Indeed, the Council did the right thing and, as of Tuesday, Amnesty International is committed to protecting the rights of sex workers:
The resolution recommends that Amnesty International develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of 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.
“We recognize that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex and that is why we have addressed this issue from the perspective of international human rights standards. We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world,” said Salil Shetty [Secretary General of AI].
The research and consultation carried out in the development of this policy in the past two years concluded that this was the best way to defend sex workers’ human rights and lessen the risk of abuse and violations they face.
Last time, the news was widely commented on Facebook and there were those opposed to the complete decriminalization of prostitution. The arguments are motley and I will address them, but I will not engage the ad hominem fallacies and the ‘arguments’ of those that make a living out of the highly profitable anti-prostitution activism.
1. The greater good argument
This kind of argument often says legalization would encourage human trafficking networks. Some people have not realized yet that prostitution is not sexual slavery. What they failed to explain is how come there are still human trafficking networks when prostitution is banned in much of the world. And contrary to the anti-prostitution claims, the much vaunted Swedish model failed miserably (and, first of all, it shouldn’t exist, for whatever two consenting adults do in their privacy and without damaging third parties is not any of the State’s businesses).
It’s funny because —just like with drugs— legalization would greatly reduce the usefulness of pimps, since sex workers could now turn to the State for protection. The high statistics of abuse and defenselessness in prostitution are the result of criminalization, so arguing abuse and powerlessness to oppose legalization is circular reasoning.
And, of course, this wouldn’t be the first time someone argues that a population group should be stripped of their individual liberties in the name of the greater good. Following that logic, we will end up forbidding it all, since all human activities imply risks.
Or the “socio-economic constraint”, or protecting people from themselves because we know better what’s best for them.
Others (or the same) argued that buying sex equals buying the person, which is nonsense without rhyme or reason… unless those calling themselves feminists want to reduce women to their sexual dimension, which would be objectifying them.
In its less extreme version, the argument goes on to claim that no one in their right mind would sell sexual services if their circumstances hadn’t compelled them to in order to survive. That’s not true: in any job there are people who enjoy it and people who don’t — and prostitution is no exception. In addition, virtually all of us who work do so for a living; in this respect, prostitution is no exception either.
I’m sure the guy who flips burgers at McDonald’s doesn’t have his dream job, should we then criminalize his present job? At this point, opponents of legalization say that, unlike the guy at McDonald’s, sex workers didn’t know or couldn’t choose other options which, once again, is objetifying them, denying them agency over their own lives. We all had different options in life and chose different paths; some of us had to sell our time and brains, others had to sell their muscles and so many others sell their sex. What’s with this fetish about treating differently and criminalizing the latter?
Following this line of thought, what these concerned and politically correct people want to do is to protect people from themselves and manage the level of risk in the lives of others… something they fail to do with other jobs such as boxing, mining or fishing, which also have very high risk levels.
3. Unrelated problems
Other discussions focused on issues that have nothing to do directly with sex work; for instance, in Spain prostitution was decriminalized under a form of provision of services (without social security or any health plan whatsoever) rather than under the standard working contract. Clearly, this issue affects anyone who has a contract to provide services, and sex workers in Spain suffer under such a model, but the problem still remains even if prostitution were to be banned again.
Actually, thinking it through, none of the alleged problems of legalizing prostitution disappears with the prohibition approach. And the opposite is also true: many of the problems of criminalizing sex work disappear with legalization.
I think that’s enough to settle the matter… at least among those of us who care about the welfare of all people instead of trying to impose our morality on others.