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A Mistake and Misstep by Amnesty International!

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It is truly said that the Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions.
Amnesty International is one of the most respected and most effective human rights Non-Governmental Organizations (or NGOs) in the world. My wife and I have been members and donors for many decades. Still, even the most valuable and venerable agencies make major mistakes on occasion. And so it is, with deep regret, that the recently-proposed Amnesty International change in policy regarding workers in the so-called sex trade requires both urgent response -- and absolute rejection.

Here is the exact wording of the proposed Amnesty International Policy regarding sex trade workers: Amnesty International opposes the criminalization or punishment of activities relating to the buying or selling of consensual sex between adults. This policy is based on the human rights principle that consensual sexual conduct between adults--which excludes acts that involve coercion, deception, threats, or violence--is entitled to protection from state interference (bearing in mind that legitimate restrictions may be imposed on sex work, as noted below). This policy is also based on principles of harm reduction: on balance, the available evidence indicates that the criminalization of sex work is more likely than not to reinforce discrimination against those who engage in these activities, to increase the likelihood that they will be subjected to harassment and violence, including ill-treatment at the hands of police, and to lead to the denial of due process and the exclusion from public benefits such as health services, housing, education, and immigration status.

This policy recognizes that legitimate restrictions may be imposed on sex work if they comply with international human rights law. Such restrictions must be for a legitimate purpose, provided by law, necessary for and proportionate to the legitimate aim sought to be achieved, and not discriminatory. This policy does not change Amnesty International's longstanding position that trafficking into forced prostitution should be criminalized as a matter of international law.

Amnesty International considers children involved in commercial sex acts to be victims of sexual exploitation, entitled to support, reparations, and remedies, in line with international human rights law. States must take all appropriate measures to prevent violence and exploitation of children.

Amnesty International recognizes that sex work is a sensitive issue in many of the countries in which we work. In particular, individuals who engage in sex work often have limited choices. Guaranteeing human rights without discrimination is the most effective way to ensure the empowerment of people involved in sex work and the protection of all individuals from discrimination, violence, and coercion.

All well and good , if only the sex trade were well and good, but it is exactly the opposite -- the sex trade is evil and bad, and inherently exploitive of sex trade workers, also known as whores, hookers, and prostitutes. Amnesty International has a very rosy -- and very unrealistic -- view of what it terms consensual sex between adults, which cannot be truly consensual if one adult is paying the other one for sexual favors (note that this is true regardless of whether the partners are of the opposite sex or of the same sex.) Speaking an economist myself, this is determined by economics rather than by morality.

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When it comes to the Sex Trade, economics rules -- and has ruled for millennia, one reason why this is often called the Oldest Profession in the World. The women, girls, and even children whom Amnesty International hopes to protect by its proposed de-criminalization and non-punishment of Sex Traders are very rarely willing participants in any meaningful sense of the term. Rather, they are usually recruited as sex slaves by men who are professional exploiters of those women, girls, children, and sometimes men and boys also. That recruitment process, and its aftermath, includes slavery, kidnapping, violence, forced confinement, rape and sodomy, intentional drug and alcohol addiction, the likely contracting of sexually-transmitted diseases, resulting in a horrid life and premature death for many sex trade workers.

Admittedly, the present general criminalization and punishment of those involved in the sex trade is unfair and unworthy to the extent that the providers of sexual services, both women and men, are the ones who are being exploited by the managers and organizers of this despicable activity, who are the ones who should indeed bear the brunt of the punishment. Neither this article nor this author endorse blaming, or punishing, any of the victims of the sex trade. However, that stance in no way excuses the perpetrators from full punishment under various laws, statutes, and similar standards now in effect.

It is perfectly possible, and indeed necessary, to separate out the perpetrators from their victims, and to prosecute, convict, and punish those perpetrators to the fullest extent of all relevant laws. The proposed new Amnesty International policy lumps all sides of the sex trade together, equating the victims with the perpetrators. By doing so, were the Amnesty recommendation to be followed, there would be a giant step backward in the protection of sex trade workers of both genders. The victims and the perpetrators would all be excused from the criminal side of the sex trade, and from the incredible and incurable violations of human rights which are inherent and inevitable. Amnesty International needs to drop their present proposal, and re-think the entire issue. Sometimes, the best of intentions make for horrendous policies -- this is one of those times, and one of those issues of awful abuse.

From flickr.com/photos/7146814@N05/3650278825/: Amnesty International's proposal to remove criminal penalties from the sex trade.
Amnesty International's proposal to remove criminal penalties from the sex trade.
(image by Samantha Jade Royds)
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Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)
 

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