Abolishing the sexual exploitation industry:

President Carter speaks out on commercial sexual exploitation

“President Carter invites you to follow and support the Carter Center and Rotary International’s World Summit: End Sexual Exploitation 2025. The summit will focus on ending sexual exploitation by encouraging every nation to adopt the Swedish model of prosecuting those who buy or profit from the purchase of sexual services, rather than targeting prostitutes or those who have been forced into the industry. The summit will also focus on pushing the U.N. to pass their Convention Against Sexual Exploitation, and providing adequate resources for those who leave the sex industry.”

The summit was held in May 2015.

The World Summit: End Sexual Exploitation 2025, was held May 11-12, 2015, at The Carter Center, Atlanta, Ga. Each of the working groups at that meeting developed a list of recommendations  which are published here.

 

 

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CASE Convention Against Sexual Exploitation (draft)

Are Women People?

Meanwhile, the proposed and updated Convention Against Sexual Exploitation represents women collectively and individually, requiring protections, sanctions, and support programs for victims. And it is the least we should expect.

Conventions are international treaties. The proposed Convention Against Sexual Exploitation would not be the first United Nations convention to explicitly address women’s rights. The Convention on the Political Rights of Women was adopted as early as 1952 and was preceded by the convention on prostitution (1949). These were followed by several conventions and offical U.N. declarations to protect women’s rights in marriage (1957) and to protect women in children in armed conflict (declaration of 1974).

[…]

And as women know very very well, adding women to codified rights is not the same as actually protecting and promoting those rights for women. That is why, wiht this long and elaborate history of women’s rights codified but largely ignored by the United Nations, many of us held high hopes for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopted in 1979 and ratified by nation states beginning in 1980.

But as often happens when legislation turns to women, something is lost. The loss is first evident in the absence of moral outrage against violation of women. One of the effects of the long-term sexual colonisation of women’s bodies, of the advocacy of this colonization by sexual liberals, and of its institutionalization by sex industries, is that many women can barely grasp our right to moral outrage against sexual dehumunization. When the United Nations turns to women, emphasis on humans rights is narrowed and its commitments seem to fizzle.  […]

The losses women suffered in CEDAW, adopted in the midst of a global women’s movement which raised sexual violence and exploitation to issues of primary importance, are that in relation to sexual exploitation it did not cover or include violence against women it simply reaffirmed the 1949 Convention on prostitution, a law that would have been useful had it been promulgated in 1890 but by the 1980s no longer addressed global sex industrialization and the normalization of prostitution.

Kathleen Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality. The Global Exploitation of Women. pp. 316 and 309-311

CASE – Convention Against Sexual Exploitation (1994)

CASE – Convention Against Sexual Exploitation (October 2016)

Statement by prostitution survivors and those who have been harmed in the sex trade

This is a statement and response developed for the attention of Amnesty International leadership and grass roots membership, by a group of prostitution survivors and people who are or have been harmed in the sex trade. We are involved in a growing global movement of people who have become politicised, expert and knowledgable about the way the sex trade operates, starting from our own experiences.

Although we have all experienced harm in the sex trade and therefore have an abolitionist perspective of the trade, we also have extensive knowledge from all perspectives, having researched throughly the impacts of different legal systems around the world from an objective point of view. Some of us are active Amnesty International members and we are concerned about the organisation and it’s reputation as a human rights defender, especially since the organisation has done good work historically against sexual exploitation and the expansion of harm.

We understand that Amnesty are looking to push through a sex trade decriminalisation policy and that in August the Amnesty International Council (one of the international decision making forums of the organisation) are planning to put a resolution, which if passed, will give power to the international board (another section of Amnesty International) to develop a policy for full decriminalisation (including of sex trade buyers and/or pimps) or a policy that implies this sort of decriminalisation, within 7 principles.

We understand that some of these principles are well intended, however we are deeply concerned that the organisation is going to pass something that will have unintended consequences of expanding the size and impact of the sex trade and therefore expanding the harm caused to many people (mainly women and children) who get caught up in it. We are also concerned about the messages this will send to men and how it will influence the choices they make towards and power relations to women.

