A leaked Amnesty International (AI) document says that the human rights organisation is opposed to the criminalisation or punishment of activities related to the buying or selling of consensual sex between adults. Laws against prostitution undermine the right to freely chosen gainful work, and any legislation that targets men who pay for sex will leave prostitutes vulnerable to violence and abuse, it claims. Is paying for sex a human right? Juliet Spare hosts a discussion.
The document is called Decriminalisation of Sex Work – Background Policy.
An AI spokesperson told VoR that they were aware of the sensitivity of the issue and that’s why they are encouraging discussion with members around the world. They confirmed the document had been leaked and needed revision in some areas.
For this discussion, we’re joined by:
Charlie Daniels – sex worker and author of Priceless: My Journey Through a Life of Vice
Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon – sex law expert, author of The Price of Sex: Prostitution, Policy and Society
Mary Dejevsky – economist
“I’ve worked in legal brothels, in tolerance zones, I have run brothels and I’ve worked alone, and as a high-class escort, so I’ve got a really good overview, and after 20 years I’ve found out that changing the law doesn’t address the serious issues. I’m not pro-legalisation or decriminalisation. The response to these issues, whether it’s a dead street worker or a brothel full of trafficked girls – which law do we change? We’ll be on this merry-go-round for another 20 years.”
“Instead of spending another twenty years fighting against the feminists and religious zealots who will never want legalisation of prostitution, let s put our time and energy into positive intervention with young girls particular and some young boys in the care system.
“This isn’t just about prostitution, this is about preventing offending. This is about making sure they don’t end up homeless and know what anti-social behavior is and understand what exploitation is. That in itself is a long-term strategy. In many years to come, if it is looked at properly, we’ll actually reduce the number of people vulnerable on the streets.”
“Prohibition just criminalises otherwise law-abiding people. It shoves things underground and it opens the doors to the traffickers and violent people. It makes sex works work on their own. If we made any other group of people work on their own, like hairdressers or barbers, they would be subject to violence and stigmatisation.
“We don’t need false morality or hate against sex working women.”
“The police will go after the low-hanging fruit. It is terribly easy for them just to turn over brothels or punters instead of focusing on violence against women.”
“I don’t accept that changing the law will actually stop the abuse, the difficulties, and the cruelties that go together with illegal prostitution.
“To an extent you have a choice and you have a section of the sex market, which is taken out of that degeneracy. If that happens, that is actually better. It is not wonderful, but better.”
“Allowing people who want to exchange money for sex – I have absolutely no problem with that. I do have a problem with the circumstances in which that happens. Legalisation would at least sanitise one section of that market.
“I think it is not just prostitution that’s wrong with the care system. The care system in the UK is an absolute catastrophe.
“Focus on the care system is hugely desirable it is the source of so many things that are wrong with society in Britain. But I don’t think that even that will be the total solution to getting women of the streets because that problem pre-dates the inequities of the British care system by centuries.”