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.
Global Rights for Women has joined with a wide range of human rights organizations and other groups and individuals in strongly opposing this policy that “sides with buyers of sex, pimps and other exploiters rather than with the exploited.” In a 1998 study by the FBI 88 percent of prostituted women expressed a desire to leave the industry and a majority of prostituted women believed that prostitution was their only option for survival. Statistics on prostitution repeatedly identify undocumented immigrants, runaway and homeless youth, refugees fleeing conflict, and extremely impoverished individuals as the most vulnerable demographics for induction into prostitution.
According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, “poverty, lack of employment opportunities, sex discrimination and inequality, restrictive immigration laws and policies, war and conflict” can render people vulnerable to being trafficked. Instead of diminishing trafficking, legalizing prostitution in places like Germany and the Netherlands has led to its increase. A 2012 study found that countries with legalized prostitution report more human trafficking from other, usually lower-income, countries. According to a German police official, around 80 percent of sex workers in Germany come from southeast Europe. He said that “90 percent of these women have not freely chosen prostitution; they are subjected to various forms of pressure.” By contrast, criminalizing prostitution in Sweden has resulted in a shrinking prostitution market and a decrease in trafficking from other countries.
Because Global Rights for Women stands for women’s human rights to equality and freedom from violence, we have signed on to this letter to Amnesty International. We urge others to express their objection to this wrong-headed policy proposal by doing the same. You can communicate your intent to sign on to the letter by contacting Taina Bien Aime at firstname.lastname@example.org.