Amnesty International on whether decriminalization supports human rights for sex workers

From The Guardian:

“Amnesty’s draft policy opposes the Swedish model, a legal framework that has been adopted in several countries and has been described by some as progressive, and even feminist. However, the reality of criminalising those who pay for our services is that sex workers are left with fewer clients, including men who we might otherwise have felt able to turn away – those who seem drunk, aggressive or who have a reputation for violence.

“Furthermore, by prioritising the supposed “eradication” of the sex industry, these laws empower police officers to harass, evict and deport migrant sex workers. This is exactly what Amnesty found when it looked at the Swedish model. In Norway the police had a virulent attitude towards women selling sex, and sex workers felt that reporting violence to the police was in itself dangerous because it attracted police attention. As one sex worker told Amnesty: “If you call the police, you lose everything.””


It’s hard to believe that those Hollywood signatories read this and thought: “Brilliant, the police evicting migrant women when they report rape sounds like the feminist solution to prostitution; we should support the legal model where this occurs.” But that is what appears to have happened – unless they signed up to attack Amnesty over a document they had not read.

The petition itself states:

“The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) firmly believes and agrees with Amnesty that human beings bought and sold in the sex trade, who are mostly women, must not be criminalized in any jurisdiction by law enforcement or governments.”

The disagreement seems to be that CATW and the petition argue that decriminalizing the buying of sex, “is in violation of long established human rights principles, and women’s rights in particular, including the right to live a life free of violence and with dignity.”

Whereas Amnesty’s draft proposal thinks such decriminalization is the best way to support those rights:

(from The Telegraph)

“Catherine Murphy, a policy advisor at Amnesty International who was heavily involved in creating the document, has spoken exclusively to me about the situation. […]
““[Our proposal] is not about any kind of philosophical debate. It’s not about the rights of pimps and buyers. It’s about how does this work on the ground in reality for the people who are selling sex around the world. It’s about their rights and protecting them.”” [The second sentence seems to have a typo or is a fragment?]

“[Amnesty’s] findings suggest that decriminalising sex buyers – whether that’s pimps, ‘johns’ or brothel owners – will ultimately help sex workers. Murphy explains that the popular ‘Nordic Model’, adopted by Canada, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Northern Ireland, creates a lot of problems for sex workers, as sex buyers still face criminal sanctions if caught.”

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