We Demand Amnesty International Listen to Survivors and Reject the Proposal to Decriminalize All Aspects of Prostitution
Petition by Jennifer Kim - Vancouver, Canada
This leaked Amnesty International proposal advocating for the full decriminalization of all aspects of prostitution violates the basic human rights and dignities of prostituted individuals. The proposal denies the inextricable link between prostitution and exploitation, violence, and trafficking. Amnesty International’s priority here is to push for new legal “rights” for buyers of sex over protecting the basic human rights of “sex workers,” which are breached globally every day. This position is categorically against the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Amnesty International claim to defend.
Indeed the very use of commodities language in their proposal (i.e., “sex work”, “sex workers”) reveals AI’s commitment to the maximal capitalization of the “imperfect context” they themselves admit is the reason why so many individuals enter prostitution and become entrenched within its cycle of exploitation and abuse. The term “sex worker” is not only Orwellian in nature, but an already positioned stance – one which sides with the pro-prostitution lobby, with its a long documented history of silencing and abuse against persons speaking out against the horrors of this physically, sexually, emotionally, and economically exploitative “industry”.
With this proposal, Amnesty International is moving away from human rights advocacy, into a human rights non-profit industrial model: prioritizing “international membership” and “those on the human rights front line” above those who they claim to help – those who are in fact suffering from or vulnerable to the very human rights abuses Amnesty International purport to fight.
While claiming to uphold the rights of every person set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, AI is actually seeking to alter the laws and standards set forth within such international declarations in their push to legalize men’s right to purchase sex with impunity – a goal diametrically in opposition to protecting vulnerable persons from the gendered exploitation and violence endemic to prostitution.
The gendered nature of the phenomena of prostitution is categorically denied in this leaked proposal, stating women are not the only ones who engage in prostitution. Regardless of that fact, women do make up the vast majority of the prostituted class. To deny that this is a gendered issue (requiring an analysis of inequality along the axis of gender) is to deny that women’s rights are human rights. And while this proposal states clearly that “states must take all appropriate measures to prevent violence and exploitation of children”, it makes no such commitments for women or other prostituted persons.
We are here to say that women’s rights are human rights. Survivor rights are “sex workers” rights. We are here to tell you the use of the terms “sex work” and “sex workers” offends those of us who know that money does not equal consent, that no matter what laws may be legislated through neoliberal agendas, no one has a “right” to purchase a person for sexual gratification. Because of these reasons we demand an apology for the abuse of trust Amnesty International exercised in proposing a lobbied stance while working as a human rights organization.
We also demand that any global consultation process Amnesty International undertakes regarding the issue of prostitution must involve Survivor Organizations that are made up of and represent those in the sex trade who can speak to their experiences of violence, exploitation and trafficking – in other words the voices of those who have truly been marginalized within the group of prostituted persons must be heard before any global proposal or agenda is pushed through.
Write to Amnesty International
Feel free to use the following letter template to send to Amnesty International and ask them to end their pro-prostitution lobbying efforts in Northern Ireland.
” To Amnesty International’s Secretary General, International Board and Secretariat:
I am shocked to learn that Amnesty International is calling for the sex industry’s prefered model of decriminalizing prostitution “in order to protect human rights.” This is an absolute outrage because prostitution is a severe violation of the human rights AI claims to protect. The decriminalization of prostitution will not eradicate but instead normalize the violence, abuse, and health and safety risks most women in the sex industry face day in, day out. Most would exit the sex industry if they could.
The Nordic Model is designed to provide the rigorous support and comprehensive services prostituted people are in need of and decriminalizes them in its legal framework. It is the only model that recognizes the vast power disparity between prostituted people and the buyers and third party profiteers. Its goal is to eradicate rather than spur the demand that drives trafficking in persons for sexual use.
You state that your “vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.” Please meet the standards you have set for yourself and lobby in favor of the Nordic Model. Stand up against the sex industry, not for it.
Please send your letters to:
1. AI Secretary General
Salil Shetty, Salil.Shetty@amnesty.org
2. AI Board Members
Mwikali Nzioka Muthiani,
Paul Divakar Nimala,
3. AI International Secretariat
(According to AI, the Secretariat is responsible for the organization’s research and campaigns), firstname.lastname@example.org
Address:1 Easton Street, London, WC1X 0DW, UK
Tel (US member services): (212) 633- 4254,
Fax: (212) 627-1451.
4. AI “Contact Us” Page
5. General AI Email Address
Thank you for your support!
Statement against Amnesty International’s suggestion that buying sex is a human right
It was shocking for us to see Amnesty’s suggestion that it is a “human right” for well off, powerful (mostly white) men to purchase the bodies of the younger, poorer and more vulnerable. We found it especially cruel that Amnesty says prostitution is a choice. As all survivors know, people end up in prostitution because they have no other choices, and are the victims of coercion, fraud, abuse and violence. The untruth that “prostitution is a choice” only serves to stigmatize and further trap most of the sexually exploited. This empowers their traffickers and abusers, while serving as a justification to arrest and marginalize the exploited rather than recognizing the truth that they are the victims of multiple crimes.
Amnesty’s position supporting ‘the world’s oldest oppression’ places the long-standing human rights organization in alignment with some of the most brutal and violent forces known
We, the members of SPACE International, object in the strongest possible terms to the position of Amnesty International (AI) on the issue of prostitution. Their recently released policy document*, which contends that the exploitation of prostitution is a matter of autonomy and choice, is deserving of nothing less than our public condemnation as a betrayal of women’s rights. Further, it is a policy position that can only be taken if one is willing to ignore the realities of how women and girls end up in prostitution in the first place. Prostitution is a trade that thrives on the distinct lack of autonomy and choice and for Amnesty International to refer to it as ‘freely chosen gainful work’ is to explicitly ignore that nothing about commercial sexual exploitation is freely chosen.
See also: ‘A Grubby Collision With Misogyny’, Julie Bindel, Daily Mail, January 24, 2014