Amnesty International UK meeting in Edinburgh – Call for action now!

Abolish Prostitution Now gives special recognition here to radical feminists Kat Pinder for her astute feminist political strategizing and Ruth Greenberg for her determined quiet courage in carrying out the campaign they both developed to respond to Amnesty International UK’s proposal and policy for decriminalizing both the sellers, pimps, and the  purchasers of women to use for sex. Despite efforts to block their effective feminist organizing, Kat and Ruth have persisted and kept their focus on Amnesty which is headed toward a global campaigns to insure women are prostituted into perpetuity.  With Rad Fem UK, Ruth Greenberg honored the missing and murdered prostituted women on International  Women’s Day with a demonstration followed by a candlelight vigil at the Amnesty Offices in London. Then, when no one else was available to go to the Amnesty UK AGM in Scotland a week ago, Ruth, undaunted, went alone. Here is her report where you will see that when she was faced with the sex industry driven motions, Ruth put forward our motions in opposition and spoke on the Nordic Model. Despite the proprostitution atmosphere, Ruth made it a point of talking to a number of Amnesty members found some surprises, but the most surprising for all of us is the vote. Thank you Ruth and Kat for living your feminism.

 

Ruth Greenberg reports:

To protest their policy and proposal for decriminalizing pimps and customers, I went alone to the Amnesty UK AGM in Edinburgh, Scotland on April 12th and 13th as an Amnesty member and an abolitionist to address and protest their motion on “sex work” in which they propose decriminalizing pimps, punters and those bought in prostitution.  In response to considerable feminist protests over the last several months, they added two other motions, one they misleadingly referred to as the “Swedish Model” which would decriminalise those who sell “sex” and criminalise those who buy “sex” aka punters or johns. It left out key elements of this model which includes criminalising pimps and providing support and practical help to those women who wish to leave the sex industry. Before going to the AGM in Scotland, Kat Pinder, an AI member and abolitionist, and I wrote an amendment to make this option truly the Swedish Model.

While Amnesty has ignored the testimony of prostitution survivors in Abolish Prostitution Now, among  the organisations who were officially consulted on the decriminalization proposal was the pimp led International Union of Sex Workers, which in spite of its grand sounding name, has 10 members.

At the AGM, Amnesty staff ran a workshop, attended by nearly 40 Amnesty members, on why members should vote for total decriminalisation of those prostituted, pimps and punters, and why members should not vote for any other alternatives, including the Swedish model. Staff presenting in the workshop, claimed that brothel keeping laws criminalised those who support “sex workers” such as maids and drivers. It was claimed that third party offences, pimps, brothel keepers, etc,  need to be repealed as they were antiquated laws focusing on morality and not coercion, and that other existing laws could be used to tackle coercion.  These AI members argued that there was no evidence that criminalising buyers works and that it places the burden on “sex workers” to protect their clients by for example “working” in more secluded spaces.

Sex Workers Open University, English Collective of Prostitutes and the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe were there. They argued that “sex workers” experienced violence because of criminalisation, and with their many examples implied that the police were the main source of violence they experienced. What was absent from their accounts was the men who believe they have the right to buy a woman to use for their sexual pleasure and who believe they have a right to hurt, beat or torture her because they have paid her.

I was the only person in the workshop who challenged this narrative and the fact that Amnesty had consulted with pimp led organization. This was a heavy proprostitution environment fostered both by Amnesty and the prostitution organizations.

I found that I had to really stuff my reactions to the overwhelming environment that supports “sex work” in a proprostitution atmosphere.

Sunday before the vote, one AI member spoke in support of the Swedish Model and some who argued that full decriminalisation was not the right model for all countries. The “sex worker” organisations alleged wrongly that “sex worker” organisations have very few financial resources, while abolitionists have lots. They also argued against looking to Germany and the Netherlands as examples as what they had was legalisation, and they wanted full decriminalisation.

A few Amnesty members clearly and articulately spoke against decriminalisation of pimps and punters, and talked about prostitution as violence against women. I spoke 3 times as I had the opportunity to propose the amendment again to the Swedish Model, which was rejected but this time there was some support from members, and I spoke against the decriminalisation proposal. As part of this, I got the opportunity to read out a statement written by Kat Pinder and another by Kathleen Barry.

Members voted clearly to reject a motion that proposed “sex workers” should be decriminalised, and that those who buy sex, should be criminalized and voted to decriminalise those being prostituted, pimps and punters. Unfortunately it was clearly carried.

