Amnesty International faces backlash from Hollywood celebrities for proposing new policy on sex work

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      One of the world's leading human-rights organizations has come under fire for its proposal to oppose criminalizing the buying or selling of sex between consenting adults.

      Amnesty International says its proposed policy "is based on the human rights principle that consensual sexual conduct between adults—which excludes acts that involve coercion, deception, threats, or violence—is entitled to protection from state interference".

      It cites many examples in which criminalization increases risks to sex workers. They include two studies that showed "most instances of harassment, assault, rape, kidnapping, and murder of street-based sex workers in Vancouver and New York City were not reported to police".

      "This policy does not change Amnesty International's longstanding position that trafficking into forced prostitution should be criminalised as a matter of international law," the proposed policy states. "Amnesty International considers children involved in commercial sex acts to be victims of sexual exploitation, entitled to support, reparations, and remedies, in line with international human rights law."

      The organization's response to the purchase and sale of consensual adult sex has prompted a letter of protest from more than 400 groups and individuals.

      The signatories including actors Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, Angela Bassett, Kevin Kline, Emma Thompson, Lisa Kudrow, Lena Dunham, Kyra Sedgwick, and director Jonathan Demme.

      "Decriminalization of the sex trade renders brothel owners 'businessmen' who with impunity facilitate the trafficking of very young women predominantly from the poorest countries of Eastern Europe and the Global South to meet the increased demand for prostitution," the letter states.

      Amnesty International's proposed policy mentions that "legitimate restrictions may be imposed on sex work if they comply with international human rights law".

      "This policy is also based on principles of harm reduction: on balance, the available evidence indicates that the criminalisation of sex work is more likely than not to reinforce discrimination against those who engage in these activities, to increase the likelihood that they will be subjected to harassment and violence, including ill-treatment at the hands of police, and to lead to the denial of due process and the exclusion from public benefits such as health services, housing, education, and immigration status," the document states. 

      The proposed policy will be addressed at Amnesty International's international council meeting next month in Dublin, Ireland.

      Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has called upon countries "to work toward decriminalization of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers".

      Amnesty International has not taken a position on whether sex work should be regulated.

      "However, if a state does regulate sex work, Amnesty International would call for any regulation to aim at guaranteeing that individuals who undertake sex work do so voluntarily and in safe conditions and are able to stop engaging in sex work when and if they choose to," the proposed policy states.

      Comments

      39 Comments

      Barry William Teske

      Jul 24, 2015 at 7:47pm

      Too funny.

      Hollywood "celebrities" who regularly have their work pimped out and forced upon society are opposed to consensual adults entering into an acknowledged agreement.

      Who are the real criminals here?
      Let us have a closer look at the list of signatories...

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      simone 345

      Jul 25, 2015 at 12:23am

      The article has it wrong in the very first line. Amnesty has not come under attack for criminalising the selling of sex, but for endorsing the full decriminalisation of the buyers, pimps and procurers . Some research is sorely needed by the author.

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      CFPDX

      Jul 25, 2015 at 7:03am

      It's not only WHO - but HIV & the LAW and the LANCET. Please do your research, because these Hollywood types have not. They've also not been paying attention to 3M+ sex workers who are asking for decrim in India.

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      Draidean

      Jul 25, 2015 at 7:33am

      This article seems very biased in its reporting. It is interesting to note that it references the World Health Organization as calling for countries to work towards decriminalisation of 'sex work'.

      Yet no reference to the fact that internationally the Nordic Model is recognised as the best practice harm reduction model which has been accepted by the EU as the best practice human rights approach and voted to be adopted by EU member nations.

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      Anonymous

      Jul 25, 2015 at 7:52am

      Dumb Hollywood SJWs think they know better than researchers, which proves they are a superficially liberal (but really intolerant and close-minded) mirror image of Tea Party republicans.

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      Charlie Smith

      Jul 25, 2015 at 8:02am

      Simone345
      You're wrong. If you read the article, it says "opposing" the criminalizing.

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      Photi

      Jul 25, 2015 at 8:27am

      AI wants to block the 'state' from interference but also wants to have a legal sex trade to be administered according to international human rights. Would this not require an international body to oversee and monitor all aspects of the trade then, including benefits, hiring standards, workers rights etc etc? Do they have any idea at how incredibly difficult and unwieldy this would be? I would say it would be impossible to have worldwide agreement on prostitution and including local administration based upon regional values is far more manageable than what they appear to be proposing. Besides, the time and money involved would probably be better used on the Herculean task of minimizing the need for women to have to resort to prostitution to survive.

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      Great Laws

      Jul 25, 2015 at 12:21pm

      No law moreso than the laws concerning prostitution make it evidence that "citizen" is really just another word for "cattle." If you cannot privately receive, or give, money for sex, exactly what is going on re: your own bodily autonomy? And also note that laws against prostitution are never enforced against husbands who promise to buy things for their wives in exchange for sex. They are essentially a way to enforce the religious idea of monogamous prostitution.

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      Anonymous

      Jul 25, 2015 at 3:20pm

      People who engage in sex work willingly do exist, stop ignoring us. We deserve the right to be safe in our work as much as you deserve to be in yours. Many women, I included work for ourselves, I dont have a pimp or anyone I have to give a cut of my profits to. But I would gladly pay a cut of the money I make to be able to work In a place where condom use is strictly enforced, where there are guards to protect me in case a client becomes belligerent , where STI testing becomes an industry standard. Also with decriminalization I become a tax payer. None of what I mentioned before would promote human trafficking at all, but it would make it a hell of a lot safer for those of us who chose to do this work.

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      ?

      Jul 25, 2015 at 3:36pm

      I was trying to figure out who is more irrelevant - hollywood celebrities or amnesty international?

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