8 Things to Know About Amnesty's Draft Proposal on Sex Work

FILE - In this Nov.29, 2013 file photo, a French sex worker demonstrates outside the National Assembly in Paris, France. A Fr
FILE - In this Nov.29, 2013 file photo, a French sex worker demonstrates outside the National Assembly in Paris, France. A French bill aimed at decriminalizing prostitutes and fining their customers is being turned upside down by the Senate, led by the conservative opposition. The proposed bill, aims at introducing a 1,500-euro (about $1,623) fine for customers and decriminalizing the estimated 40,000 prostitutes in France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

Confused about the Amnesty International draft proposal? Here are some of the major points, broken down.

1. The proposal does not support forced and underage involvement in the sex trade.

Amnesty supports criminal laws against trafficking, coercing individuals into the sex trade, and soliciting sex from minors. Quoting the draft proposal, "Amnesty International considers children involved in commercial sex acts to be victims of a grave human rights abuse. Under international law states must ensure that offering, delivering or accepting a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation is covered under criminal or penal law, and must take all appropriate measures to prevent the exploitation and abuse of children."

2. The proposal does not support "wholesale decriminalization of the sex trade." And Amnesty is not inherently opposed to state regulation of adult, consensual sex work.

Quoting Amnesty's draft position: "...regulation should respect the agency of sex workers and guarantee that all individuals who undertake sex work can do so in safe conditions, free from exploitation, and are able to stop engaging in sex work when and if they choose. Additionally, such restrictions must be for a legitimate purpose, appropriate to meet that purpose, proportionate and non-discriminatory. States should also ensure the participation... in the development of any regulatory frameworks."

3. The proposal explicitly supports labor rights and fair labor relationships.

Amnesty's draft proposal explicitly supports fair labor relationships and states that countries must "respect and protect the right of sex workers to just and favorable conditions of work, including fair wages, safe and healthy conditions and limits on working hours" and "ensure that sex workers are entitled to equal protection under the law and are not excluded from the application of labour, health and safety and other laws."

4. The proposal recognizes the link between intersectional discrimination and oppression and compulsion into the sex trade.

Quoting the proposal: "The factors underlying sex workers' marginalization are manifold and intricately entwined with global economic inequalities and multiple forms of intersectional discrimination and oppression... Amnesty International recognizes that intersectional discrimination and oppression ... can play a role in an individual's decision to engage or remain in sex work and their experiences whilst in sex work. Systems of oppression such as gender discrimination, racism, socio-economic inequality and legacies of colonial occupation, deny people power and lead to poverty and deprivation of opportunity. Groups most at risk of discrimination and oppression are frequently over represented in sex work."

5. The draft proposal takes a strong position against economic compulsion into the sex trade and advocates for expanding options for marginalized groups.

Amnesty's draft proposal recognizes how economic inequality and discrimination of certain groups result in few viable economic options, and that intersectional inequalities can compel disadvantaged groups to choose sex work. The draft proposal calls for "policies which aim to support and improve the situation of marginalized people must focus on empowering individuals and groups and not devalue their decisions, compromise their safety and/or criminalize the contexts in which they live their lives."

They propose "provid[ing] appropriate support, employment and educational options that actively empower marginalised individuals and groups, respect individual agency and guarantee the realisation of human rights" and taking "necessary measures to eradicate discrimination against marginalised individuals and groups who are commonly represented in sex work, including discrimination in employment."

6. Amnesty supports voluntary, non-coercive programming for individuals who want to leave the sex trade.

The proposal asserts that "states have an obligation to ensure that no person continues to sell sex against their will and that everyone can leave freely when and if they choose."

Quoting the draft proposal: "In the same way that intersectional discrimination and oppression can limit employment options for people considering selling sex, it can also curtail individual's' ability to leave sex work when they want to."

The proposal urges "states to take appropriate measures to realize the economic, social 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."

7. The proposal calls for an end to direct criminalization of sex workers.

The draft proposal condemns laws that "seek to punish sex workers through sanctions such as criminal prosecution, detention and/or fines because of their involvement in sex work."

In the proposal, Amnesty cites research and asserts that evidence suggests that the "enforcement of criminal laws against sex work can lead to forced eviction, arbitrary arrests, investigations, surveillance, prosecutions and severe punishment of sex workers. Where sex workers face penalization when reporting crimes, their capacity to demand payment from or condom use with clients is also compromised. Notably, police routinely confiscate and/or use condoms as evidence of sex work in a number of countries around the world. The criminalization of sex work also frequently works to exclude sex workers from protections available to others under labour and health and safety laws and can impede or prohibit them from forming or joining trade unions to secure better working conditions, and health and safety standards. This, in turn, can render sex workers at greater risk of exploitation by third parties."

8. The safety and human rights of sex workers, not the interest of clients and third parties, drive the call to end indirect criminalization of sex work.

Laws against demand, and many third party laws, increase vulnerability to violence, "violate sex worker's human rights, including their rights to security of person, to just and favorable conditions of work and to health."

According to AI's research, "even when the sale of sex is not explicitly criminalised, laws that criminalise activities related to sex work, such as bans on buying sex or on solicitation, promotion, brothel keeping or other operational aspects of sex work, are frequently used to criminalise sex workers and/or work in effect to make their working environments more dangerous."

The full draft proposal can be found here.

Sound good?

Sign the Global Network of Sex Worker Project's letter in support here.