Jean welcomes Amnesty vote to back decriminalisation of sex work

Candles and messages commemorating dead sex workers: "Annette Nicholls, 29 years old, Murdered 2006, Ipswich, UK," "Fight violence, not sex workers."Jean Urquhart has congratulated Amnesty International delegates on their vote to support decriminalisation of sex work, in order to protect the rights and safety of sex workers.

Delegates at the campaign’s International Council Meeting in Dublin today approved the resolution calling for a new “Policy on state obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil the human rights of sex workers,” which includes support for decriminalisation of sex work. The result of the vote was announced just after 5pm UK time.

The new policy will bring Amnesty International into agreement with Human Rights Watch, UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation, as well as almost all organisations representing sex workers themselves, in calling for the decriminalisation of sex work.

Jean said:

“This is an excellent and thoughtful decision by the Amnesty movement, and a huge victory for sex workers who are fighting for their rights and their safety.

“The vote took place in a context of loud but mostly ill-informed attacks from opponents as varied as religious groups and Hollywood actors. Amnesty’s delegates should be congratulated for listening to the evidence and to the voices of those most affected – sex workers themselves.

“Around the world, sex workers are routinely marginalised, stigmatised, and denied the most basic human and labour rights. Sex workers themselves are very clear these abuses are exacerbated, or in many cases even created, by the criminalisation of sex workers or their clients.

“Both the hard evidence and sex workers’ own testimony tell us that fully decriminalising sex work, as in New Zealand, is the best way to protect sex workers and their communities. This would allow co-operation instead of conflict with the authorities, improve the health and safety of sex workers, and create the best possible environment for the eradication of coercion, trafficking and underage sex work.

“Amnesty’s backing is a massive boost to this urgent campaign. I’m looking forward to working with Amnesty in Scotland to secure the rights and safety of sex workers here and internationally.”

In Amnesty’s statement on the vote, Secretary General Salil Shetty said:

“Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse. Our global movement paved the way for adopting a policy for the protection of the human rights of sex workers which will help shape Amnesty International’s future work on this important issue.”