Amnesty International Calls for the Decriminalization of Prostitution

Following a controversial vote held earlier this month, Amnesty International will now draft a new policy that will recommend the global decriminalization of prostitution. Under their recommendation, not only should sex workers be shielded from criminal prosecution, but also pimps and buyers, as well.

The vote came on the last day of a biennial meeting in Dublin, when the organization convenes to determine new policies. The vote-which was only noted to have been passed “comfortably” by a pool of 400 members-came after days of emphatic debates and lobbying.

The policy shift comes following two years of research conducted by the organization. In their findings, Amnesty determined that the illegality of prostitution is a key contributor to the dangers and risks that sex workers frequently face. “Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse,” Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty said in a statement after the vote.

A Mixed Response to the New Policy

Much of the intense debating that occurred before the vote had to do with the expansive nature of proposed policy. Many lobbyists and organizations believe that Amnesty’s new stance on prostitution protects pimps and buyers more than it does sex workers. “Amnesty chooses impunity for pimps and johns and not protection from sexual abuse for all women,” said Grégoire Théry, executive director of the Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution. Former President Jimmy Carter had also written a letter to Amnesty prior to the vote urging them to maintain criminal penalties for sex buyers.

According to Amnesty International, however, the uproar over the new policy is premature and that it will ultimately be up to national Amnesty International chapters to decide on their own, local recommendations. “There are no plans to have a major campaign with a focus on this,” said Sarah Beamish, an Amnesty board member who will help draft a final version of the new policy. “It’s really up to each section to take this issue up on the local level. There are no plans for a global focus.”

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