Members of Amnesty International yesterday [16th May 2015] put a No Confidence Motion in the Amnesty International Australia Board over their actions on Amnesty’s proposed new sex law policy. Former Amnesty member from Tasmania Isla MacGregor said “Two resolutions were put before the meeting yesterday including a No Confidence Motion in the AIA Board and a resolution on all members right to vote on policy decisions along with greater accountability and transparency in policy making processes by Amnesty International.” “In addition, the Amnesty Board had handed out advice to members attending the AGM’s in an attempt to direct Branch members not to vote for 2 resolutions which were to be discussed at yesterdays AGM which were thenwithdrawn by proponents as a result.” Two Emergency Resolutions were then tabled at the AGM:
EMERGENCY RESOLUTION 1 No Confidence Motion in the Board Of Amnesty International Australia That this meeting supports a No Confidence Motion in the Amnesty International Australia Board as a response to its: Authorship of a Memorandum titled Brief: Proposed policy on the decriminalisation of ‘sex work’. Distribution to Branches of the Memorandum dated 13th May 2015 for attention of AGM attendees only two days prior to Branch AGM’s being held around Australia on the 16th May 2015. Failure to cite in the Memorandum all human rights based legislative options in an unbiased manner such as the Nordic model. Failure to include the views on the lived experiences of survivors of prostitution and the sex trade and use of inappropriate language. Failure to be transparent with membership since the NAGM in 2014 about its communications with the Amnesty International Board and International Secretariat on the proposed ‘sex work ‘ policy and to provide timely updates to membership. Actions over the proposed ‘sex work’ policy especially, including the Memorandum, that are viewed by many AIA members as being secretive and in contravention of Amnesty International’s Governance principles on accountability, consultation with stakeholders and transparency.
Members who had resigned both before attending the Amnesty AGM and after the meeting found themselves, as have many other members and now former members of Amnesty International Australia across the country, unable to continue to support an organisation which has lost sight of what ethical governance mechanisms constitute for a peak human rights organisation.
Amnesty members in Australia need to think carefully about whether this is the sort of organisation they wish to continue to support when there are many other organisations which have a much better track record on due process and supporting the global campaign to end violence against women.
*Isla MacGregor previously worked with Whistleblowers Tasmania between 1994-2014 and in 2003 while working with the Coalition for Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (CICSA) contributed to theTerms of References for a Commission of Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in Tasmania. Isla continues to work with numerous Australian and international human rights organisations which work toward ending violence to women, children and men in both the legal and illegal sectors of the sex trade and supports the growing international Stop Demand for prostitution campaign.
*Simone Watson is a survivor of prostitution living in Western Australia. She joined the campaign against Amnesty International’s draft policy on “sex work” a year ago after reading it’s support for pimps, buyers and profiteers of sexual exploitation, and the flawed and biased consultation process it employed garnered by groups with a vested interest in expanding the sex trade.
I would like to emphasize that this is Australia, a country which has a patchwork of legalisation and decriminalisation of prostitution; in other words, these are people who know personally, day-to-day what it is like to live in a country where commercial sexual exploitation is normalised.
More on this from The Tasmanian Times:
With just under 60% of Amnesty International Sections not submitting any response on the Sex Work Policy and only 4 Sections giving support to the policy it is surprising that Amnesty intends to persist with their policy direction.
Of the just over 40% of sections who submitted written feedback to the policy, all supported decriminalisation of sex workers.
The internal document also states that approximately 28% of sections that responded said they needed more research to be conducted by Amnesty to inform their views. And further, 38% of respondents had called for an extension to the consultation process. Others found the consultation process to be flawed.
During the previous 2013 consultation period on the Amnesty Sex Work Policy, some Amnesty Sections notified the International Secretariat that the policy was deficient in its rationale and evidence base.
The IS [International Secretariat] also realises that the Sex Work Policy may have detrimental impacts on the organisation:
‘Amnesty International must consider the risks incurred by adopting a policy on sex work, including with regard to the organization’s credibility, funding, membership, and partner relationships.’
At its annual meeting in Malmö this weekend [May 2014], the Swedish section took a clear position against legal prostitution.
Last winter, Amnesty International caused an outcry among Swedish women’s organizations when its International Secretariat in London presented a proposal saying the organization should advocate the decriminalization of the buying and selling of sex.
According to the proposal, it is a human right for both men and women to prostitute themselves and legally sell sexual services.
Legalization is described as a way to grant prostitutes greater autonomy.
Ever since the proposal was presented, the Swedish section of Amnesty International has worked on a consultation response that goes against the parent organization’s proposal. Swedish Amnesty International has endeavored to anchor each syllable in local associations and women’s organizations.
There is much anger among Amnesty members in Sweden that the organization would globally act to decriminalize the purchase of sex, but Sofia Halth maintains a diplomatic tone in her comments on the proposal by Amnesty’s International Secretariat.
She believes that the proposal’s anchoring in human rights is “inadequate”, that it has a too one-sided focus on legislation, and that the legal issues the proposal refers to are “not clearly enough formulated”.
– In addition, the material has been developed with a selective focus on the research that exists, says Sofia Halth.
Swedish Amnesty is expected to urge the organization to shift its focus on the issue of prostitution at the annual meeting in Malmö.
They want to move from affirming “free choice and consent” to working towards a world in which nobody is forced to sell sex because of discrimination, coercion, violence, vulnerability or poverty.
Swedish Amnesty wants for prostitution to be opposed not only through legislation, but also through a variety of social interventions.
“Those who sell sex are often at the bottom of the social ladder and are subjected to serious human rights violations. The Swedish section therefore thinks it is an issue for Amnesty, but that we should focus on these grave violations against people in prostitution,” says the proposed Swedish official response.