Media

Objection to Amnesty International's position on prostitution

2015

We, the members of SPACE International, object in the strongest possible terms to the position of Amnesty International (AI) on the issue of prostitution. Their recently released policy document*, which contends that the exploitation of prostitution is a matter of autonomy and choice, is deserving of nothing less than our public condemnation as a betrayal of women’s rights. Further, it is a policy position that can only be taken if one is willing to ignore the realities of how women and girls end up in prostitution in the first place. Prostitution is a trade that thrives on the distinct lack of autonomy and choice and for Amnesty International to refer to it as ‘freely chosen gainful work’ is to explicitly ignore that nothing about commercial sexual exploitation is freely chosen.
We object in every way to the message and tone of this document, beginning with its title which, by framing prostitution as ‘Sex Work’, obscures the very nature of prostitution itself. Prostitution is abusive and exploitative sexual violence against humans, most often women and girls, carried out by other humans, usually grown men, who are in positions of relative social, racial and financial privilege to the human beings whom they buy for sexual use and abuse.

For arguments sake, a small minority of the worlds prostituted population might be said to be choosing it; however the vast majority of those in prostitution are there as a function of lack of choice. Public policy is made to respond to what is happening to the vast majority, not a minute minority. Everywhere on earth those who endure prostitution are found, in staggering numbers, to be the economically disenfranchised, the educationally disadvantaged, the emotionally vulnerable, the sexually abused, the racially marginalised and the socially dispossessed. In the face of this globally recognised fact, Amnesty International has clearly taken a position that contradicts their own mission as a charity concerned with human rights.
AI’s position directly contravenes long established human rights conventions. It is at odds with several key UN instruments including the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Prostitution of Others, which holds that prostitution is ‘incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human being’. The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 6 articulates a similar position. The 2000 UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons similarly views prostitution as trafficking when it occurs under certain circumstances. This Protocol also discourages the demand for commercial sexual exploitation.

AI’s position supporting ‘the world’s oldest oppression’ ¹ places the long-standing human rights organization in alignment with some of the most brutal and violent forces known, organised criminal networks that carry out the hugely profitable business of selling human beings for sex, rather than with their victims, whose human rights are being ignored and denied. AI’s position in fact not only condones but compounds the injustice of prostitution by championing punters ‘right to buy sex’ in this bizarre and inverted document. We would advise the membership of Amnesty International to take a hard look at the pro-prostitution stance currently besmirching the reputation of Amnesty International and all those associated with it.
* ‘Decriminalisation of Sex Work: Policy Background Document’
¹ Norma Ramos, Addressing Domestic Human Trafficking, 6 U. St. Thomas 2008

  • "My body, mind, and spirit survived so many things for so many years. The sexual exploitation and violence I endured was almost like something that happened to someone else. If I had told myself the truth about what was being done to me, my psyche would have splintered into a million pieces."
    - Autumn Burris, Denver, USA
  • "Remembering friend’s I have lost along the way, and taking a glance at all the violence, rape and inhumane activities, I just can’t help but recognize my luck to alive today."
    - Mickey Meji, Cape Town, South Africa
  • "Just because dancing (stripping) is legal does not mean it’s not violence against women - Stripping and prostitution go hand in hand."
    - Vednita Carter, St Paul, USA
  • "When New Zealand passed full decriminalisation, things changed in unexpected ways and I came to understand that the myths of legal protection, autonomy, increased choice and greater community acceptance were unfounded.. The myth of health being better was proved false in less than 6 months of the law reform. Women were kissing and risking herpes, doing oral sex without condoms with the risk of throat warts, doing rougher and riskier practices just to get the jobs.. I dealt with punters changing expectations. I had no choice but to fight against this model ever spreading to another country."
    - Sabrinna Valisce, Melbourne, Australia
  • "Many people ask me, how did I get into prostitution, was I “trafficked” or was I a willing participant? What many don’t understand is - however we entered - what the act of prostitution does to us; how it slowly strips us of any semblance of ourselves, as we try to sell part of our bodies, while keeping our soul intact. Prostitution preys on the most vulnerable; it takes us places we never intended to go, all driven by those who feel entitled to pay for our bodies. "
    - Cherie Jimenez, Boston, USA
  • "When I look back now I see that prostitutuion lured and consumed those of us who were already marginalised in society. If you were poor, if you were disadvantaged, if you had come from a broken home or had vulnerabilities connected to prior cycles of abuse, especially sexual abuse, prostitution was there waiting for you. Prostitution is a trap, and it’s not a coincidence that all over the world it ensnares those who are already struggling to survive."
    - Rachel Moran, Dublin, Ireland
  • "For me, sexual abuse was a direct route into prostitution. The same kind of destructive abuse chosen by myself, because I knew this feeling and recognised myself in this situation, even though the situation traumatised me over and over again."
    - Tanja Rahm, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • "It might surprise you, but it can happen to anyone. No you’re not exempt. I wasn’t."
    - Marian Hatcher, Chicago, USA
  • "At the tender age of fifteen I was coerced into the brutal world of prostitution, I immediately lost my identity. I liken my day to day life to being on the front lines of a battlefield. I spent the next eleven years shut down and disassociated. I supressed feelings of shame and disgust constantly, by telling myself that this was a job like any other."
    - Fiona Broadfoot, Bradford, UK
  • "What I know today is that women are victimised by the system of prostitution by innumerable perpetrators, and at the same time victimised by a society which is not only allowing but encouraging prostitution by accepting it as a 'job like any other'. We are victims of a society blind in one eye, advancing the wealth of a privileged few over the suffering of an incalculable number of women and children."
    - Marie Merklinger, Stuttgart, Germany
  • "I was able to exit prostitution and rebuild my life, and with that my education became a tool. I was recognized for my tenacity and my strength and have been able now to be an asset to my community and to my people."
    - Bridget Perrier, Toronto, Canada
Read more testimonials
"It might surprise you, but it can happen to anyone. No you’re not exempt. I wasn’t."
- Marian Hatcher, Chicago, USA
Read more testimonials