It is no secret that we (the survivor movement) do not support the decriminalisation of buyers and pimps, we instead support a legal model that enables women to be able to hold both buyers and pimps accountable for harm that they cause as a direct result of prostituting and pimping. No other laws legislate for the protection of a person who wants to report, for example, a buyer who through his actions of making a choice to buy sex has caused trauma, even though 67 percent of women who have been prostituted develop PTSD (Farley, Prostitution Research). With stats like this, why would we not put provisions in place to enable the buyer to be accountable? Without buyers, this harm would not exist, neither would trafficking, and we advocate for a system where women in the sex trade are decriminalised and can report their buyers and where the buyers are held to account. Given that buyers are causing this extensive harm, we consider it a human rights violation to enable them to have rights to legally pay to use another person for sex and for those harmed as a consequence to not be able to report these men.

We recognise that there is no consensus within the Amnesty movement around whether or not buyers or pimps should be criminalised and we therefore encourage Amnesty International to develop our/their policy based on human rights principles where the rights of survivors do not get violated and in which the movement has a broad consensus. Although we ideally want to see human rights orgs advocating for the Nordic model, the survivor movement would welcome a compromise where a set of policy is developed on a set of principles that does not enable the decriminalisation of buyers and pimps, but this could be that a position is not taken on the legalities of these men, and instead a unity is build on decriminalising those who are in prostitution and protecting the rights of the most vulnerable from a human rights perspective. We also would like to see neutral and inclusive language to be used, that does not alienate people in prostitution who do not identify as ‘sex workers’. This was passed in an Australian resolution at the 2015 NAGM.

 

Please see below our comments about the current principles and suggestions for strengthening them in line with a true human rights approach.

 

Policy calling for the decriminalization of sex work The International Council REQUESTS the International Board to adopt a policy calling for the decriminalization of sex work, taking into account –

 

  1. The harm reduction principle.

Response:

Many harm reduction principles are old school thinking that harm and oppression is inevitable and can be made ‘nicer’. For example, through providing condoms for trafficking and prostitution victims, rather than stopping their abuse. We believe this needs to be a stronger position for an approach to work towards the true reduction and ultimately in the long term near elimination of harm, by raising the consciousness of men around the risks of harm each time a man pays for sex.

 

  1. That states can impose legitimate restrictions on sex work, provided that such restrictions comply with international human rights law, in particular in that they must be for a legitimate purpose, provided by law, necessary for and proportionate to the legitimate aim sought to be achieved, and not discriminatory.

Response:

There is no ‘human rights law’ that awards sex buyers rights. Pimps and buyers do not need to have rights to pay for sex. It should, however, be a human right to be able to hold men to account and to be able to report men who purchase or pimp women for sex, if they cause harm (including PTSD). It is also a human right for all girls and women to be in a society free from sexual exploitation and that is not possible for any women and girls whilst the sex trade is so big and getting bigger through increased societal legitimisation and laws that enable the industry to expand.

 

  1. Amnesty International’s longstanding position that trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation should be criminalized as a matter of international law.

Response:

Trafficking is just one of many means of males with power getting women and girls into the sex trade, there are many more ways and ultimately we know that the majority of adult women in the sex trade, who are there by any means, not just trafficking, develop PTSD as a result of being prostituted. This could be strengthened by including something that protects all women, including, but not limited to those trafficked, from harm.

 

  1. That any child involved in a commercial sex act is a victim of sexual exploitation, entitled to support, reparations, and remedies, in line with international human rights law, and that states must take all appropriate measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

Response:

Prostitution does not become less harmful on someone’s 18th birthday. All women/people in the sex trade need rights to be able to report men who prostitute them,whatever age they are. This could be strengthened, within the boundaries of retaining broad consensus, by a principle that enables a policy recognising that often children in prostitution become adults in prostitution at age 18 and at any age may need protections.

 

  1. The growing evidence that many individuals who engage in sex work do so due to socio-economic marginalization and limited choices, and that therefore Amnesty International should urge states to take appropriate measures to realize the social, economic and cultural rights of all people so that no person enters sex work against their will, and those who decide to undertake sex work should be able to leave if and when they choose.

Response:

This is victim blaming. Saying that the sex trade exists because of women making choices and because women are poor and marginalised relieves perpetrators of responsibility. The reality is that all people who are prostituted are bought by a john (buyer), and nearly always these perpetrators are male. It is because of the choices of these men and the demand they create that women/people are in prostitution. Of course, most of the time women are in desperate situations, and this fact makes the actions of perpetrators all the more exploitative. It means that men should be held to account and informed that they risk inflicting PTSD on the people they buy for sex. In addition, women should be able to report their johns anytime they want, it is not good enough to say that if a woman develops PTSD she should just leave the industry and it’s her responsibility, by then it’s too late, the damage is done. Men must be held to account, and the people being bought for sex must be decriminalised. This is the Nordic model solution. Any law that is passed impacts on all people in prostitution, including trafficked people and those who are suffering PTSD. What we know from evidence is that the industry grows where we have decriminalised or legalised buyers and pimps. These approaches will always expand the abuse, there is no way to avoid that.

