Amnesty International Votes on Policy to Decriminalize Sex Work

Amnesty International showed its support for sex workers in a vote that takes the first steps toward decriminalizing sex work.

The vote recommends a policy that would give adult, consensual sex workers “the highest possible protection of the human rights.”

A draft of the policy highlights the need to review and repeal laws that make the workers vulnerable to human rights violations. It also points out that states are still able to regulate sex work, as long as the work complies with the international human rights law.

It also takes into consideration the dark side of sex work, noting that sex trafficking and marginalization are very serious issues within the work. The policy states clearly the stance on these dangerous issues:

“This policy does not change Amnesty International’s longstanding position that forced labour and human trafficking (including for the purposes of sexual exploitation) constitute serious human rights abuses and must be criminalized. … Amnesty International considers children involved in commercial sex acts to be victims of a grave human rights abuse. Under international law states must ensure that offering, delivering or accepting a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation is covered under criminal or penal law, and must take all appropriate measures to prevent the exploitation and abuse of children.”

While the policy is not completely legalizing prostitution, it is calling for decriminalization, which may still carry fines as opposed to a criminal penalty. This also includes brothel owners, but the policy makes clear that human trafficking and coercion still carry criminal offenses and governments must provide support to any worker who chooses to leave the industry. This goes in line with the strict requirements that the workers should be doing the work under their own will.

The decriminalization will also be able to help workers find employment after they leave the industry, as well as support victims of abuse who are afraid to go to authorities because they might face criminal prostitution charges.

One of the topics covered in the policy draft is gender equality within the sex industry. Similar to the criminal record that follows women, the stigma from being a former sex worker can haunt them their entire lives.

Bree Olson, who is a pornographic film star, often speaks out about the stigma she faces within the adult entertainment industry. In June, she tweeted a message she titled “To all the young women that are interested in getting into porn.” While she admits she has never had a bad experience, nor does she hate porn, she advises young women interested in entering the industry not to do it.

“When you do porn you automatically become a segregated part of society that is held to prejudice without the support of activists for your human rights,” she writes. “Porn isn’t bad – how people will treat you for the rest of your life is.”

She goes on to talk about how the stigma affects children of porn stars and ends on the double standard that run rampant throughout the industry.

“As for the guys,” she concludes. “Don’t worry – you’ll get a high five and everyone will assume you have a huge dick with lots of stamina.”

Olson frequently uses Twitter as a way to speak out on the injustices sex workers frequently face. In July, she tweeted a message about unionizing porn, saying compared to mainstream actors who get royalties, porn actors only get paid a flat fee, regardless of how well their films do.

Unlike Olson, there are celebrities who are against the Amnesty International policy. Lena Dunham, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Kate Winslet are a few actors that have signed a petition urging Amnesty International to reject the policy. The petition states the organizations’ reputation would be “irreparably tarnished if it adopts a policy that sides with buyers of sex, pimps, and other exploiters rather than with the exploited.”

Amnesty International responded by saying the criminalization of sex workers puts the workers in more danger. Murderers target sex workers since police view them as “disposable,” and the workers themselves don’t seek legal action toward their assailants because they are afraid of criminal charges due to their profession.

There, of course, is the debate of exploitation and objectification of women within the sex industry. While there are many cases where women are exploited in this kind of work, Amnesty International’s policy will be able to cut down on exploitation, stigma and danger, according to an essay in The Huffington Post. Author Serra Sipper writes that Amnesty International joins “a growing number of international agencies, major human rights organizations, public health experts, feminists, and sex workers in a clear global demand: Decriminalization is essential to achieving global health goals and to protecting the dignity and human rights of sex workers.”

When it comes to objectification in the sex industry and even mass media, Everyday Feminism created a great entry to help discern whether someone is being objectified or empowered: It all comes down to who has the power in the situation.

“The power is often the power of consent,” it says, “which means that the person is entering into the sexual situation willingly, and if they no longer want to be in the situation, they can leave with no consequences.”

