’s International Secretariat.

She believes that this proposal, rooted in human rights, is « inadequate », it has a too one-sided focus on legislation, and the rights issues referred to in the proposal is « not formulated clearly enough ».

“In addition, the material that has been developed is biased with regard to the existing literature,” adds Sofia Halth.

Swedish Amnesty is expected to call on Amnesty, at its annual meeting in Malmö, to shift its focus in terms of prostitution. They want to go from affirming « voluntariness and consent » to the demand that no one should be forced to sell sex because of discrimination, coercion, violence, vulnerability or distress.

Swedish Amnesty’s wish is that prostitution be addressed not only through legislation, but also through a variety of social interventions.

« Those who sell sex are often at the bottom of the social ladder and are subjected to severe human rights violations. The Swedish section therefore thinks it is an issue for Amnesty, but that we should focus on the substantive violations against people in prostitution, » reads the proposed Swedish official response.

Amnesty International is expected to adopt, no earlier than this Fall, a final decision on how the organization should relate to issues of prostitution. Amnesty’s proposal is being submitted this summer to an international consultation.

(Translated by the TRADFEM collective)

Swedish section’s position on the proposed Policy on decriminalization of sex work

The Swedish section rejects the proposed policy on decriminalization of sex work. The human rights foundation of the policy proposal is not solid enough and the human rights issues it aims to address are not articulated clearly enough. Furthermore, the proposal lacks firm basis in evidence based research.

There are numerous reasons why AI should address human rights issues surrounding prostitution. Globally, many women, men and transgendered persons in prostitution face serious discrimination and human rights violations at the hands of state officials and in society at large. In addition to risks and dangers related to prostitution such as violence and health risks, the social stigma attached to it underpins discrimination that often leads to the denial of equal access to services including adequate and appropriate health care, social services and housing.

The Swedish section proposes that the following premises should lead AI’s work in this area:

1. Serious human rights violations against persons in prostitution should be at the heart of AI’s work in this field. AI should stand with the victims of human rights violations, regardless of why they engage in selling sex. In order to prevent such violations selling sex should be decriminalized.

2. No one shall be forced to sell sex by means of discrimination, coercion, violence or due to economic or social destitution. AI will therefore continue its call on states to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of all. We will continue to call on states to take effective measures to address gender inequality and other forms of discrimination and poverty that create social and institutional barriers to equal access to education, work, housing, health care and other services which, in turn, may limit the choices of individuals and marginalized groups and lead to prostitution.

3. AI’s work should be evidence-based and enable the organisation to act with various and effective tools to protect and fulfil the human rights of persons in prostitution. AI should not only focus on legal reforms but also call for other appropriate steps to prevent further violations, protect the rights of persons in prostitution and ensure the active participation of those affected.

Our reasoning behind these conclusions and comments on the proposed policy

1. Serious human rights violations against persons in prostitution should be at the heart of AI’s work in this field

The focus and aim of a policy in this area should be to combat grave human rights violations of persons in prostitution and to strengthen their rights. Criminalization of persons selling sex increases the stigma, discrimination and risk of abuse and human rights violations by the police and in society at large. Decriminalization of persons engaged in selling sex is therefore one important step to reduce the human rights violations against persons in prostitution, strengthen their rights and improve their situation.

However, the policy proposal suggests a different focus for AI’s work where selling and buying sex is in itself a human right. Such an approach derives from a questionable interpretation of the rights to autonomy, privacy and health. We reject the notion that a person who buys sex is exercising his/her rights. We also find the reference to discriminatory myths and stereotypes – that persons with different kinds of disabilities may rely on sex workers to express their sexuality – particularly disturbing.

There are many different reasons for why a person chooses to sell sex. However, we believe that we can recognise this diversity, combat grave violations against persons in prostitution and protect their rights without suggesting that selling and buying sex is a freestanding human right.

2. No one shall be forced to sell sex by means of discrimination, coercion, violence or due to economic or social destitution

We strongly believe that a future policy should shift focus from the highly complex and contested issue of whether a person freely and genuinely consents to selling sex or is indirectly forced by the limited options available. Such point of departure involves many difficult aspects. For example, “consent” can not only be defined as the absence of coercion, violence or discrimination. Such a definition does not include or reflect any analysis of power relations and structures at play, nor does it acknowledge that several other circumstances can be seen as negating genuine and freely given consent. It is deeply problematic if AI is to claim that “paid consensual sex” includes anything from a refugee woman who exchange sex for a food parcel in a refugee camp, to a well-off individual in the wealthy part of the world who occasionally is selling sex as a way of expressing his/her sexuality (as referred to in the background papers).

Another illustration of the complexity of the concept “consensual” is related to when a child becomes an adult. The exploitation of children in prostitution is criminalized under international law. While many persons are recruited or forced to prostitution at a young age, does it then become “consensual” if such a person sees no other alternative than to continue at the age of 18?

The policy paper focuses exclusively on legal reform, and the issue of criminalization vs. decriminalization. We believe that legal reforms alone are not a strong enough tool to combat the unequal power relations based on gender, sexual orientation and identity, social status and other structural discrimination in society that often give way to abuse and human rights violations faced by persons in prostitution. We believe that AI needs to continue and strengthen the work that has been developed during the last decade, i.e. call on states to fulfil their obligations to address root causes such as gender inequality, discrimination and poverty that create social and institutional barriers, denying marginalized groups, including women and girls equal access to education, work, housing, health care which, in turn, may limit their choices and lead to prostitution. States have the obligation to prioritize the most marginalized. In addition, targeted services are needed to address the specific needs and situation of persons engaged in selling sex, including support to leave prostitution.

