Survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking speak out against Amnesty's proposal to decriminalise pimping and purchasing women for sexual exploitation.
Five Reasons Why Amnesty International’s Resolution to Decriminalize the Sex Industry is a Deadly Mistake
Amnesty International (AI) will vote to deregulate the commercial sex industry worldwide at its International Council Meeting (ICM) in Dublin, Ireland, August 7-11. This will legitimize the sexual exploitation of millions of people, especially women and children. Amnesty’s “Draft Policy on Sex Work” endorses the decriminalization of pimping, brothels and purchasing of sex.
Herewith Five Reasons Why AI’s Resolution Should Not Be Passed or Supported:
1. In countries with legalized prostitution, sex trafficking increases.
A 2013 academic study, based on data from 150 countries, was published in ‘World Development. It concluded that legal prostitution increases human trafficking, as evidenced in Germany and The Netherlands, where prostitution was legalized and failed in terms of achieving its three goals to:
- Eliminate the criminal, underground sector from the sex industry;
- Make selling sex safe; and
- Redefine prostitution as a job like any other, with employment contracts. See ‘Der Spiegel article: “Unprotected: How Legalizing Prostitution has Failed.”
2. Amnesty claims that prostitution and sex trafficking are different phenomena, but they are intrinsically linked.
All victims of sex trafficking are trafficked into prostitution or the commercial sex industry. It’s impossible to prevent sex trafficking without addressing the commercial sex market, which is both highly criminal and lucrative.
3. Decriminalizing the commercial sex industry does not make it safe, because prostitution is inherently harmful, whether legal or illegal.
Prostitution is inherently dangerous, damaging and brutal. Research in nine countries, found 60-75% of prostituted women were raped; 70-95% experienced physically assault; and 68% suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, at levels similar to combat veterans or victims of state torture.
4. The sex trade is hugely profitable. The only way to prevent sexual exploitation and sex trafficking is to cut off the profit incentive i.e. reduce demand, not encourage it.
Buying or purchasing sex, fuels a criminal market that destroys people!
5. Amnesty International’s resolution does not address the successful ‘Nordic Model Law’, which sees commercial sex as a system of gender-based violence. In countries where it has been implemented the Nordic Model has led to a decrease in sex trafficking.
The Nordic Model offers the best means of addressing the reality of sexual exploitation, by criminalising the purchase of sex, but not the sale of sexual access. The law shifts criminal liability from people who are exploited, to those doing the exploiting! Pimping and running a brothel are also illegal. Governments also commit to addressing the needs of those exiting the sex trade, yet Amnesty’s resolution does not consider the gains and learnings of the Nordic Model.
23rd July, 2015
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First of all:
The website linked states that “Amnesty International (AI) will vote to deregulate the commercial sex industry worldwide” even though the draft gives a lot of points where regulation by the state would be necessary. Decriminalisation is not the same as deregulate.
1. “In countries with legalized prostitution, sex trafficking increases.”
The scientific source linked to support this point itself states that using it to argue in favour of banning prostitution would overlook important arguments. (see page 76).
Personally I actually suspect that legalization of sex work increases the influx of human trafficking as well. However as the source itself indicates; this increase is due to the market growth associated with such legalization. So percentually speaking human trafficking cases among sex workers would decrease. Furthermore, this only says something about the influx of human trafficking, not about whether or not this actually increases the victims of human trafficking. It could be that traffickers simply take their victims to states where it is legal instead(!) of states where it is illegal. Criminalizing the profession might drive such numbers to go to other states but it won’t solve the problem.
Lastly; even if the above would not be the case I don’t find this an argument for criminalisation at all. That also makes victims and criminals of people that don’t do anything wrong. A different solution would have to be found that doesn’t involve/punishes people that don’t have anything to do with the problem.
2. “Amnesty claims that prostitution and sex trafficking are different phenomena, but they are intrinsically linked.”
“All victims of sex trafficking are trafficked into prostitution or the commercial sex industry”. Even if that where true (no source for this claim was given) that doesn’t mean that sex work is intrinsically linked with human trafficking. It simply means that human trafficking is intrinsically linked with sex work. The distinction is important in that even if the above claim where to be true, it doesn’t mean that all sex workers are victims of human trafficking. Which means they are different phenomena. The source states that the US sex work market is highly criminal and lucrative, which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with this point.
3. “Decriminalizing the commercial sex industry does not make it safe, because prostitution is inherently harmful, whether legal or illegal.”
The source that is linked to here is highly disputed and rightly so I would say. Looking specifically at Germany for example (because most interviews where conducted in countries where prostitution is illegal), they interviewed woman at a drop-in shelter for drug addicted woman, from a program which offered vocational rehabilitation for those prostituted, referred by peers and by advertisement in a local newspaper. No mention is made about what percentages where referred to by peers or reacted to the advertisement. For all I know most came from the shelter and rehabilitation program.
But even if the source paints a (rather grim) realistic picture of all sex workers in Germany, it still would not sway me in my conviction that criminalizing those that are not harmed by the sex work would help. In fact, if the source is correct it only enforces the fact that making it a crime doesn’t seem to help at all. The source doesn’t state nor proves in any way that the work is “inherently harmful” even if we ignore the flaws in their methodology.
4. “The sex trade is hugely profitable. The only way to prevent sexual exploitation and sex trafficking is to cut off the profit incentive i.e. reduce demand, not encourage it.”
No source is given for this claim (although I am inclined to believe it, personally). Nor does is mention how criminalizing would cut of the profit incentive. Also, can somebody tell me what the difference is between buying sex and purchasing sex?
Buying sex only fuels a criminal market if you buy sex from a criminal market.
Lastly; there is no mention in the draft about encouragement of sex work or the demand for it.
5. “Amnesty International’s resolution does not address the successful ‘Nordic Model Law’, which sees commercial sex as a system of gender-based violence. In countries where it has been implemented the Nordic Model has led to a decrease in sex trafficking.”
No source is given for any of the claims (the success of the Nordic model, nor the decrease in sex trafficking). The nordic model is certainly better than full criminalisation in my opinion in the fact that it stops the authority from seeing the victims of human trafficking and sex workers as criminals, but it still forces people that want to be sex workers to work with criminals by definition. That still harms people that want to be sex workers (not to mention the clients that are not doing anything wrong).
It is true that the draft doesn’t directly address the Nordic model (I suspect to keep it’s wording as state-neutral and policy-neutral as possible) but it certainly addresses the methods of the Nordic model within it’s definition of criminalization and within the summary of it’s findings. The draft does gives arguments and sources to back up their opinion on it.
All in all, if I was on the fence (which I must admit I really aren’t) these sort of posts would push me towards acceptance of the draft resolution, not away from it.