Prostitution and sex trafficking, which are often indistinguishable, perpetuate a severe form of violence against women and girls. While prostitution is sometimes characterized as a “choice,” few women would freely choose to sell their bodies if they have other options for economic survival. Therefore, it is inexplicable that Amnesty International, one of the leading human rights organizations in the world, will be submitting a draft policy supporting full decriminalization of the sex industry at its International Council Meeting from August 7 – 11.
In Global Rights for Women’s work to end violence against women and girls around the world, we get the question, “Aren’t you trying to impose ‘western values’ on people who have different cultures and traditions?” There are several answers to this question, but they all come down to the fact that women’s rights are human rights. The right to be free from violence is not limited to certain countries or cultures.
One answer is that we only work in places where we’re invited, usually by a local women’s rights NGO. Often these local organizations are seriously under-resourced and working against tremendous obstacles. When they see a conflict between culture and women’s rights their priority is to keep women safe in their communities.