Press Release: Amnesty International fighting for sex workers rights

May 20, 2016

The English Collective of Prostitutes welcomes Amnesty International’s new policy on sex work which calls on states to repeal laws that criminalise “the consensual exchange of sexual services between adults for remuneration” and provide resources so that those of us who want to leave prostitution can do so. Amnesty International’s press release is here.

Spokeswoman, Cari Mitchell commented:

“It’s the first time that an international organisation of such status has recognised sex workers, not as victims or happy hookers, but as workers with rights that are being violated. We are your mothers, daughters and friends and we are sick of living under the prostitution laws which mean we suffer arrest, imprisonment, exploitation, extortion, and discrimination. We appreciate Amnesty’s commitment to oppose human rights abuses and call on governments to follow their lead.” 

AI documents the “foreseeably negative impact” of criminalisation and the high levels of violence faced by sex workers. It calls on states to “refocus laws away from catch-all offences that criminalize most or all aspects of sex work” and apply “criminal laws to prevent forced labour, human trafficking, abuse and violence”.

The injustices caused by anti-trafficking policies is best expressed by our sisters in Empower, Thailand:

We have been spied on, arrested, cut off from our families, had our savings confiscated, interrogated, imprisoned and placed into the hands of the men with guns, in order for them to send us home… all in the name of ‘protection against trafficking’.

The UK parliament Home Affairs Committee is reviewing the prostitution laws which makes Amnesty’s policy particularly timely. We ask members to pay particular attention to Amnesty’s demands that states provide resources, including benefits, social security and access to education and employment. Sex work is up 60% in Doncaster, 166% in Sheffield and Hull charities report that women who are literally starving are “out there to feed themselves”. Amnesty recognises that 80-95% of sex workers are women, and that “women often bear the primary responsibility as caregivers for children, older persons and people with disabilities”. Repealing benefit sanctions and other punitive and impoverishing policies is clearly the most effective counter to austerity cuts, 75% of which have hit women hardest.

Members are also urged to pay close attention to research which decimates the so-called “Nordic model” (under which clients are criminalised). It documents the harm caused to sex workers who face forced evictions, investigations, surveillance, prosecutions and increased stigma. Migrant workers are disproportionally targeted. Shockingly “police are using sex workers reports of violence and crimes against them as evidence to facilitate their eviction and/or deportation.”

Amnesty International’s impressive body of evidence and carefully considered policy cannot be ignored. Sex workers safety and lives depend on governments taking prompt action.

For interviews please contact:
Cari Mitchell
English Collective of Prostitutes
Crossroads Women’s Centre
25 Wolsey Mews
Kentish Town, London
Tel: 020 7482 2496
Fax: 020 7267 7297
Mob: 07956 316 899