UN Women: “Consultation seeking views … on sex work, the sex trade and prostitution”

UN Women has sent a call for “Consultation seeking views on UN Women approach to sex work, the sex trade and prostitution” to various advocacy groups.

The call states:

“Currently UN Women does not have an explicit policy position with regard to sex work, the sex trade or prostitution and is in the process of developing such a position.”

Recent papers by UN Women have left us deeply worried as to the understanding a number of women within this UN entity have of the sex industry.

The deadline for submissions is October 16, 2016.

Statements by

“various people and groups, agencies and organizations which have an interest in this issue including: sex workers/ sex worker groups, survivors of prostitution and groups representing them, feminist and women’s rights organizations”

can be sent to  consultation@unwomen.org with the subject title “Written submission”

The UN Women call for consultation is available in these languages:

English

Pусский

العربية

中国

Français

Español

 

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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.

Amnesty – making the exploited conform to the language of the exploiters?

This is a report from a telephone conference with Amnesty International Australia members.

It is cringe-worthy to be part of a conference arguing international policy on prostitution with one of the largest human rights organizations in the world, and hearing them defer unanimously to pro-prostitution lobby speech.

It is like a stab in the guts to be asked to conform to sanitized etymology and use these terms to avoid upsetting “anyone”.

It is unbearable to know that someone has left the conference because while they define your experience for you as “sex work”, your use of the word “johns” is unacceptable to the point that they get a heartfelt apology from the Chair.

Yet we did bear it.

Many AI members who are survivors and many AI members who support the Nordic Model do not feel represented by this language and proceeding. They do not want to be presented like this by the drafters of this hideous policy created by the pimp lobby, and this is not what they joined Amnesty for.

To explain:
The terms “sex work” and “sex worker” were coined and very successfully launched by the very organisations that seek to legalise all aspects of the sex industry, and mainly its enormous profits. The terms are sold off to us all as less stigmatizing and less insulting than “prostitution” and “prostitute”. What they do – and this is their intent – is to sanitize what the prostitution of women, of children, of people does to the prostituted. Our perception gets diverted from the ugly, physical and emotional realities of what being in prostitution means to an abstract idea of “work”, of prostitution as “work as any other”. The woman in prostitution is no longer recognized as a human being in an exploitative, violent and abusive situation that denies her fundamental rights. She becomes someone who just has “a bad day at work.” At the same time the term “sex worker” is deliberately blurred to include everybody in this industry, from the woman in prostitution to – what is now termed – “facilitators”, “receptionists”, “landlords”, “managers”, “body guards” and “drivers”. The correct word, in fact, is: pimp.

Making survivors of prostitution use these terms dreamed up for the marketing strategies of the pro-prostitution lobby is an attempt at silencing, at denying their right to define their own experiences in any meaningful way.

This is why survivors speak of themselves as “prostituted woman” or “woman in prostitution” when they inform others about what prostitution is.

These are very clear statements on this:

Prostitution is sexual abuse

Rachel Moran’s statement at a panel discussion in the Swedish Embassy in Brussels (excerpt)

“It is not sexwork”

“Your language is part of the problem”

both by Rebecca Mott

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PLEA FROM AN AUSTRALIAN INDIGENOUS WOMAN ON BEHALF OF ALL WOMEN

Dear Sisters, Survivors and Allies,

I am speaking as an exited prostituted woman and the grand-daughter of a Latje-Latje Indigenous woman in Australia. As many of you are aware Amnesty International have drafted a policy in favour  of  full  decriminalisation of prostitution. They are actively opposing the Nordic Model which protects the prostituted from prosecution and decreases demand in favour of a policy which has been informed by the sex trade and one notable pimp.

Indigenous women globally are among those most threatened by sexual violence.

AI’s policy on prostitution seeks to ensure that the buying and selling of (mostly) women be seen as inevitable and just any other job. ‘Sex Worker ‘unions claiming to be helping prostituted women are actively promoting AI’s policy ensuring they too profit from our enslavement.

Many of you have written/co-signed letters from survivor groups and written as individuals

These have been an invaluable resource.

At this time here in Australia, a small and dedicated team have taken on our local Amnesty International branches. We have had some success, with two AI branches endorsing the Nordic Model and one calling for a halt on the policy until survivor’s voices have been heard.

However, we are soon going to take this to a National AGM and ask that you lend your support.

The pro-prostitution lobby is fierce, well-funded and we need your help.

I want to deliver a letter signed by Indigenous women worldwide.

Prostitution is not inevitable. Women are not commodities.

I ask that add your name, whether survivor or ally, after mine to our letter written below.  This National AGM is taking place July 5-6 so we have very little time to collect signatures.

With sincere respect I ask that you support us in this significant time of change for women.

In solidarity and Sisterhood,

Simone Andrea (Watson) of Abolish Prostitution Now Amnesty Action

 

“To the International Secretariat of Amnesty International and Salil Shetty

We the undersigned demand recognition for the violation of human rights Amnesty International’s current draft Policy on Prostitution will endorse condone and promote if passed at the Australian National AGM.

As Indigenous survivors and allies of our Indigenous sisters worldwide we fully and without reservation  demand that AI acknowledge on our behalf

* That Prostitution is not inevitable – but the result of demand

*That prostitution IS violence against women

*That trafficking and prostitution are NOT two different industries but each feed the other

* That AI’s current draft policy focuses on “harm minimization” and profit for pimps rather than prevention of our abuse and this is NOT acceptable.

* That full decriminalisation and legalisation of prostitution increases trafficking and further violence against Indigenous women and children.

*That in passing this current draft policy Amnesty International will go down in history as one of the worst offenders in human rights history along with colonialists, slave owners and human rights criminals.

*That Amnesty International concedes and thereby endorses the Nordic Model as the best way forward to end ongoing human rights violations against women as a caste globally.

Indigenous women of Australia and globally reject AI’s policy in its current form and demand that our voices be heard.

Sincerely,

Simone Watson

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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