Amnesty's Push to Legalize Prostitution Faces Strong Opposition From Anti-Sex Trafficking Group

Jessica, 16, who was arrested by the police during a raid at a sex club, sits on her bed at a shelter for girls who have faced sexual violence or sexual commercial exploitation in Fortaleza, November 1, 2013. |

An organization dedicated to stopping sexual exploitation has denounced Amnesty International's recent decision to support the decriminalization of prostitution.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has called Amnesty's recently approved resolution "irresponsible" and contrary to the global organization's fundamental human rights goals.

Dawn Hawkins, executive director of NCOSE, said a in statement that Amnesty "has failed to remain true to its mission of 'preventing and ending grave abuses.'"

"The types of abuse and brutality that comprise daily life in the sex trade are nothing short of torture," stated Hawkins on Tuesday.

"By voting in favor of a policy to decriminalize prostitution, Amnesty International has abandoned the victims of abuse and exploitation to the whims of pimps and sex exploiters."

Earlier this week Amnesty delegates representing about 60 countries voted at the organization's biennial meeting to support the decriminalization of the sex trade.

Held in Dublin, the vote was preceded by emotional debate from both sides of the argument, according to The New York Times.

"The proposal about prostitution provoked an aggressive lobbying campaign by international groups opposed to sparing buyers and pimps from penalties," reported Doreen Carvajal of the Times.

"Competing petitions were organized by women's groups and celebrities — including former President Jimmy Carter, who issued a letter on Monday — appealing to the group to maintain penalties for buyers and to 'stay true to its mission.'"

A letter sent to Amnesty leaders last month, signed by about 400 individuals, including celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, argued that supporting the decriminalization of sex work would not help sex workers.

"Growing evidence shows the catastrophic effects of decriminalization of the sex trade," read the letter, which was also signed by women who had escaped the sex trade.

"The German government, for example, which deregulated the industry of prostitution in 2002, has found that the sex industry was not made safer for women after the enactment of its law. Instead, the explosive growth of legal brothels in Germany has triggered an increase in sex trafficking."

Regarding the recent vote, Amnesty's Secretary General Salil Shetty released a statement arguing that the decriminalization support was based on advancing the rights of sex workers.

"Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world, who in most instances, face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse," stated Shetty.

"Our global movement paved the way for adopting a policy for the protection of the human rights of sex workers which will help shape Amnesty International's future work on this important issue."

On their Q&A page about their decriminalization support, Amnesty stated that they are still opposed to women being forced into the sex trade and hope that nations strictly regulate the practice.

"We do not believe that anyone should enter sex work against their will and should never be forced or coerced into being a sex worker," stated Amnesty.

"Our policy is not about protecting 'pimps.' Third parties that exploit or abuse sex workers will still be criminalized under the model we are proposing."

With the vote taken in Dublin, the next step will be for Amnesty's board to finalize a policy, which will be discussed at their next meeting, slated for October.

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