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Amnesty International backs decriminalising sex work

Advocating the safety and rights of sex workers have been made a priority by the organisation

Amnesty International voted yesterday to decriminalize sex work in order to safeguard those working in the field and their rights. “Rights, not rescue” is the new motto of the nonprofit organisation who believe that criminalising the practice drives it further underground and leads workers into unsafe situations.

In a statement, Amnesty condemned the “arbitrary arrest and detention” of sex workers and the heightened violence, trafficking and extortion they face. It was also revealed that their decision came after studying the issue with the UN, the World Health Organisation, sex worker rights advocates, trafficking survivors and many other activists and organisations.

Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty said, “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."

The debate surrounding Amnesty's call for deciminalising sex work has been fierce. A petition gathered support from a number of celebrities, Lena Dunham included.

Amnesty has tried to listen to the sex-worker-rights community. Artist and activist,Molly Crabapple – who counts close friends as sex workers, and writer and former sex worker Paris Lees showed strong support for decriminalisation. In tweets, Crabapple discussed the prevalence of police violence against sex workers and marginalised groups in the US. She also wrote an open letter to Dunham telling her why she couldn’t join her new project, the newsletter Lenny, while she was still a supporter of the petition condemning Amnesty’s decriminalistion. 

This is undoubtedly a strong move from Amnesty. Sex work isn’t going away and therefore it’s important to protect those working in the industry. The option for more choice and security for those in the industry is – hopefully – a positive one.