Letter to Amnesty International

To Amnesty International’s Secretary General, International Board and Secretariat:

From London Feminist Network

We are shocked to learn that Amnesty International is calling for the sex industry’s preferred model of decriminalizing prostitution “in order to protect human rights.” We believe that prostitution is a violation of the human rights, and in particular women’s human rights that AI claims to protect. The decriminalization of prostitution on such as basis will not eradicate but instead normalize the belief that women are objects to be bought and sold, as well as the violence, abuse, and health and safety risks women in the sex industry face day in, day out.

It is overwhelmingly women and girls who are forced into prostitution either directly due to kidnapping, trafficking and force, or indirectly through poverty, desperation and lack of alternative options.  There is no symmetry whatsoever in making claims that both men and women can be prostituted, both due to the scale of prostitution amongst women and girls, but also due to the generally lower status of women in their communities, the endemic exploitation and violence that women and girls are subject to and the substantially fewer opportunities that women and girls often have compared to men and boys. We believe that prostitution is an expression of systemic male sexual exploitation and sexual violence against women.

Claims that prostitution is a free choice made by both women and men ensure men’s collective and individual socio-economic power over women is rendered invisible.  The AI proposal will endorse the enduring idea that men are entitled to purchase women and girls for sexual use and that this is an acceptable way for women to survive rather than promoting and helping to ensure women’s and girls’ equal and full participation in education, in their communities, and the workplace, and addressing the needs for all women, and all people, to have an adequate income and genuine choices.

We suggest that AI advocates that prostituted women and other prostituted people should be protected and supported from abuse and violence from men who buy them for sexual use, or who otherwise abuse them, and encourage the wider public and the state to recognise that prostituted women are victims of abuse or lack of opportunities and to support them to exit the industry. Most women in prostitution would exit if they were to be given other socio-economic options.

We advocate that AI recognises that prostituted women are not a specific class of individuals who need protection to freely pursue their ‘trade’ or ‘sexual choices’, but are instead ordinary women experiencing the ongoing oppression and inequality that is common to all women as a group, and seek to address this.

We also support the demands that any global consultation process AI undertakes regarding the issue of prostitution must involve survivor organizations that are made up of and represent those in the sex trade who can speak to their experiences of violence, exploitation and trafficking – voices which the sex industry has sought to silence: http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/amnesty-international-we-demand-amnesty-international-listen-to-survivors-and-reject-the-proposal-to-decriminalize-all-aspects-of-prostitution?share_id=WSiPilWDlf&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition\

We also feel that the current AI proposal undermines the UN Palermo Protocol on Human Trafficking which prohibits coercing or trafficking of people (internally or otherwise), for the purposes of prostitution, and other forms of servitude, and which does not accept that consent can be freely given in these circumstances. The protocol also prohibits selling of human organs. We are frequently reminded of the continuing extent of international slavery and trafficking, the abuse of economic migrants and domestic servants, and the exploitation of desperate individuals who ‘choose’ to sell their organs, as well as the efforts being made to bring these abuses to light and to stop them occurring, and it is clear that this is not a global context in which prostitution can be presented as merely freely chosen employment.


AI states that your “vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards” and we expect that you meet the standards you have set for yourself and lobby in favour of the Nordic Model. The Nordic Model is designed to provide the rigorous support and comprehensive services prostituted women (and other prostituted individuals) are in need of and decriminalizes them in its legal framework. It is the only model that recognizes the vast power disparity between women who are prostituted and the buyers and third party profiteers. Its goal is to eradicate rather than spur the demand that drives trafficking of women and children for sexual use.

Denounce prostitution for what it is – systemic male sexual violence against women and girls. Stand up against the sex industry, not for it.


London Feminist Network

The link below is produced by the Women’s European Lobby who have produced a pamphlet debunking myths of prostitution: http://www.womenlobby.org/news/ewl-news/article/18-myths-on-prostitution-read-and?lang=en