delve a little deeper....
When it comes to sex work everyone seems to have an opinion on it. Actually, opinions being like arseholes because everyone has one applies to many issues, but sex work and sex workers rights is the one I am most interested in today and overwhelmingly the part of my life that is most debated about.
Funny that, noone seemed very interested in my career choices when I was a waitress, or a credit controller or when I joined the civil service.
To be honest I've been sexually harassed, belittled, underpaid, bullied or screwed over (in the non good way) by pretty much all my other jobs over the years, but noone seems to mind that too much about those.
I've written before about why sex work is work and why sex workers deserve the same rights as everyone else, including when Amnesty International's proposed stance on sex work was leaked back in February 2014.
We're now coming up to the day when Amnesty's International Council delegates get to vote on whether their proposed policy will become policy or not.
Here is the first paragraph of the policy paper:
Amnesty International opposes the criminalisation or punishment of activities relating to the buying or selling of consensual sex between adults. This policy is based on the human rights principle that consensual sexual conduct between adults—which excludes acts that involve coercion, deception, threats, or violence—is entitled to protection from state interference (bearing in mind that legitimate restrictions may be imposed on sex work, as noted below). This policy is also based on principles of harm reduction: on balance, the available evidence indicates that the criminalisation of sex work is more likely than not to reinforce discrimination against those who engage in these activities, to increase the likelihood that they will be subjected to harassment and violence, including ill-treatment at the hands of police, and to lead to the denial of due process and the exclusion from public benefits such as health services, housing, education, and immigration status.
The full summary document is here.
In simple terms Amnesty recognise, (through lots of thorough research) that criminalising sex workers, or indeed their clients is a bad thing all round.
The fashionable thing at the moment is The Swedish Model (sometimes known as The Nordic model) which is about criminalising clients. This means (faintly) that sex workers are free to sell sexual services but it is illegal to pay for sex.
This is rather like making it illegal to sell cars but allowing people to drive them to reduce road accidents. It serves to make the misinformed feel they are protecting the poor fallen women, but punishing the evil men who pay for their services. The idea is by making purchasing sex illegal this will "End Demand" (for prostitution). A futile notion when attached to anything fun frankly.
Those who are in support of criminalising clients and those who desire to see prostitution wiped out (ha, as if) are up in arms about Amnesty's proposed policy. People are OUTRAGED! People who are choosing to disregard not only what a credible body such as Amnesty International say but what also actual sex workers want.
The World Health Organisation say:
Countries should work toward decriminalization of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers. The police practice of using possession of condoms as evidence of sex work and grounds for arrest should be eliminated.
The Lancet (UK medical journal) also support the decriminalisation of sex work. (Article here) on the basis of health grounds.
The United Nation's Global Commission on HIV and the Law calls for countries to "repeal laws that prohibit consenting adults to buy or sell sex" and that ban "immoral earnings" and brothel-keeping, and also demands measures "to ensure safe conditions for sex workers".
Further reading from the UN here.
Not only that, as if the UN, WHO and Amnesty weren't credible enough countless sex work related organisations also strongly believe sex work needs decriminalising world wide.
It might be blindingly obvious why criminalising the clients of sex workers is a terrible idea and I've linked to plenty of articles here and elsewhere in my Minxypedia but here is a handy cut out and keep list. If you want anything expanding on feel free to comment.
So, who is OUTRAGED by the notion sex work should be decriminalised?
Well, not quite.
CATW (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women) are cross with Amnesty International and have created a petition against their proposed policy. They have cunningly got actresses such as Anne Hathaway (Worst Catwomen in a film ever) to sign to a petition, here it is.
Other actresses such as Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Lisa Kudrow and Emily Blunt have also signed along with other famous people I haven't heard of because I'm not hip nor American as well as some feministy organisations and religious groups.
Of course getting Hollywood actresses on board to sign such a petition is a PR wet dream. The mainstream press care less about religion or feminism than they do Oscar winners so there has been much publicity about this. The Graun who change their mind about sex work as often as I change my knickers have waded in with this pile of poo by Jessica Neuwirth who finishes by saying:
The concept of human rights itself – not to mention sex equality – is at stake.
Terribly dramatic yes, because clearly anyone AGAINST Amnesty's policy are the ones who have trouble with Human Rights. Is it not my human right to sell sex and to be able to do it safely?
Of course Anne Hathaway played Fantine in Les Mis. This makes her a world authority on sex work.
Happily there has been some sex work supportive coverage.
Emily Shire in The Daily Beast covers the story brilliantly- She quotes a New York Sex Worker Jane-
“The second Kate Winslet starts trading sex for money, she should be full voiced about it,”
So yes, if you are not a sex worker keep listening to those who actually do it. If you are an actress off you fuck. If you're an actress who does sex work then you can stay.
If you're still reading and haven't already please be a love and go and sign The Global Network of Sex Work Projects petition in support of Amnesty International right HERE.