According to an internal leaked document from Amnesty International, the organization fights hard to defend people involved in prostitution. Namely, clients and pimps.
This document is not an harmless draft escaped from an intern’s drawer. This is an internal policy document to define the global strategy of the organization on the prostitution issue. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote an open letter to Amnesty, because such a policy in destroying YEARS of progress in the fight against sexual exploitation. Amnesty Sweden and Amnesty Australia have publicly dissociated themselves from their headquarters.
This document states that criminalizing a prostitute’s client is an attack against both privacy and individuals free choice. This document also states that the access to prostituted women is a fundamental human right.
Amnesty is a prestigious organization known for its fight for the rights of political prisoners, against forced marriages, against summary executions, etc. And it is now campaigning for men’s rights to access the bodies of those more vulnerable than themselves. This is both shocking and hard to understand. In a time where the debate around prostitution is raging, it is of extreme importance to analyze Amnesty’s text, and understand the significance of this stance- especially when it is defended by an organization which inspires people.
So how, when and why did Amnesty turned it’s back on the victims and began to fight for the pimps?
In 12 points, we will see that:
3. Amnesty the emotional and physical costs of prostitution and present it as an autonomous life choice;
4. Amnesty defends full decriminalization, while legalizing countries have turned to disasters;
And (conclusion), you may want to know why Amnesty is taking this stance? A sickening yet foreseeable reply.
1. Amnesty deliberately mixes up the conflicting interests of prostituted women and buyers
By establishing women and buyers as a single entity, Amnesty can pretend that a policy of criminalization will hurt both groups. Criminalizing victims poses significant health risks (difficult or impossible access to health care, including prevention or medication for HIV/AIDS and STDs). This is particularly true in developing countries. Criminalizing victims also exacerbates the stigma against them, society and police violence.
But by criminalizing the buyer only, the victim can still access health care and social support. This has already been tried, and with a positive outcome.
2. Amnesty minimizes the extent of human trafficking for sexual exploitation
Considering the figures below, this argument seems at the very least strange, at the most manipulative. One wonders why Amnesty would complain of “too much attention” on trafficked victims.
- As established by international organizations, at least 4/5 of women are trafficked for prostitution.
- States budgets to tackle human trafficking are largely insufficient On average $ 5 per year is spent per victim when the victim generates on average 22,000$ a year.
3 Background: prostitution in figures
Amnesty seems now deeply concerned about sex workers rights, and points out that “sex workers should not be persecuted.” That’s stating the obvious. Anyone caring for women’s rights and human rights in general does not defend the criminalization of the most vulnerable party, aka sex-workers or prostituted women.
But Amnesty also defends commercial sex, as no less legitimate than any other professional career – or a way to explore ones sexuality. One can surely think of a better way to explore its own sensuality than 10-30 men a day but my point is: sex work is hard work (as slavery is)- but it’s hardly a career choice.
Despite the difficulty of getting accurate statistics (since prostitution is often illegal and tainted with stigma) all the figures I found were overwhelming similar, and pretty revealing. I chose to summarize in this paragraph the findings of Dr. Melissa Farley (extensive credentials here). Dr Farley wrote of over 35 books on prostitution, and her career spans 40 years of research and activism with persons in prostitution; women, trans, and men . Dr. Farley studies are in line with other agencies (Europol, the European Parliament, the WHO, the International Labour Organization, national police statistics).
- 65% to 95% of prostituted women have been sexually assaulted or raped before they entered prostitution;
- nearly half of them were victims of incest;
- the average entry age into prostitution is THIRTEEN (13). A girl aged 12 or 13 years does not have the mental and emotional resources to deal with an older man who promises to love, safety and affection.
- Over a third of runaways minors turn to prostitution to survive (called survival prostitution). And a third of runaways minors will be recruited by a pimp within 48 hours;
- Nearly all prostituted women suffer from addiction (83% use heroin, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol)
- Prostituted women suffer from psychological disorders (54% suffer from very severe depression, 42% had at least committed one suicide attempt)
- 75% of women in prostitution are or have been homeless at some point in their lives; this is particularly true for native populations in the US for example;
- 70% to 95% of women in prostitution working in the street have been physically assaulted during the exercise of prostitution;
- Nearly half (41%) were attacked in brothels supposedly safe and secure;
- 60% to 75% of people were raped while in prostitution;
- 85% and 95% want to leave prostitution, but have no other means of survival;
- In a study conducted on 859 people in 9 countries, over 2/3 of women (68%) working in strip clubs, massage parlors and street suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comparable to war veterans, rape victims and survivors of state torture
- Finally, legalized prostitution increases tolerance for violence against women and children, and increases child prostitution. Googling “Brazil World Cup and child prostitution” will reveal horrific stories of thousands children exploited during sport events, or how the rape of 13 year old is dismissed by the judge when informed that the child was a “sex worker”, i.e “far from being ignorant, naive or misinformed about sexual matters.“
- According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, the murder rate of prostitutes is 12 times that of the general population. But the general risk of premature death for a prostitute (illness, overdose …) is 77 times higher.