Then a motion was presented that Amnesty should have no policy position in relation to the issue of “sex work” and that motion was narrowly carried.

In fact the members voted for two contradictory motions which follows from the violations of Amnesty’s democratic process throughout the consultation period and in the AGM.  But it is also a sign of the obvious confusion amongst members in relation to this issue. During the debate a number of members in fact had spoken favour of the no policy motion, saying that they were confused and felt there should be more research.

So what happens now? A meeting will be held with senior personnel all Amnesty sections, where the final policy will be decided.

If Amnesty adopts this policy, they will be actively lobbying the state governments globally to decriminalise pimps and punters. This would result in a human rights organisation actively lobbying against the human rights of women.

By the end of the meeting, I had spoken to a number of Amnesty members and found that many  were horrified that decriminalization could become the official position of Amnesty. One of them made the point that only 1% of Amnesty UK members had voted. That motivated me to set up this facebook page so that other Amnesty members can make their views known.

https://www.facebook.com/amnestynotodecriminalisation

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There are currently two open petitions on Change.org demanding that Amnesty International listen to survivors and adopt the Nordic Model.

Abolish Prostitution Now encourages everybody to support them:

http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/amnesty-international-demand-that-the-nordic-model-be-implemented-for-the-protection-of-prostituted-and-trafficked-human-beings

http://www.change.org/petitions/amnesty-international-listen-to-survivors-reject-the-proposal-to-decriminalize-all-aspects-of-prostitution

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Many groups, one goal

Questions have been raised in the social media on the internet regarding some activists in Abolish Prostitution Now. It seems to be fairly well known that since this movement, Abolish Prostitution Now, was launched we require that no one participate in trashing or attacking other women or sabotage their work. We realize that especially because of the pain inherent in confronting the prostitution issue, and particularly its effect on survivors, we had to find different ways of dealing with fall-outs that inevitably happen in movements without descending into attacks on other women.
While there have been past disagreements and alleged charges stemming back to earlier radical feminist conferences, it is the position of Abolish Prostitution Now that when there are irreconcilable disagreements, the radical feminist movement is best served by women going their different ways, organizing their own events, actions, protests separate from those with whom they have disagreement. We recognize that it is particularly healthy for radical feminism to grow our movement when we open new spaces for women who cannot and will not work together. In fact, creating new movements or organizations expands the choices women have who are finding their way into radi
cal feminism.
That being said, we in Abolish Prostitution Now support the women we are working with including those against whom charges have been alleged. In our commitment to global feminism, we remain open to any radical feminists who want to work with us. And from our perspective there cannot be too many radical feminist movements, conferences or events. We recognize and accept the different feminist groups working on the same issue show strength to our opposition. Abolish Prostitution Now works directly on the issues of sexual exploitation without hostility to any other groups. Within our movement, we are pleased to be working together in an environment of trust and support. It should go without saying that because we are radical feminists who are committed to finding positive ways to resolve differences, accusations and problems, groups who are dissatisfied with our work do not experience attacks from us.
Abolish Prostitution Now Core Group
March, 2014

March 8th Protest of Amnesty International

Please join us.

Amnesty International UK are proposing to adopt a policy position which advocates for the decriminalisation of punters and pimps across the world. Further to this, a pimp who held a leadership role in the organisation is claiming that he was the instigator and driver of the policy. Amnesty is currently consulting with members and other groups about the proposed policy. If you would like to take part in the consultation by opposing Amnesty’s support of pimps and punters rights, please come along and show your opposition on March 8th.

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day and Million Women Rise in the UK. We are organising this protest to take place after the Million Women Rise march (and immediately before the after party) at the London Amnesty head office, which is only a 20 minute walk from the MWR after party, so women can protest and then head to the after party afterwards.

Hosted by Abolish Prostitution Now and Radfem UK

Endorsed by: SPACE International, Survivors for Solutions, Edmonton Small Press Association, Julie Bindel, Spinifex PressOrganizing for Women’s Liberation, Feminist Current, The Sisterhood Is Global Institute, Robin Morgan, Melissa Farley and Prostitution Research and Education, Manchester Feminist Network, Ruhama, Geneviève Gilbert-Quach from the  Pink Cross Foundation Australia
(please add your endorsement by messaging us the name of you or your group)

JOIN THE FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE BY CLICKING HERE

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Template Organisational Letter

A friend wrote this template letter you can send to organisations seeking support against Amnesty’s proposal to have a policy supporting the decriminalisation of prostitution.

