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Amnesty endorses policy to decriminalise sex trade

Valery Hache, AFP | Prostitutes in the southern French city of Nice in 2013

Amnesty International approved a controversial policy Tuesday to endorse the de-criminalisation of the sex trade, rejecting complaints from some women's rights groups who say it amounts to advocating the legalisation of pimping and brothel owning.


At its decision-making forum in Dublin, the human rights watchdog approved the resolution to recommend "full decriminalisation of all aspects of consensual sex work." It argues its research suggests decriminalisation is the best way to defend sex workers' human rights.

"We recognise that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex and that is why we have addressed this issue from the perspective of international human rights standards," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. "We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world."

Amnesty's decision is important because it will use its heft to lobby governments around the world to accept its point of view.

Advance word of the Amnesty policy sparked opposition from some women's groups who argued that the human rights organization has made a serious mistake.

‘Slap in the face’

The groups, such as the US-based Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, have argued that while it agrees with Amnesty that those who are prostituted should not be criminalised, full de-criminalisation would make pimps "business people" who could sell the vulnerable with impunity.

"It really is a slap in the face to survivors and to women's rights groups around the world," said Taina Bien-Aime, the executive director of the coalition, adding that disappointment does not adequately describe her feelings.

Contacted by FRANCE 24, Amnesty France defended the organisation’s stance, arguing that all activity that pushed prostitution underground increased the vulnerability of sex workers.

“All the studies we have conducted in the last two years show that the more you target any player in the prostitution business, the more the prostitutes’ position becomes precarious,” said Amnesty France director Catherine Godard.

Godard insisted that the NGO was “obviously not” condoning the activities of organised criminals who exploit children or force women (and men) to work against their will, adding that Amnesty considered these activities to be “forced work, indeed slavery”.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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