 

  1. The obligation of states to protect every individual in their jurisdiction from discriminatory policies, laws and practices, given that the status and experience of being discriminated against are themselves often key factors in what leads people into sex work.

Response:

Discrimination and oppression, particularly against women, contributes to the restrictions on the decisions that they make, but again the sex trade would not exist without buyers and they are responsible for the prostituting of women.

 

  1. The evidence from Amnesty International’s research on the actual, lived, human impact of various criminal law and regulatory approaches to the human rights of sex workers.

Response:

there is lots of research on the sex trade, Amnesty’s being one. We do not believe that there is sufficient time prior to Augusts meeting for the Amnesty community to have time to scrutinise the research methodology and outcomes and compare it with other research. Therefore, we recommend that any policy decision is postponed until a time where it is possible to undertake such research. Also to note, it is very disappointing that AI has not used inclusive language here to acknowledge people in the sex trade and survivors and the impact of legal systems on the most harmed and vulnerable.

 

What Now?

In Australia, the Amnesty Members Against Sex Trade Pimps and Buyers group, which includes sex trade survivors, will be organising a global conference in Melbourne on first weekend of December to reclaim Amnesty International as a real human rights organisation, to express our dissent towards the infiltration of our organisation by pimps and sex trade apologists. We will develop our own policy platform on prostitution, which we will communicate to Amnesty members across the world. Please get involved by joining our Facebook page. We also encourage you to write publicly about this issue and to email your branch presidents. We welcome all voting delegates at Augusts meeting to get in touch with us.

 

Amnesty International against pimps and buyers.

10 myths about prostitution, trafficking and the Nordic model

By Meagan Tyler

When the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia (CATWA) announced the release of our new report on the Nordic Model, supporters of the sex industry began targeting our Facebook page.

When I followed up with an opinion piece for The Conversation on the success of the Nordic Model, a handful of men, and one prominent Australian feminist , spent hours trading inaccuracies about the Nordic approach to prostitution policy and disparaging anyone stupid enough to think that a booming industry which trades in women’s bodies is anything but inevitable.

These falsities and fabrications will be familiar to anyone who has written or said anything that publicly criticizes the sex industry. The same claims, usually without reference to relevant evidence, are repeated so frequently in certain spheres that they have practically become mantras. If you say it often enough, it becomes true, right?

In the interests of being able to offer more than 140 character responses to these predictable criticisms, here’s a list of responses to the most common myths I’ve had thrown at me.

 

1. I’m a sex worker, I choose sex work and I love it

This is one of the most popular retorts de jour and is treated by many who use it as a sort of checkmate argument, as though any one person stating that they enjoy sex work makes all of the other evidence about violence, post-traumatic stress disorder and trafficking in prostitution, magically disappear.

Maud Olivier, the Socialist MP who recently introduced the Bill to prohibit the purchase of sexual services in France, slammed the “hypocrisy” of such criticisms: “So is it enough for one prostitute to say she is free for the enslavement of others to be respectable and acceptable?” she asked her fellow parliamentarians.

But the “I love sex work” refrain is put forward as a powerful argument because it is seen to counter a supposedly all-encompassing claim by radical feminists and others that systems of prostitution are harmful to women.

This relies on misunderstandings of radical politics, the concept of structural oppression and tired old debates about false consciousness. Just because you like something doesn’t mean that it can’t be harmful (just as liking something doesn’t automatically make it feminist). Radical feminists criticize beauty practices as harmful too, and saying you choose to wear high-heels doesn’t make that critique wrong. Nor does it mean these feminists hate you for wearing high heels (I’ve heard that one wheeled out in many an undergraduate tutorial) or being in prostitution.

Similarly, when anyone practicing radical politics points out that free choice is a fairytale, and that all our actions are constrained within certain material conditions, this does not equate to saying we’re all infantilized, little drones unable to make decisions for ourselves. It just means we’re not all floating around in a cultural vacuum making decisions completely unaffected by structural issues like systemic economic inequality, racism and sexism.

2. Only sex workers are qualified to comment on prostitution

This myth is often used in tandem with the first. And here’s the best/worst example I’ve had sent my way.