4 Amnesty defends full decriminalization, while legalizing countries have turned to disaster
Women in prostitution seek decent and safe working conditions, free of social stigma, police harassment, attacks, shaming or other sanctions (official or not). Clients want to submit new, cheap, fresh and vulnerable women. This is why it is necessary to separate the two groups when speaking of criminalization. A step Amnesty does not take. There is an existing model of this political choice, the so-called “Nordic model”, which has existed for 15 years.
Germany (2002) and Holland (2000) legalized both pimping and prostitution. Denmark legalized only prostitution but not pimping. Sweden in 1999 took the opposite direction, choosing to only criminalize the purchase of sex. There is no charge against the woman because the act of selling sex is not a criminal activity. Women in prostitution can therefore form associations, in favor of the Swedish law or actively lobbying against it (so much for a dictatorship…). Women are not arrested, prosecuted or harassed by the police. And they can easily turn against a client if something goes wrong. Or too far: under the Nordic Model, violence against women decreased substantially.
The basic idea behind the Swedish law was that in an egalitarian society, there should not be tolerated that men buy women’s bodies. The woman in prostitution was considered having chosen this activity under social or economic pressure, faced with lack of opportunities or due to her personal history. The law also offered substantial financial and material support to exit prostitution.
Very quickly, visible prostitution has been halved while prostitution on the Internet has increased, but in the same proportions that in the neighboring countries. By offering a decent way out and leaving women out of the criminal equation, Sweden avoided the dreaded black market explosion.
In Sweden, where the criminalization of clients has applied since 1999-only one woman in prostitution was murdered, in a a case of domestic violence not related to prostitution. This case was dramatic, but still must be compared to the 127 women murdered in the Netherlands, where prostitution was legalized at the same period. (16 million inhabitants)
This law was passed on moral grounds, but proved to be a formidable weapon against human trafficking.
Today, Sweden is recognized as a “bad deal” by human traffickers. It is nearly impossible to set up a brothel. The country is home to approximately 9 million people, and it has 4 times less trafficked people then Denmark, which has about half it’s population (4 million). Sweden has also 62 times less trafficked people (official figures, always underestimated!) than Germany Germany (90 million inhabitants).
5. Amnesty defines prostitution as taking responsibility and empowerment, when living with 2,50$ a day
That’s a serious mindfuck.
Looking at the figures (paragraph 3) we established that women turn to prostitution as a means of survival, and that this “exchange” takes its root in social inequality. But to address this paragraph:
- One will wonder, how Amnesty will prove the absence of threat, violence or coercion?
- Is extreme poverty (the famous 2.50$ per day) a form of coercion?
- Are the psychological abuse, or threats of a pimp defined as violence?
- One also wonders, how and where Amnesty International questions or engages the buyers’ responsibility?
- What monitoring tools does Amnesty proposes to ensure that the prostituted person does this activity through free, autonomous and informed choice?
If the (non-exhaustive) points above cannot be addressed properly, one cannot argue for a prostitution “protected from state interference”. Amnesty quietly sweeps the question under the table:
Interestingly enough Amnesty defines incest, rape, abuse, drugs, economic and physical insecurity …as “imperfect context”, and chooses for comparison mining or domestic work, i.e two other sectors where slavery is very important.
6. Amnesty’s vision of the sex workers: when food and shelter becomes remuneration 1/2
Three major mindfucks:
First one, easy peasy. Amnesty defines “sex worker” as gender neutral. This wording helps to disguise the inherent racism, sexism and the exploitation of women and girls (almost 90% of people in prostitution are women and girls)
Second. Amnesty fought hard to describe a “sex worker” as a consenting adult making the autonomous choice of prostitution, someone who legitimately exchange sex against money… but also some other forms of compensation, such as food or shelter. That does not fit with the empowered adult description. To what deepness of disenfranchisement, destitution and despair must one be pushed to trade sex for food or shelter?
The third one is about pornography, and it deserves it’s own chapter (paragraphe 8).
