Today, Amnesty International voted to pursue a policy recommending the full decriminalization of sex work. The resolution, which aims to protect the human rights of sex workers, is the result of two years of research, and draws on extensive evidence from U.N. agencies, as well as consultations with sex-workers groups, anti-trafficking agencies, HIV/AIDS organizations, LGBTI activists, and women’s-rights representatives.
The proposal has made headlines recently, in part due to a Change.org petition calling on Amnesty to “Vote No to Decriminalizing of Pimps, Brothel Owners, and Buyers of Sex,” which was endorsed by Lena Dunham, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, and Gloria Steinem, among others. In a video released today, Amnesty International’s deputy Europe director, Gauri van Gulik, explains some myths surrounding sex work, as well as the ways the petition mischaracterized Amnesty’s new policy.
After receiving backlash for her position against the Amnesty proposal, Dunham clarified that she supports decriminalization for individuals selling sex, but not those who buy or profit off the sex work of others. Yet van Gulik explains why the full decriminalization of sex work — for both buyers and sellers — is necessary for the protection of sex-workers’ rights: “We believe that of course decriminalization of sex workers themselves is essential to protect them and grant them access to the rights they are entitled to. But we are also opposed to criminalization indirectly … By criminalizing the buyers, a lot of sex workers have told us in those kind of countries that they feel less safe, because they’re forced to go underground, they’re forced to meet people in their homes, for example. So, ultimately, it has the same impact of criminalization of sex workers themselves.” Watch the full video above, and read an explainer on the implications of the new policy here.