While it can be argued that states should not deprive anyone of their means of livelihood, the state should not rely on prostitution as an option for individuals to “solve” their situation of poverty either. This is particularly important and relevant in relation to the ongoing “feminization of poverty”. AI should not turn gender-blind and ignore the fact that globally, the majority of persons in prostitution are girls and women. CEDAW, the ICESCR and other human rights instruments oblige states to work towards gender equality and equal opportunities to education, employment and safe working conditions for women and men.

3. AI’s position should be evidence-based and enable the organisation to act with various and effective tools to protect and fulfil human rights.

We are deeply concerned that far-reaching, universal conclusions are being made despite the lack of solid, evidence based AI research which is core in AI’s work on all other issues and areas of work.

Selling and buying sex

The human rights community internationally is united around the fact that a decriminalization of persons selling sex is an effective tool to combat human rights violations. Hence we find it important that AI supports decriminalization of persons selling sex.

On the other hand we reject a universal opposition of laws that criminalize the buying of sex. There is a lack of systematic, comprehensive, independent research of the effects and human rights impact of the “end demand approach” and on the situation in Sweden. Conclusions about successes or failures of the Swedish law seem to be made on weak empirical grounds and one has to be aware of the

current politicisation and polarization of research on prostitution, both in Sweden and internationally. In short, some researchers are concerned about the scarce evidence that is circulated and used regarding the Swedish case internationally, and are critical of many of the claims made about the current situation in Sweden. The lack of clear baseline and comprehensive research on the situation before the law was enacted has created a knowledge gap when it comes to the effects of the law, particularly in relation to the situation for persons selling sex, but also on the prostitution market at large, the normative effects of the law and the intended decrease in demand. This is yet another argument for AI to conduct its own research before adopting any general policy on the matter.

We are also concerned that the proposed policy is confusing issues when providing examples of negative consequences of “end demand” initiatives. Examples are given from the USA (condoms used as evidence) and India and Indonesia (“rescue raids” and abuse and rape by police) but these countries do not apply the “end demand” approach, i.e. the criminalization of the buyer of sex but not the seller. Such examples are not only misleading but erroneous and therefore, contrary to what is claimed in the documents, they do not “strongly support the conclusion that “end demand” approaches are not suitable policy in the vast majority of countries…” There may be several reasons for not applying the “end demand” approach in many countries, but AI has not looked into the issue in depth.

Support functions

Furthermore, the background documents do not provide a solid basis for AI to take a position on the decriminalization of “support functions” (i.e. pimps, brothel owners, recruiters, guards and others living off the proceeds of prostitution). Even if the criminalization of these functions can have a negative impact on those engaged in selling sex, we need to take into account the risks of abuse and exploitation by the same. AI should not come across as naive when it comes to the vested interests of the sex industry and economic gains of those involved in such “support functions” and activities related to prostitution and the exploitation linked to it. The background documents do not reason about the role or mandate of the criminal justice system in a decriminalized context where prostitution is not regulated in any particular way and whether this could have any implications in the ability of identifying and addressing cases of sexual exploitation, prostitution involving minors or victims of trafficking.

We would like to add that apart from New Zealand (and some states in Australia) we are not aware of any country that has actually decriminalized the selling, buying and all related activities and hence, there is little empirical ground and experience. Also, we perceive that the reason why NZ has been successful has been due to extensive individualized support to people selling sex. We would need to learn more from that but even more so, question if such support will be available in other countries in the world. And if that would not be the case, what would be the implication of such a model.

Legalisation

Several countries are moving towards – or already implementing – regularization / legalization of prostitution as a means to improve the situation and rights for persons in prostitution, including working conditions, social benefits. However, AI’s background documents do not analyze the consequences or provide any evidence-based research on the effects of regulations, in a context where prostitution is legalized, on those directly and indirectly affected by them. Nor has AI explored if and how legalization is changing the prostitution market or whether legalization and the “normalisation” of prostitution may affect victims of trafficking and/or gender equality in society at large.

This is not an issue of conflating prostitution with human trafficking but rather a call for exploring actual links between the phenomenon of prostitution and trafficking in humans for sexual exploitation in an increasingly internationalized market. Hence, we are concerned that the “non-policy” and a case-to- case approach on the issue of legalization is a result of the lack of AI’s own, solid, evidence based research.

Conclusion

As shown above, we find that the background papers and the summary draft policy have a number of challenging flaws and ambiguities. The background documents are one-sided rather than extensively exploring the positive and negative aspects and effects of all different approaches and models, i.e. decriminalization /legalization /end demand approach from a human rights perspective. In addition, some sources are used in a misleading way while others, pointing in opposite directions are being left out.

It is absolutely crucial that any paper or future proposal on the issue contains accurate, unbiased facts and that all the aspects covered by a policy proposal are thoroughly explored and supported by robust evidence based on AI’s own research.

In this paper the Swedish section has pointed out the principles we believe should guide AI’s work and any future policy on the issue. Our work should focus on the human rights of persons selling sex and the human rights issues of freedom from discrimination, coercion and violence, and the right to equality before the law, always ensuring the active participation of the rights-holders. In addition, strengthening our work on economic, social and cultural rights enables AI to act on serious human rights violations that persons in prostitution are subjected to.

In line with the above, we believe that we need to thoroughly think through the necessity of creating a new policy in this area – or if the policies and principles that are already in place, covering a number of areas of AI’s work, are sufficient to allow us to act whenever grave human rights violations of people selling sex is taking place.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s