A leaked document recently revealed that Amnesty International are proposing to take a stance on prostitution in favour of decriminalising both the buying and selling of sex. Whilst we are in favour of the decriminalisation of women who sell sex, we are concerned that the decriminalisation of men who buy sex will normalise the sex industry and the harms experienced by prostituted women. You can read more about the issue here.
Below is a template letter that you can send to Amnesty International to urge them to reconsider the proposal. You might like to consider adding something about your own experience – a personal letter is always more effective. We would be grateful if you could also drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if you have sent a letter – this way we can keep in touch, and track the effectiveness of our communications.
You can either post your letter or email it via the Amnesty International website.
Postal address: Amnesty International’s Secretary General, International Board and Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X 0DW
Email form: https://www.amnesty.org/en/contact
To Amnesty International Secretary General, International Board and Secretariat:
I am writing with regard to Amnesty International’s recent proposal to adopt a policy that promotes the decriminalisation of prostitution.
I am concerned that, rather than promote human rights, this proposal would severely undermine the human rights of those exploited in prostitution.
The proposed policy ignores the gender asymmetry in prostitution. It is overwhelmingly women who sell sex and men who buy sex. Prostitution is based on the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies. This supports a wider culture where women’s worth is reduced to a sexual function and men’s power to commit harmful sexual acts is encouraged.
I support the call for those who sell sex to be decriminalised. Criminalisation exacerbates the vulnerabilities women face and places blame on those who are being exploited and abused in prostitution.
I object however, to the proposal that men should be free to buy sex. This stance ignores the unequal power dynamics at play between men who buy sex and prostituted women; and normalises the abuse that is inherent in prostitution.
I am particularly concerned that the policy document suggests that ‘sexual activity is a fundamental human need’ and that criminalising those who buy sex may therefore violate their human rights. If Amnesty believes it is a right for men to buy sex, this suggests that women’s role is to please men sexually, whatever the cost, rather than to live life free from abuse and objectification.
Involvement in prostitution is set within contexts of poverty, previous experiences of sexual abuse, and racial inequalities. It is the most vulnerable who are exploited through prostitution. Prostitution is harmful, leading to high levels of post-traumatic stress, dissociation and substance misuse. Women involved in prostitution experience high levels of violence including rape and physical assault.
Total decriminalisation, rather than protecting human rights, leads to a growth in sex industries, makes it easier for traffickers to operate, perpetuates a view that women are sex objects, and ultimately means that women in the sex trade worldwide will continue to be exploited and abused rather than supported to access alternatives to prostitution.
To protect the human rights of prostituted women, efforts must be put into reducing demand by criminalising those who buy sex, supporting women to leave prostitution, and to addressing the wider context of gender inequality that reduces women to commodities to be bought for sex rather than human beings with thoughts, feelings, emotions and aspirations.
I urge you therefore to reconsider this proposal.