<subject line: challenging Amnesty’s pro-prostitution position>

Dear <name of contact at abolitionist organisation you’re writing to>,

I’m writing to bring to your attention that Amnesty International, the global non-profit organisation that purports to work on ending human rights violations, has formulated a position paper calling for the full decriminalisation of prostitution, including those who buy prostituted persons and profiteer from prostitution.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2544983/JULIE-BINDEL-An-abject-inversion-principles.html#ixzz2rLxOvUwq

As I write this, multiple online petitions and protest events as well as offline efforts challenging Amnesty’s position and activities are already ongoing – and we can add to the impact here in <name of your country>.

Amnesty International’s position paper can be seen athttp://www.scribd.com/doc/202126121/Amnesty-Prostitution-Policy-document. Even a cursory reading of this document reveals misrepresentation and obfuscation of facts and reality, such as creating the false impression that men and women buy and sell sex in equal numbers, that most prostituted women choose to be in prostitution, that prostitution is largely non-exploitative, amongst other myths propagated by the pro-prostitution lobby. There is a clear prioritisation of the “rights” of pimps and punters to buy and sell women over the human rights of prostituted women.

Consistent with this position, Amnesty International is currently opposing the efforts of survivors in Belfast, Northern Ireland to have the Nordic Model implemented there. The organisation is lobbying the Northern Ireland assembly to defeat proposed measures to criminalise those who buy prostituted persons and provide viable exit alternatives to women in prostitution. http://stoppornculture.org/2014/01/29/lets-bust-amnesty-internationals-plan-to-legalize-human-rights-violations/

Survivor collective SPACE International has issued a powerful statement denouncing Amnesty International’s position that clearly cites how Amnesty is going against a number of human rights instruments in adopting or considering this position.http://spaceinternational.ie/public-statements/

In their responses (https://www.facebook.com/AmnestyUK/posts/10202430600741617?reply_comment_id=6801292&total_comments=7), Amnesty International have hinted at “consultations with their international sections”. This, I believe, is a chance for us to exert pressure on the organisation in <name of your country>.

Would <name of organisation> consider a rapid response on this issue in <name of your country? <Add your reason for writing to them. For example: When I learned of Amnesty’s policy document and actions in Belfast, I thought of writing to their office in India immediately. On reflection, I realised that the voice of a well-respected grassroots abolitionist organisation such as yours would carry far more weight than my voice alone.> Would your organisation be interested to write to Amnesty International <name of your country> and demand answers and accountability to women and children?

The Executive Director of Amnesty International <name of your country> is <name of head of Amnesty International’s country office>, who can be reached at <email address of head of Amnesty International’s country office>.

It is hard to predict how far-reaching the impact of such an action would be, but it will certainly let Amnesty know that organisations and individuals the world over are watching, and will not stand for them selling prostituted women and children out in this manner.

Sincerely,
<your name> 
<your position/ volunteer work, if directly relevant to campaign>

<If your position/ volunteer work is not directly relevant to the campaign, add a post-script with a line or two about you. For example: P.S.: I’m an independent professional in the area of communications with some experience in the non-profit sector, strongly committed to the abolitionist cause.>

Public Statement to Amnesty International

SPACE

INTERNATIONAL

(Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment)

 

We, the members of SPACE International, object in the strongest possible terms to the position of Amnesty International (AI) on the issue of prostitution. Their recently released policy document*, which contends that the exploitation of prostitution is a matter of autonomy and choice, is deserving of nothing less than our public condemnation as a betrayal of women’s rights. Further, it is a policy position that can only be taken if one is willing to ignore the realities of how women and girls end up in prostitution in the first place.

Prostitution is a trade that thrives on the distinct lack of autonomy and choice and for Amnesty International to refer to it as ‘freely chosen gainful work’ is to explicitly ignore that nothing about commercial sexual exploitation is freely chosen. We object in every way to the message and tone of this document, beginning with its title which, by framing prostitution as ‘Sex Work’, obscures the very nature of prostitution itself. Prostitution is abusive and exploitative sexual violence against humans, most often women and girls, carried out by other humans, usually grown men, who are in positions of relative social, racial and financial privilege to the human beings whom they buy for sexual use and abuse.

 

For arguments sake, a small minority of the worlds prostituted population might be said to be choosing it; however the vast majority of those in prostitution are there as a function of lack of choice. Public policy is made to respond to what is happening to the vast majority, not a minute minority. Everywhere on earth those who endure prostitution are found, in staggering numbers, to be the economically disenfranchised, the educationally disadvantaged, the emotionally vulnerable, the sexually abused, the racially marginalised and the socially dispossessed. In the face of this globally recognised fact, Amnesty International has clearly taken a position that contradicts their own mission as a charity concerned with human rights.

