On 24 August 2015, I published What Amnesty Did Wrong in which I laid out many errors that Amnesty made in developing its proposal for the full decriminalisation of all aspects of “consensual sex work”. This proposal had been passed as a resolution at a meeting of the International Council in Dublin two weeks earlier (referred to as “the resolution” in this article).
In September, members of an internal Amnesty USA discussion forum requested that Amnesty USA respond to all of the points that I raised in that article. On 22 September 2015, Terry Rockefeller replied to the forum on “behalf of the Board and the Priorities Subcommittee” declining to respond to the article because it was “filled with errors and rumors”. She failed to explain who made the errors or what she consider to be rumours. I believe Amnesty needs to clarify this. In order to make it easier for Amnesty to answer the points I raised, I have reframed them as simple questions and include additional questions that arise from Terry Rockefeller’s reply. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.
I beg Amnesty’s International Board to honestly and seriously consider all of these points and answer the questions honestly and with an open mind before proceeding with the implementation of the proposed policy to fully decriminalise the sex trade. Please consider carefully whether it is ethical to proceed with implementing a policy to fully decriminalise the sex trade in the light of the issues raised in these questions.
The questions are worth reading in full, but I’m only going to quote a small selection here:
32. Does Amnesty understand that (a) The success of the Nordic Model depends on the political will to carry through its implementation and to provide funds for the services for those in prostitution, for training the police and others, and for public information campaigns? And (b) That the introduction of the Nordic Model approach usually takes some time to bed in because it requires the police and those in public services to undergo a significant shift in attitudes?
33. If so, why did Amnesty not undertake research on the approach in Sweden, which has the longest experience with it and where there has been the greatest political will to ensure its success, rather than in Norway, where it is still bedding in?
34. Is Amnesty aware that the Nordic Model law is popular in Sweden and has been credited with changing attitudes of young men in particular and of reducing sex trafficking in that country, without an increase in violence towards prostituted persons?
35. If so, why did Amnesty base its dismissal of the Nordic Model approach in the final draft policy on one piece of research (by Bjorndah on behalf of Pro Senter) that was conducted in Norway?
36. Is Amnesty aware that the research in question has been discredited and that in 2012 Pro Senter publicly acknowledged that the statistical foundation of the report is unreliable and the data does not show that violence has increased since the introduction of the Nordic Model as the report claims but in fact the data suggests that violence has decreased? (See also page 16 of this Norwegian newspaper.)
37. Amnesty’s “Sex Work Policy Discussion Paper” stated that none of the consultation responses disagreed with the proposal to decriminalise persons in prostitution but many disagreed with the proposal to decriminalise pimps and punters. In view of this, why did Amnesty subsequently couch the arguments in terms of criminalisation versus decriminalisation, which gave the incorrect impression that some people were calling for the criminalisation of persons in prostitution?