Sex workers from Africa have welcomed the vote to adopt a decriminalisation policy by Amnesty International. The African Sex Workers Alliance states: “60% of global criminalisation of sex workers is in Africa. Sex workers face a myriad of challenges in accessing health services, legal redress and sexual and reproductive justice as well as social acceptance. The global human rights movement is now becoming more aware of the unique challenges that sex workers face including those who use and inject drugs as well as those who are living with HIV and those who are physically challenged.”
Amnesty International voted to adopt the policy supporting the decriminalisation of sex work to ensure the human rights of female, male, and transgender sex workers are protected across the world. The resolution recommends that Amnesty International develop a policy that supports the full decriminalisation of all aspects of adult consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.
Despite opposition from various high profile Hollywood actresses, Amnesty International voted to protect the human rights of sex workers at the International Council Meeting (ICM), its decision-making forum. “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,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
Reacting to the news, the African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) said the vote comes at a time when global human rights organisations are becoming increasingly aware of how criminalisation impacts the human rights of adults who engage in adult consensual sex work.
In support of ASWA and the Amnesty International decision, South African based sex work groups issued a press statement saying, “the need for the decriminalisation of sex work is particularly pressing based on the adverse impact that the criminal law has on sex workers and society, such as serious human rights violations, high levels of gender based violence and barriers to access to health services.’’
“The adoption of this policy position by Amnesty International will have a direct impact on our long-term advocacy for law reform for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa, and most importantly, in reinforcing the need for advancing and protecting sex worker fundamental human rights through urgent law reform,” the statement added.
The policy adopted by Amnesty International highlights the benefits of decriminalisation for harm reduction initiatives, and for the health and human rights of sex workers globally.