 

AI’s position directly contravenes long established human rights conventions. It is at odds with several key UN instruments including the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Prostitution of Others, which holds that prostitution is ‘incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human being’. The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 6 articulates a similar position. The 2000 UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons similarly views prostitution as trafficking when it occurs under certain circumstances. This Protocol also discourages the demand for commercial sexual exploitation.

    

AI’s position supporting ‘the world’s oldest oppression’ ¹ places the long-standing human rights organization in alignment with some of the most brutal and violent forces known, organised criminal networks that carry out the hugely profitable business of selling human beings for sex, rather than with their victims, whose human rights are being ignored and denied. AI’s position in fact not only condones but compounds the injustice of prostitution by championing punters ‘right to buy sex’ in this bizarre and inverted document. We would advise the membership of Amnesty International to take a hard look at the pro-prostitution stance currently besmirching the reputation of Amnesty International and all those associated with it.

 

 

* ‘Decriminalisation of Sex Work: Policy Background Document’
¹ Norma Ramos, Addressing Domestic Human Trafficking, 6 U. St. Thomas 2008

Letter to Lithuania

Your Excellency, Ms Grauziniere,

 Abolish Prostitution Now! is a global campaign which aims to eliminate the harms of prostitution by eliminating the practice itself. The work of this campaign is deeply informed by survivors who have lived to recover from the harms and violations that being bought by men for prostitution has inflicted on them. We seek to change state and global policy to reflect that prostitution is a violation of human rights and like all human rights violations, consent does not lessen the violation.

There have been reports that Lithuania is considering a change in its current laws on prostitution. While we fully support the decriminalization of women in prostitution, we are deeply concerned about any moves that legalize pimping, or brothels or that do not criminalize sex-buyers as a reflection of the violence done to women in prostitution.

From the press, we have learned that you hope to raise money for prevention and for the healthcare for women in prostitution in this way. This is absurd – for a number of reasons:

1. While prostitution has indeed advanced to the status of “big business” in countries like Germany and is generating turnover and tax revenues both at the local and at the national level, it’s costs tremendously exceed any possible inland revenue. This is definitely true of the effects on the women in this “business”, and on the relationship between women and men, where the damage cannot be calculated in figures or in money. It is also true of the costs in violence, sickness, STDs, HIV and the trauma-related illnesses the women in prostitution are exposed to.

2. A large number of international studies show that most prostituted women enter the industry at the average age of 14 years old, not by choice, but as victims of trafficking and between 80 to 90% do so as a result of childhood abuse or trauma. Abuse that they never found adequate help or treatment for. Resubjecting these women to trauma and to the violence that is inherent in prostitution is disregarding their humanity. Even the very small number of women who go into prostitution “voluntarily” are confronted with violence and sexual violence so that they cannot leave this industry without damage done to their souls and bodies. This alone should be reason enough to oppose such measures, but the effects of prostitution will exceed any state profits that are feasible. And would you like for Lithuania to be seen like Germany – a state turned pimp?

3. A legalization of prostitution will lead to a massive increase in prostitution, both in the legal and illegal industry. Germany and the Netherlands have seen this, as has the state of Victoria in Australia, where illegal brothels have tripled since the introduction of a legalised system (Sullivan 2007). This also means a massive increase in crime, in trafficking, in abuse and violence, and in STDs. And in prostitution, STDs are violence done to women: The pressure on women in prostitution in Germany is so strong that very many feel compelled to undergo sexual acts without any protection. Prostitution by its very nature cannot be made “safe”. It cannot be made “profitable” enough for a state to offset its costs in money – even if that were considered an ethical approach. It cannot be turned or changed or modified or regulated into anything but an abusive practice, hurtful to the women (and men) in prostitution and to every woman in a society that deems prostitution acceptable.

We ask you to listen to survivors and to hold men who prostitute women accountable. We also ask you to look at the situation in Germany and by comparison in Sweden. Do not expose Lithuanian women to prostitution by turning it into a state-accepted method of generating acceptable revenue.

 

Yours sincerely,

Amber Aprilchild (USA)

Kathleen Barry, Ph.D. Sociologist and Professor Emerita of Penn State University

Autumn Burris, Survivors for Solutions (USA)

Kat Pinder (UK/Australia)

Inge Reed (Germany)

Agnete Strøm, Women’s Front of Norway (Norway)