Amnesty International Wants to Decriminalize Sex Work, Here’s Why

Amnesty International has just released a proposal that contains a policy recommendation for decriminalizing sex work. The proposal is a result of four separate studies about sex workers around the globe which conclude that the criminalization of sex work creates more room for human rights violations against marginalized people. It also references, “a growing body of research from UN agencies, human rights organizations and social science which indicates that criminalization, in its varying forms, exposes sex workers to increased risk of human rights abuses.”

AI draws clear distinctions in their proposal between child sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and sex work. Defining sex workers as “adults, (18 years of age and above) who receive money or goods in exchange for sexual acts”. AI suggests that for those sex workers who engage in sex work voluntarily to improve their own economic situations, criminalization punishes sex workers through excessive fines, prosecution, and jailing rather than “empowering individuals and groups”. They stressed the importance of valuing the decisions of marginalized people, and in doing so, to not “compromise their safety and/or criminalize the contexts in which they live their lives”.

Despite the research that support their claims, however, several prominent celebrities have signed on to a letter written by the Coalition Against Trafficking Women International opposing AI’s proposal.  Anne Hathaway and Lena Dunham are just a few of the famed signees on the letter. Their signatures have been met with criticism from actual sex workers who say that Amnesty International’s proposal is in their best interest and conflict with these celebrities outspoken values of women’s empowerment. After all, is it more empowering for women who choose to engage in sex work to be thrown in jail, or to be allowed to work towards being financially independent on their own terms?

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