Amnesty International has approved a policy to endorse the decriminalisation of the sex trade.
At its decision-making forum in Dublin, the human rights group approved the resolution to recommend “full decriminalisation of all aspects of consensual sex work”.
It argued that its research suggested decriminalisation was the best way to defend the rights of sex workers, rejecting complaints by women’s groups who said it was tantamount to advocating the legalisation of pimping and brothel-owning.
“We recognise that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex and that is why we have addressed this issue from the perspective of international human rights standards,” said Salil Shetty, the secretary general of Amnesty International. “We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world.”
Amnesty’s decision is important because the organisation will use its weight to lobby governments to accept its point of view.
Many former [victims of commercial sexual exploitation] have criticised the decision. “We feel that Amnesty International are supporting the men who are killing our women and it’s a slap in the face,” said Bridget Perrier, who was sold into [commercial sexual exploitation] at the age of 12 and later founded Sex Trade 101 in her native Canada to help women leave the industry. “This is a human rights violation in itself.”
Fiona Broadfoot, from Leeds, who was 15 when an abusive boyfriend lured her into [commercial sexual exploitation], said women who saw it as “a job like any other” were in a small minority. “The vast majority of women working in this industry are abused on a massive scale,” she told a press conference in London last week hosted by the anti-sex trade group Space International. “Legalising it will not take away that abuse. When I was working on the streets, I would have said I was a happy hooker, that I’d never work in an office, that I enjoyed it. It was just my way of surviving the abuse that was happening to me every day.”
Broadfoot is a strong advocate for the Nordic model of criminalising people who purchase sex, not the workers themselves. “We need a law against buying sex, so men are made responsible for their own sexual deviancy, not legitimising it, which is killing women.”
Space International’s co-founder Rachel Moran, who was working in the sex trade by the time she was 15, called the Amnesty International decision “breathtakingly disgraceful”.
“When I first heard this proposal, I got very emotional, I have been through a lot and I am not a woman who usually gets emotional. But this is an insult, from the most publicly recognised human rights body in the world, who are saying everything that happened to me was completely normal, above board and ought to be legal.”