When living in extreme poverty, “judging or negating choice” seems at least, irrelevant. And anyway, “judging choices” was not Amnesty job, last time I checked.
Prostitution, as a way of thoughtful, deliberate and conscious empowerment, especially when it concerns women and girls living with less than $ 2.50 per day, appears to be particularly misleading and inhumane from an organization acting for human rights. Engaging thoughtfully and deliberately with governments demanding responsibility seems to be a much better way to go.
7. Amnesty’s vision of the sex workers: how to deprive victims of their emotional and financial rights 2/2
The word “prostitute” was replaced by “sex worker” further to intense lobbying of the pro-sex industry, under the pretense to suppress the stigma that goes with prostitution. The real goal is to hide the reality of what is “sex work” under a piece of rhetoric. I prefer to stick to the term prostituted woman, or woman in prostitution, because of the overwhelming majority of them. Prostituted woman separates the adjective (and activity) of the person as such, prostitution being an aspect of her life and not a definition as a whole.
As “migrant sex worker” is used to cover a reality made of poverty, violence and trafficking, “sex work” is used so we envision an ordinary job, or a real professional industry. To make us, and policy makers, accept sexual exploitation as normal.
The media tells us stories of “sex workers 13 to 17 years” liberated from a prostitution ring. How and when the media began to call 13 years runaways, abused and raped children, detained in pedophile prostitution rings, a “sex worker”?
And don’t call them victims!
Calling someone a victim has became extremely disparaging. A flood of psychologists tell us that we must pull ourselves together and reject victimization at all costs.
Denigrating the status of victim is a creation of modern capitalism where everything should depend on ourselves and our attitude. We must now ignore the big picture made of gender and race inequality, as well as global poverty. We mustn’t victimize ourselves when unemployed or sick -without the means to get health insurance. Recover or die, but don’t you whine.
However, being a victim does not equate to being hopeless and weak. A victim of sexism, discrimination, racism, exploitation, or judicial violation, can see through the process and fight back. Calling prostitution “sex work” is nothing else than normalizing its extreme violence.
Not only has the system failed prostituted women in their childhood and in their early adult life, but by asking them to empower themselves, it turns the tables and holds them accountable for their situation. This is called empowerment.
Not one should be shamed for being recognized as a victim.
Finally, where there’s a victim, there is a perpetrator. It is important to be officially recognized as a victim of injustice or violence, to begin to heal. And very importantly, being recognized as a victim is the only way to claim financial compensation one is entitled to.
8. Amnesty defends porn as art, in the name of freedom of expression
After the usual bullshit condemning coercion, Amnesty International explains why it does not consider pornography as “sex work” and excludes it from this policy as “a form of expression”. Additionally, pornography is excluded of “sex work” because it’s paid (do they assume that prostitution is not?).
Porn is the industry of torture and greed, which is worth about 100 billion dollars. Porn glorifies abuse and degradation of women, most of them very very young. Hundreds of reports, testimonies and stories exist to denounce the interconnection between prostitution and the porn industry. The mainstream porn weights 100 billion would be impossible without a massive exploitation, violence and abuse of women.
Amnesty took the other stance. Videos of gang bangs from German brothels should be classified as some kind of artistic production, and freed from state scrutiny.
9. Amnesty defends pimping as support function
Amnesty did not forget to fight for the right of the Kind Organizers of prostitution.
Yes, you read that right. Criminalization laws may prejudice the “help functions” : drivers, guards, receptionists, in other words, owners and custodians. In other words, pimps.
10. Amnesty poses clearly prostitution as a New Human Right
If you are not too tired to shit bricks, let’s remove the euphemisms:
- Men buy sex from “autonomous and enlightened”people, who made a thoughtful and deliberate career choice. We will ignore that this choice was made at the age of 13, helped to do so by some helpful pedophiles or abusers.
- For men with with disabilities, or who refuse ordinary social interactions, or are woman haters (psycho-social disabilities), women in prostitution are people they can control and dominate. And possibly impose their refrained violence (express their sexuality fueled by porn).
- Criminalizing men who do not want to establish an egalitarian relationship with another human being, is a violation of privacy, an infringement on freedom of expression, and health.
Amnesty visibly does not care about the physical and mental health of women exploited in the prostitution and pornography industry. The important thing is to defend, the freedom of expression, and the needs of men to access their “meat market”. Prostituted women were born to ensure that men enjoy and maximize all pleasures that life can offer.
Another highly fishy argument here. Amnesty associates men suffering from a physical or mental disability, to proper sociopaths (those not willing to establish human interraction).