Image credit: msmornington via Flickr

50 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim V10 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago

noted

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Dimitris Dallis
Past Member 2 years ago

https://www.change.org/p/amnesty-international-vote-no-to-decriminalizing-pimps-brothel-owners-and-buyers-of-sex

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Richard Anonymous

I respect and admire Amnesty International's work in working to free the wrongly imprisoned and working to end the mistreatment of people in custody. Amnesty does consider whipping to be an example of mistreatment, but as long as it is part of a formal sentence, administered as professionally and humanely as possible under proper supervision and in accordance with legal standards, and only for severe crimes especially when re-offending is involved, Amnesty maybe should keep a more open mind on this issue. After all, people do come up with outrageous fantasies about how some types of offenders should receive random justice in prison. If this ridiculous hope for random violence reflects society's view that there needs to be a physical component to the punishment for certain crimes, I think it makes more sense to make that part of the punishment certain, precise, and reasonable (all of this could be a achieve through a prescribed number of lashes) while keeping prisons safe as a opposed to something that is uncertain, random, and potentially too extreme. Speaking as a man, I have no difficulty understanding how the caning of sex offenders in Singapore and Malaysia keeps the sex crime rate very low there, and it feels odd to me that I and other men are exempt from such an effective and FITTING deterrent that is so supportive of women's rights just because of where I/we live.

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Richard Anonymous

I respect and admire Amnesty International's work in working to free the wrongly imprisoned and working to end the mistreatment of people in custody. Amnesty does consider whipping to be an example of mistreatment, but as long as it is part of a formal sentence, administered as professionally and humanely as possible under proper supervision and in accordance with legal standards, and only for severe crimes especially when re-offending is involved, Amnesty maybe should keep a more open mind on this issue. After all, people do come up with outrageous fantasies about how some types of offenders should receive random justice in prison. If this ridiculous hope for random violence reflects society's view that there needs to be a physical component to the punishment for certain crimes, I think it makes more sense to make that part of the punishment certain, precise, and reasonable (all of this could be a achieve through a prescribed number of lashes) while keeping prisons safe as a opposed to something that is uncertain, random, and potentially too extreme. Speaking as a man, I have no difficulty understanding how the caning of sex offenders in Singapore and Malaysia keeps the sex crime rate very low there, and it feels odd to me that I and other men are exempt from such an effective and FITTING deterrent that is so supportive of women's rights just because of where I/we live.

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Richard Anonymous

So many people are in prison for use of marijuana and buying or selling sex. What a waste of lives and what a waste of tax dollars! Neither the people who make the decision to buy or sell sex should be legally punished. If street walker prostitutes are disrupting certain areas, ban the practice in that specific area. The only people who deserve punishment are those who do non-consensual things with the women. This includes men who beat or rape the prostitutes, knowingly have sex with underage women, or people who force women to sell sex which is very similar to rape in my thinking. And as I have always said, we need to seriously consider bringing back the lash for men who abuse women. Some people might find this response extreme, but decisive action is needed to keep relations between the genders safe, respectful, and civilized. Unfortunately, it is only the threat of meaningful punishment that will motivate some men to control their base impulses.

I respect and admire Amnesty International's work in working to free the wrongly imprisoned and working to end the mistreatment of people in custody. Amnesty does consider whipping to be an example of mistreatment, but as long as it is part of a formal sentence, administered as professionally and humanely as possible under proper supervision and in accordance with legal standards, and only for severe crimes especially when re-offending is involved, Amnesty maybe should keep a more open mind on this issue. After all,

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Kathy Saunders
K S2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Lee Rowan
Lee Rowan2 years ago

My, my .. such "moral" people we have here.

Making prostitution illegal would not keep an unfaithful husband or boyfriend from hiring a prostitute. But legalizing it - maybe even licensing it, and making health checks free and required for renewal of the license -- MIGHT save a lot of women from husbands who say the "right" and "moral" things on Sunday and sneak off to hookers after work.

A friend of mine lived on the edge of a low-income area, and a lot of prostitutes plied their trade in a parking lot at a nearby park area. (I presume the cops were paid off, since putting a squad car there would've stopped it.) My friend said it was amazing how many cars with city stickers from the rich white Republican districts pulled into that parking lot...

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