Doubt concerning Human Rights of Sex Workers

19 August 2015

By : Chamnan Janruang
First published in Bangkok Business on Wednesday, 19th August 2015.


As Amnesty International passed the resolution on implementing the policy to protect human rights of sex workers on 11st August 2015 at International Council Meeting in Dublin, Republic of Ireland, attended by the representatives from around the world as well as my group and I from Thailand, the resolution emphasized on decriminalization. Therefore, there were a number of people who agreed and disagreed, and some were skeptical about this policy. Thus, I would like to summarize the doubts that Amnesty International have received and processed to answer the questions as follows.


1) Why AMIN implements  the policy on human rights of sex workers?


Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world. In many countries, they (both men and women) are always faced with discrimination, violence and mistreatments. In many cases, they were abused and harassed by police officers and customers as well as the third parties. According to a 2010 survey in Papua New Guinea, 50% were raped by police officers and clients.


2) What is the difference between legalization and decriminalization? Why doesn’t Amnesty legalize prostitution


Decriminalization means that when sex workers no longer violate the criminal laws, they will not be forced to be outlaws and the determination of human rights protection can be improved.


Legalization means that the government can make a law and policy specifically for prostitution. As a result, there is a two-tier system which criminalizes those not complying with the law or policy (e.g. registration - author).


When those people are not criminalized, the risk of being treated harshly by police officers will decrease. Decriminalization returns the right to occupation to them without affiliation.


3. Will decriminalization encourage more human trafficking?


Amnesty International makes it clear in denouncing all forms of violent human trafficking. When those people are not criminalized, they can cooperate with the law enforcement process to identify who is a trafficker and who is the victim of human trafficking.


Organizations such as the Global Alliance against Trafficking Women, the Anti-Slavery International and the International Labor Organization agreed that decriminalization that will ensure the rights of sex workers and help to terminate human rights violation, including human trafficking.

4) How decriminalization of prostitution protects women’s rights?


Amnesty's policy is to provide protection of women's human rights which are often marginalized in society. Gender inequality and discrimination are the main causes of women entering prostitution.


5) What evidence does Amnesty used to support this policy?


Amnesty spent two years developing its policies based on rigorous research and discussions with various organizations, including the people. Amnesty works with the World Health Organization, United Nations, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and other UN organizations. It looks at the position of UN Women, Anti-Slavery International, the Global Alliance in Trafficking in Women.


Amnesty has conducted a research by interviewing more than 200 former sex workers, police officers, government officials and agencies in Argentina, Hong Kong, Norway and Papua New Guinea. In addition, there have also been discussions with groups representing survivors of prostitution, abolitionist organizations, feminists and other women's rights representatives, LGBTI activists, anti-trafficking agencies, HIV / AIDS activists and many other groups.


6) Why sex sellers need to protect the "pimps"?


Amnesty's policy does not aim at protecting the pimps. Third parties who exploit and abuse sex workers are also subject to criminal penalties.


7) Why doesn’t Amnesty support the Nordic model (criminalizing only service buyers)?


In fact, the model opposing the service purchase makes sex workers more vulnerable because they will be delivered to the buyer's address to avoid police officers, which increases the risk that sex workers will be abused rather than selling the service in their own place.


8) Why does Amnesty believe that prostitution is a form of human rights?


Amnesty's policy is not only about the protection of prostitution but also about  the protection of all sex workers whose human rights are violated which is linked to criminal prosecution.


9) As a human rights organization does the approval of this policy mean that Amnesty promotes the sale of sexual services?


No, it does not. According to the evidence, it can be seen that sex workers often come into this industry because it is the only way to survive; they have no other choices.


10) What happens after Amnesty approves this policy?


It will lead to the development of the best policy for the implementation of human rights protections for sex workers under Amnesty's covenant.


In summary, to put it simple, Amnesty International supports the decriminalization of having sexual intercourse with consent of adults, and prostitution must not be associated with coercion, exploitation or torture.