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Amnesty International's brand in prostitution trouble on twitter #QuestionsforAmnesty

In a rather shocking move. Amnesty International, protectors of human rights and engaged in the prevention of human trafficking, has changed their prostitution policy and are now calling for prostitution to be decriminalised to "protect human rights."

Human rights? So, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person and famously no one shall be held in slavery or servitude. Now we have a right to orgasm too, apparently. It didn't take long for that document to set the Amnesty name on fire on twitter, and in opinion pieces around the globe. Joy Smith at Huffpo, Swedes in general, organisations like Breaking Free and women's lib blogs like Smashesthep all spoke out against Amnesty.
Abolish prostitution now lists the many ways prostitution is a violation of human rights, and there's even a link & fact-filled Change.org petition "We Demand Amnesty International Listen to Survivors and Reject the Proposal to Decriminalize All Aspects of Prostitution ." The petition chips away at Amnesty showing that they either betray their core values - or simply don't see women as human, take your pick.

While claiming to uphold the rights of every person set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, AI is actually seeking to alter the laws and standards set forth within such international declarations in their push to legalize men’s right to purchase sex with impunity – a goal diametrically in opposition to protecting vulnerable persons from the gendered exploitation and violence endemic to prostitution.

The gendered nature of the phenomena of prostitution is categorically denied in this leaked proposal, stating women are not the only ones who engage in prostitution. Regardless of that fact, women do make up the vast majority of the prostituted class. To deny that this is a gendered issue (requiring an analysis of inequality along the axis of gender) is to deny that women’s rights are human rights.

Meanwhile on twitter, #QuestionsforAmnesty as a hashtag has become the battlefield where feminists, survivors, and sex-workers are asking Amnesty to change their stance and having a heated discussion the subject. This hashtag has brought up many of the issues of trafficking, youth being exploited, and forced servitude that lies in the wake of selling bodies. This, so soon after The UN adopted a landmark resolution on Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders.

Remember what you said in 2011 about the International Day for Women Human Rights Defenders, Amnesty? You said: 'Calling for Justice Does Not Make Us "Whores"' - a bad choice of words, in hindsight. The 'campaign' images spread on twitter (some NSFW), and the questions raised in the #QuestionsforAmnesty hashtag have chipped away at the worldwide brand Amnesty and those watching won't still be associating Amnesty with "Human rights", which is what their brand used to represent, but rather "Mens rights" instead.

Amnesty will have a human rights conference in Chicago, Illinois from April 4th-6th, and this topic will be discussed there. Whether they change their minds on decriminalising prostitution remains to be seen. Who will clean up this PR disaster?

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McDuff's picture

Yo, that bit where you say "sex workers" are supporting this vitriolic SWERF campaign? That would be, as they say in the industry, a "lie." Sex Workers are in there trying their damndest to support Amnesty. Sex Workers support decriminalisation, as a virtually global rule, from the New Zealanders who appreciate their country's laws to the largest Sex Worker run organisation in the world, India's DMSC. Anyone who read the hashtag and didn't have a horse in the race would have spotted that.

So, did you write this press release before the hashtag happened, or did you just decide to straight up lie to push your agenda?

Dabitch's picture

1) This isn't a "press release", check your tone.

2) your reading comprehension skills aren't that great, as there's 3 groups described as being active in the hashtag, doing two separate things. Read the line again.

3) if it's not obvious enough, the word "battlefield" is used to describe the hashtag. This word would not be used if everyone in the hashtag was in agreement.

4) the words "vitriolic SWERF campaign" says everything about you.

Regina Clark's picture

Thanks for covering this story and clearly laying out what AI has been supporting in its very ill-considered campaign on behalf of the sex industry. This story needs to be reported and the counterarguments heard, given that AI has chosen to listen only to pimps and punters. Thanks for listening to survivors and others who object to the sale of human beings.

Peter's picture

Amnesty recognizes that sex work is work and sex workers deserve labor protections like other workers. The opposition to the idea of prostitution as a form of work is rooted in ideology that purposefully conflates coercion and trafficking and the "selling and buying of women" with women who choose sex work because it is the best among their options to support themselves and their families. As is the case with these women in the Dominican Republic


Prostitutes sell a service, not themselves, and the less criminalized it is, the more power they will have to set and enforce the terms of the exchange. The Swedish model of crminalizing johns clearly originates in radical feminist ideology that views the entire male gender as complicit with violence against women if they exchange money for sex, because they view prostitution as inherently violent. The characterization of clients as violent and misogynistic is a key weapon in the anti-sex work arsenal, and as with many other of their weapons, it is based on distortions and misrepresentations. The irony of many feminists supporting criminalization, as with the Swedish model, which results in increased danger and violence for sex workers is not lost on sex workers.


Maggie's picture

Peter, that you don't seem to see anything wrong with the fact that women find only sex work is "the best among their options" to support them and their families, is both disturbing and revealing.

Did you know an Escort-agency owner / Pimp worked with Amnesty on their prostitution policy? Sex trade ‘was asked to join Amnesty and lobby internally’.
"Yesterday, he confirmed he wrote a report in 2008, telling his supporters that Amnesty’s internal “violence against women campaign group” was the key opposition to a legalisation policy, adding that he had “caused a rumpus” at their AGM stall.

He confirmed that in the 2008 report, he asked his supporters to join Amnesty and lobby this group from within.

“Getting Amnesty on side will be a huge boost to our morale... we need to pursue them mercilessly and get them on side,” he said."

What is your vested interest in this topic, Peter?