While such exchanges may be part of a wider problem of attempting to spuriously employ personal experience to trump research and disprove wider social trends (sexism doesn’t exist because I’ve never seen it!), there is more to these interactions in the context of prostitution. Repeating that only current sex workers are qualified to talk about the sex industry is an attempt to silence survivor’s voices and pretend that the consequences of prostitution apply only to those in prostitution.

It is true that much feminist opposition to prostitution has focused on the harms to women in prostitution, and rightly so, these harms are serious and endemic. But, as advocates of the Nordic Model point out, the existence of systems of prostitution is also a barrier to gender equality.

As long as women (and yes there are men in prostitution, but please, let’s be honest and admit that using “people” here would only obfuscate the fact that the vast majority of those in prostitution are women) can be bought and sold like commodities for sex is an issue for all women. The Swedes recognized this when they introduced the original ban on buying sex in 1999, and the French women’s rights minister is busy explaining it again at the moment.

3. All sex workers oppose the Nordic Model

Firstly, it is important to point out that for every sex worker rights organization that opposes the Nordic Model, there’s a survivor organization that advocates for it.

The idea that every woman with any experience in the sex industry detests the Nordic Model is tactical claim by a number of sex worker rights’ organizations around the world and it relies heavily on myth number two. This claim is, more often than not, followed by a link to Petra Ostergren’s blog which proves (we’re told) that all women in prostitution hate the Nordic Model and would prefer legalization.

It is clear that there are a number of very vocal opponents of the Nordic Model within the sex industry who have a significant platform. But it can hardly be said that these organizations represent all women in prostitution around the world, or that the odd blog post (light on references or other evidence) proves that the Nordic Model is a failure.

4. The Nordic Model denies sex workers’ agency

One of the things that critics seem to find so difficult to comprehend about the Nordic Model is that it is actually about restricting buyers, not about restricting those in prostitution. That is why it decriminalizes prostituted persons. The Model doesn’t discount the possibility of prostitution by “choice” but rather establishes that the buying of women in systems of prostitution is something that the state should actively discourage.

It’s pretty simple really. The Nordic Model acknowledges that less demand for prostitution and less demand for trafficking = less prostitution and less trafficking ∴ reducing the number of women exposed to these particular types of abuse and creating a better chance of achieving gender equality.

If you think that the state should encourage the growth of the prostitution industry and treat it as a form of gainful employment for women, then you’re bound to disagree, but that doesn’t mean the Model denies anybody’s agency.

5. The Nordic Model conflates prostitution and trafficking.

Many proponents of the Nordic Model adopt the understanding of trafficking advanced by the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children [http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/ProtocolTraffickingInPersons.aspx] (see Article 3a). This is a more nuanced understanding of trafficking than the “people moved across international borders at gun point” version that is popular in much of the mainstream press. Perhaps this is where the confusion sets in.

But even in employing this more realistic, UN-supported understanding of the mechanics of coercion and trafficking, the Nordic Model does not assume that every woman in prostitution is necessarily trafficked.

What the Nordic Model does do is recognize that there is a connection between the market for prostitution and sex trafficking, specifically that the demand for sexual services fuels sex trafficking. So, if you want less sex trafficking, then you need to shrink the market for prostitution.

This logic was further supported by a recent study of 150 countries, conducted by economists in the UK and Germany, showing that “the scale effect of legalized prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market, increasing human trafficking.”

6. The Nordic Model doesn’t work / pushes prostitution “underground”.

The contention that the Nordic Model has not reduced demand for prostitution is one often repeated without evidence, but occasionally it is claimed that the Swedish government’s own review of their legislation showed the failure of the Model. As legal scholar Max Waltman has demonstrated, it did no such thing. Research commissioned by the Swedish government for its official review showed that street prostitution had halved.

“Ha!” The critics say, “That study employed a flawed methodology and prostitution has just gone underground.” Perhaps, but that overlooks other sources, including research indicating the number of people in Swedenbuying sex has fallen and that police report having intercepted communications from traffickers declaring that Sweden is a “bad market.”

It’s also worth considering what “underground” is supposed to mean in this context, as in legalized and decriminalized systems, like some in Australia, “underground” is taken to mean street prostitution. So if prostitution has moved off the streets, where has it gone? Online and indoors, is the assertion of critics, which is quite odd given that advocates of legalization frequently tout the benefits of indoor prostitution.

