Amnesty International’s proposal to legalize prostitution has generated a fierce rebuttal from groups opposed to the exploitation of vulnerable women, who warn that such wrong-headed programs just perpetuate cycles of abuse and mistreatment of women.
Eleanor Gaetan, legislative adviser at the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, calls the idea that legalized sex work works in women’s favor “a fiction,” noting that where such programs have been tried, it has only led to normalizing a multibillion-dollar sex-trade industry and to more prostitution.
Amnesty claims its move will make prostitution safer, but opponents say it has the opposite effect. According to Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen: “Almost five years after the lifting of the brothel ban, we have to acknowledge that the aims of the law have not been reached.” Instead we find ourselves “in the midst of modern slavery,” he said.
Amnesty International moved forward in August with plans to develop a policy to protect the rights of workers engaged in “consensual” sexual activities.
“Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world, who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse,” said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International.
The group’s proposed policy would call on states to “ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence,” and would “help shape” their organization’s future human rights work regarding prostitutes, representatives said.
Opponents forcefully disagree, noting that legalizing sex work as a “job” or a “business” only benefits brothel owners and customers seeking sexy making their work easier and granting them a veneer of legitimacy.
It will give them “full license” to condone violence, sexual abuse — including rape — and verbal abuse that is commonly perpetuated on vulnerable people, said Lisa Thompson, vice president of education and outreach at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE).
Amnesty International needs to recognize that prostitution is sexual exploitation, not a career path http://t.co/9FHv6iCIoF
— NCOSE & Porn Harms (@Porn_Harms) October 9, 2015
Women’s rights advocates propose instead a stiffening of penalties for johns and pimps, accompanied by a softening of punishment for the woman and children trapped in the sex trade.
“People with any alternative want to get out,” said Ms. Thompson.
NCOSE and its allies have launched a social media campaign called #NoAmnestyForPimps, urging people to sign a letter protesting the Amnesty International proposal.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome