Amnesty International recently made a declaration to support the full decriminalization of prostitution. This should concern everyone who believes in human dignity and the rights of women.

Amnesty International’s support for the “decriminalization of all aspects of sex work” comes with the intention to “advocate for the human rights of sex workers.” [1] While they have claimed that this movement is in the best interest of prostitutes, decriminalizing prostitution is not only a bad solution to the “sex work” industry, it would lead to more violence, abuse, and ill-health for the vulnerable women who fall into this dangerous industry.

It is important to understand why Amnesty International is supporting this radical proposition in the first place. Often, law enforcement punishes women who engage in prostitution, instead of the pimps and those who pay for sex. However, decriminalizing prostitution will make it even more difficult to enable women to break away from the deadly cycle of reliance upon and abuse by the men who use them.

 Human trafficking is already an international epidemic; annually, there are almost 21 million victims worldwide.[2] We already know that developed countries with legalized prostitution, like Germany and Australia, have seen an increase in human trafficking, as the demand for prostitutes and sex slaves—including children—has increased.[3] Common sense and social science tell us that decriminalizing prostitution would only exacerbate this problem.

Much of the dialogue in this debate is about empowering women, a specious, even absurd claim. Some feminist voices claim that women have a “right to prostitution[4].” The author of one article even claims that a woman’s right to prostitution should be the legal equivalent to her right to work in a factory.[5] While working in a factory has the potential to be harmful, the act of providing sex for payment is inherently harmful, as well as intrinsically dehumanizing. The truth is that “safe” prostitution is impossible. The very act of indiscriminate sex based on financial transaction is the blatant and dangerous commodification of women. According to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, “80% of women in street prostitution had been threatened with a weapon at least once,” and “more than 50% of the women reported experiencing violence from sexual buyers.” [6] Any other industry whose workers had a 50% chance of being abused at any given time would be considered a disaster, not a necessary evil that just has to be accepted.

While Amnesty International claims that its goal is to make the nearly $100 billion sex trade industry[7] “safer” for women, decriminalizing it is certainly not the solution. Amnesty International’s proposal is inherently defeatist. Decriminalizing prostitution would be the systemic acknowledgement that many women have no recourse for supporting themselves but to sell their own bodies; this is a toxic pessimism that no civilized society should accept. The only safe sex industry is one that punishes pimps and sex buyers, and provides resources for its victims to recover. Amnesty International’s proposition to decriminalize sex work is boldly anti-woman. The pro-woman approach is to protect them from an industry that seeks to use and abuse them.  Women deserve better than prostitution.

 

Natasha Tax is currently attending Temple University and was a former Family Research Council intern.



[1]  Murphy, Catherine. "Amnesty International." Sex Workers' Rights Are Human Rights. Amnesty International, 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.

[2] "New ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour: 20.9 Million Victims." New ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour: 20.9 Million Victims. International Labor Organization, 1 June 2012. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

[3]O'Brian, Cheryl. "An Analysis on Global Sex Trafficking." Indiana Journal of Political Science. Purdue University, 2009. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

[4] Fisanick, Christina. "Women Have the Right to Be Prostitutes." Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven Press, 2008. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

[5] Bell, Kelly. "A Feminist Article on How Sex Work Can Benefit Women." Student Pulse. Pulse, 2009. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

[6]  Thompson, Lisa. "Prostitution "The Zone" of Raw Male Physical and Sexual Violence." National Center on Sexual Exploitation. National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

[7] "Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labor--International Labor Organization, 2014." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, 20 June 2014. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.