7. The Nordic Model deprives women of a living.

This myth is the most intriguing because it is actually an admission that the Nordic Model works, directly contradicting myth six. The Model can only deprive women of a living if it does, in fact, reduce the demand for prostitution. What’s more, comprehensive exit programs are a critical part of the Model, involving access to a wide variety of services including retraining and employment support.

Hashtags like #nothingaboutuswithoutus (used by a number of groups, not just sex industry organizations) regularly appear alongside this claim as though the only satisfactory option available is for everyone to accept a flourishing prostitution market because some people want it that way.

Not just any people though, of course – workers – if you buy the “sex work is work” line. Leaving aside the problems with the concept that prostitution is a job like any other, if we accept this premise, then the argument doesn’t follow, as workers in any given industry don’t get to determine whether or not that industry continues.

Take the brown coal or forestry industries in Australia, for example. These are sectors that have been deemed by governments to be harmful in a number of ways and that, as a result – while they are still potentially profitable – they no longer have a social license to continue operating uninhibited. Workers in these industries are often outraged at seeing their jobs threatened, which is why unions advocate for “just transitions,” providing retraining and facilitated access to social and employment services for those workers affected (sound familiar?). For the most part, these unions have given up arguing that the harmful industry in question should continue simply to avoid employment disruption for workers.

If sex work is work, and prostitution is just another industry, then it is open for wider public discussion and policy changes like other industry, including the possibility that governments will no longer want it to function.

8. The Nordic Model has made prostitution unsafe.

First things first, prostitution is unsafe. To suggest that the Nordic Model is what makes it dangerous is disingenuous. Such declarations also ignore research showing that traditional forms of legalization and decriminalization do virtually nothing to protect women in prostitution from very high odds of physical and sexual violence as well as psychological trauma.

Systems of legalization foster greater demand and create an expanding illegal industry surrounding them, so it is a fallacy to pretend that in localities where prostitution is legalized, all women are actually in legal forms of prostitution. In addition, rates of trauma are similar across legalized, decriminalized and criminalized systems of prostitution.

Sadly, even the Nordic Model is not capable of fully protecting women still in prostitution from many of these conditions – as long as there is prostitution there will be harm – but the idea that it makes conditions worse is spurious.

The “more violence” claims mostly relate to a widely cited ProSentret study which found that women in prostitution had reported an increase in certain forms of violent acts from johns, including hair pulling and biting, after the introduction of the Nordic Model in Norway. What is often left out from these accounts, however, is that the study also found women reported a sharp decline in other forms of violence, including punching and rape.

As for women in prostitution not being able to access adequate social services, this may well be a problem on the ground. If so, it absolutely needs to be addressed. But this is an issue of implementation rather than a flaw in the Model itself.

The original version of the Nordic Model, introduced in Sweden, was part of the Kvinnofrid reforms to funnel more government money and support to a variety of services tackling violence against women, including specifically in prostitution. We’ve seen this again in France, with laws decriminalizing those in prostitution brought in alongside measures to curb other forms of violence against women.

9. The Nordic Model is really a moral crusade in disguise.

Despite the evidence-based policy of the Nordic Model being introduced by progressive and socialist governments, the notion persists that this is some kind of underhanded religious or conservative attempt to curtail sexual expression, rather than an effective way of tackling trafficking and violence against women.

But perhaps this all depends on how you define “moral crusade.” If you view the movement for women’s equality as a “moral crusade”, then I suppose it is. It you are determined to dismiss all of the evidence in support of the Nordic Model and instead want to debate this on a “moral” level, then by all means do. Those who think violence against women is a bad thing are bound to win that argument.

10. Academics who research prostitution make money off the backs of women in prostitution.

This is a relatively new addition to the list of silencing techniques used against those feminists who challenge the sex industry. The first time I came across such an accusation was via the comment section here and then in the follow up emails helpfully advising me that I was just like men who rape women in prostitution because I was using the experiences of sex workers without paying.

So let me be very clear: academics conduct research. For many, like me, this often involves collating existing research and, using that evidence, creating an argument that can be defended. That is our job. And it is our job, regardless of the topic or area that we’re researching.

Engaging in public debates about the Nordic Model, and citing relevant research, is in no way an attempt to speak for women in prostitution. It is an attempt to bring the findings of that research to a broader audience. If this is perceived as threatening by the sex industry, then surely that suggests the Nordic Model is effective?

http://feministcurrent.com/8347/10-myths-about-prostitution-trafficking-and-the-nordic-model/