In the long debate over the legalization of prostitution and sex work, Amnesty International wants to decriminalize the buying and selling of sex between consenting adults. And yet Amnesty International — the world’s leading human rights organization — has now received 400 signatures worth of criticism for this decision including from some of the biggest celebrities in the world.
Amnesty International’s proposal to decriminalize sex work between consenting adults “is based on the human rights principle that consensual sexual conduct between adults — which excludes acts that involve coercion, deception, threats, or violence — is entitled to protection from state interference.”
Tears of joy for #amnestyinternational standing up for sex workers rights. THANK YOU! <333333
— Olive Seraphim (@OliveSeraphim) July 26, 2015
Prostitution, or sex work, is widely dubbed as one of the world’s oldest professions but yet the profession itself is not legal. In states like Nevada, brothels used for sex work are legal but other types of pimping and prostitution are not. In the U.S. alone, between 70,000 and 80,000 sex workers are arrested each year costing taxpayers roughly $200 million. If sex work was legalized and regulated between consenting adults, those numbers would undoubtedly greatly decrease. Even in Canada and the U.S. laws against sex workers are keeping marginalized communities poor, homeless and in jail.
Also, Amnesty International wants to protect sex workers with this policy:
“This policy is also based on principles of harm reduction: on balance, the available evidence indicates that the criminalisation of sex work is more likely than not to reinforce discrimination against those who engage in these activities, to increase the likelihood that they will be subjected to harassment and violence, including ill-treatment at the hands of police, and to lead to the denial of due process and the exclusion from public benefits such as health services, housing, education, and immigration status.”
The organization claims to still be against people, especially children under the age of 18, being forced into human trafficking but their policy is solely based on two consenting adults exchanging money for goods and services — just like any other business.
Once folks got wind of Amnesty International’s proposed policy, the organization received a letter featuring over 400 signatures including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Lisa Kudrow and Angela Bassett. The letter states that although these individuals agree that women “being bought and sold in the sex trade must not be criminalized in any jurisdiction,” they also believe that Amnesty’s policy will turn brothel owners, pimps and john into legitimate “businessmen.”
The letter goes on to say that Germany’s deregulation of prostitution in 2002 resulted in more sex-trafficking and violence against female sex-workers, not less:
For instance, the 2002 German deregulation law spawned countrywide brothel chains that offer “Friday-night specials” for men who have license to purchase women for sexual acts that include acts of torture… Last year, leading trauma experts in Germany petitioned their government to repeal the 2002 law, underlining the extensive psychological harm that serial, unwanted sexual invasion and violence, which are among the hallmarks of prostitution, inflicts on women… Additionally, reports indicate that the Netherlands has also seen an exponential increase in sex trafficking that is directly linked to that government’s decriminalization of the sex industry in 2000.
Among the 400 signers are “survivors” of the sex trade. The letter does not offer a way forward but merely criticizes Amnesty’s policy.
Amnesty International’s proposed policy is all about a choice. If two consenting adults choose to engage in sex for the exchange of money, similar to the multi-billion dollar porn industry, the consenting adults, especially the sex worker, should not be criminalized for doing so. The policy will be addressed at Amnesty International’s international council meeting in Dublin Ireland in August.
While you consider your own feelings on sex work, play this well-known ditty by The Police singing about a sex worker named Roxanne:
(featured image via Michel G)