Amnesty International will develop a policy to promote the decriminalization of prostitution. On August 11, at Amnesty International’s International Council Meeting in Dublin, delegates passed a resolution “to adopt a policy that seeks attainment of the highest possible protection of the human rights of sex workers, through measures that include the decriminalisation of sex work.”
The resolution urges states to change laws to enact the policy. Nations are also urged to prevent human trafficking, ensure individuals are not forced into prostitution against their will, and protect prostitutes and children from exploitation. Countries may “impose legitimate restrictions on the sale of sexual services, provided that such restrictions comply with international human rights law.”
According to Amnesty International’s news release, the organization used resources from the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, UN Women, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, as well as research in four countries and consultations with organizations representing prostitutes and prostitution survivors, feminists, LGBT activists, anti-trafficking groups, and HIV/AIDS organizations.
“We have chosen to advocate for the decriminalization of all aspects of consensual adult sex-sex work that does not involve coercion, exploitation or abuse. This is based on evidence and the real-life experience of sex workers themselves that criminalization makes them less safe,” writes Catherine Murphy, policy advisor at Amnesty International, on the organization’s web site.
“We believe that decriminalization would help tackle human trafficking,” states a Q & A page on the web site. “When sex work is decriminalized, sex workers are better able (to) work together and demand their rights, leading to better working conditions and standards and greater oversight of commercial sex and potential trafficking within it.”
Despite its support decriminalization and not necessarily legalization, Amnesty International does not endorse the Nordic model, where prostitution itself is not illegal but the sale of sex is. According to Amnesty, because of Nordic laws, prostitutes “have to take more risks to protect buyers from detection by the police” and the practice “is still highly stigmatized.”
A letter from July 17 to Amnesty International written by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women that included high-profile signatories such as actresses Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, and Lena Dunham, condemns the draft policy leaked in 2014, which proposed “the wholesale decriminalization of the sex industry, which in effect legalizes pimping, brothel owning and sex buying.” The signatories write that Amnesty is basing its policy on the input of HIV/AIDS groups, which suggest “limited harm reduction policies” that “seem far more concerned with the health of sex buyers than the lives of prostituted and sex trafficked women.”
The draft policy also states that purchasers of sex are merely “exercising personal autonomy” while possibly developing “a stronger sense of self in their relationships with sex workers, improving their life enjoyment and dignity.”
Amnesty’s International Board will develop a policy on the decriminalization of prostitution at an upcoming meeting in October.