Promoting and Protecting Sex Workers' Human Rights

7th September 2015
Sex Work NewsOn 11 August 2015 Amnesty International’s decision-making forum, the International Council Meeting (ICM), adopted a resolution to develop a policy that supports the full decriminalisation of all aspects of adult consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.

Through this decision Amnesty has taken an important stance that has been commended by several sex work networks, including the African Sex Worker Alliance, which said:

“Sex workers face unique challenges brought about by legislations, stigma and violence and with this vote, we hope that the human rights movement, regionally and globally, will advocate for the rights of sex workers, recognize sex work as work and oppose all forms of discrimination against them.”

The decision has also been met with criticism from groups who see sex work as a form of sexual exploitation targeting poor women and that it should therefore be kept illegal. Most significantly the Coalition Against Trafficking Women (CATW), which has a number of high profile celebrity supporters, responded with an open letter and an online petition strongly against the policy.

The blog post “Prostitution is a Human Right” Said Nobody Ever by Cheryl Overs & Ntokozo Yingwana from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), outlines the controversy around the adoption of the resolution and then presents a clear case as to why supporting decriminalisation of sex work is a good thing globally.

This Eldis gender update provides a selection of free key readings on sex work which look at a variety of issues, including how law, policy, and enforcement practices determine sex workers vulnerability to HIV and result in rights abuses. They also discuss the regulation of commercial sex, the rights of sex workers, and strategies for reducing sex workers vulnerability to HIV, exploitation and violence. It also includes a newly published map outlining the sex work laws across the world.

Photo credit: PJ Starr
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