This is not the first time that this document is using a group to promote a revolting idea. One injustice (disability) cannot be compensated by another other (exploitation of a woman).
Besides, suggesting that all that a disabled man could possibly wants from a relationship with a woman is renting her body for 30 minutes of soulless”sex” is demeaning. Also, Amnesty manipulates us to think that the only way for women to get interested in disabled people can be only remuneration.
11. Amnesty quotes International Treaties and lie about their content
At some point, I got very curious about the numerous misplaced references to international reports and treaties, who usually do not mix up prostitution issues in Europe and in Bangladesh.
I guess you’ve never heard of CEDAW before and me neither. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, that Amnesty refers to in defense was signed in 1979 by the United Nations. It reads:
Amnesty cites Article 6, “language used in Article 6 suggests that not all prostitution is exploitative.” The language suggests nothing. On the contrary, Article 6 is intended to encompass all situations where women are prostituted.
Repeat after me: Amnesty. makes. up. content. and. relies. on. our. laziness. to. check. the sources.
12. Amnesty defends clients, because # notallmen are violent
Yes. Using the old trope that #notallmen are violent, Amnesty tells us that #notallclients are exploitative. Sorry, I meant, Amnesty says that the committee SEEMS TO INDICATE, whatever it might mean.
Well. Clients are violent. Good family dads raping before going home, ordinary clients hitting a prostitute to know how it feels, men feeling entitled to abuse because they have the money, name it.
Conclusion: who benefits from this policy?
This policy proposed by Amnesty is absurd when compared to the reality. Amnesty fights hard to speak on behalf of
women and children exploited in prostitution, sex workers, clients and pimps. There are other gems in the 11 pages of the document, but your time is precious ;). Still, I was not able to make it shorter and I thank you for your patience.
And I guess the skeptics among you (who made it to the conclusion) will ask : despite all these bricks we evacuated via rectal route, this document has been proposed by Amnesty as their official line on prostitution, right? You can’t mean the organization choose to defend pimps and clients?
Well… Let’s put 2+2 together.
When “sex trade” and “sex work” collude.
But then you will say, “Prostituted women, sorry, “sex workers” have well certainly consulted at one time or another while drafting this policy?”
Yes, you are absolutely right to ask and suppose so. The “sex workers” have indeed been consulted, and will benefit from such a policy. For the simple reason that Amnesty’s “sex work” does not distinguish a woman from the owner of the establishment where she works.
Thus, Douglas Fox defines himself as “sex worker” for owning a British escort agency. He proudly claims authorship of Amnesty internet document. He is also spokesman of an association of “sex workers“. Yes. A pimp talking on behalf of the women he is exploiting.
Women in prostitution are not protected by full legalization while criminalization of clients gives good results.
Many reviews of the Nordic System are available, analyzing its success and revealing its limitations. They are available here: Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia or on the official report from the Swedish government, or on the blog Abolish Now, which keeps it short and simple.
Women in prostitution should not be criminalized. Making them illegal contributes to their disenfranchisement and prevents them from seeking out healthcare. It makes them even more vulnerable, expels them from city centers, and leaves them disempowered when faced with theft and violence from customers.
Legalizing prostitution will not help women who were trafficked to First World countries. They will not acquire the right of residence, or access social benefits.
The criminalization of buyers allows women to seek care, support, and report if a client is (too) violent. 60% of women who enrolled in the Swedish social programs were able to leave prostitution, brothel owners can not settle and “conduct business”, and the stigma was shifted from the act of selling sex to the act of buying sex.
Where we can do better
In any case, the culture where womens bodies are a commodity must be addressed as a priority.
In countries where the Nordic Model is adopted, we must be careful that social laws are not used to harass women in prostitution. In particular, when it comes to the custody of children, or the right to housing.
The laws on immigration and trafficking should be harmonized to protect trafficked women. Nobody will testify if they risk to be deported being killed in Archangel, Romania or Albania.
The system should be harmonized at the global level. Sex traffickers have the most to gain in Western, rich countries. If the traffickers are relocating to neighboring countries, this would be an international failure, for which women are paying the price.
Finally, the prosecution should not be based on the testimony of the most vulnerable. The prosecution of pimps and traffickers must rely on the police and those who break down the criminal rings, those protected and secure in society. And possibly the clients who witnessed and participated in women’s exploitation.
Viols dans les porno : http://sisyphe.org/spip.php?article4145
Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/human-trafficking-persists-despite-legality-of-prostitution-in-germany-a-902533-2.html http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/07/opinion/morgan-amnesty-prostitution/