Feminists respond to Amnesty International’s statement on the full decriminalization of prostitution


Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

Like this article? Tip Feminist Current!

Personal Info

Donation Total: $1

  • An ACTUAL Rad Fem
  • J

    Amnesty international: “Giving capitalism amnesty from human rights – internationally”

  • Non-PC RadFem

    And this is MY Feminist response to this Amnesty’s mockery against Women’s Human Rights:

    I know this is a long one, but bear with me sisters… While this AI debacle is happening on the background; I propose for us to re-group and let’s go back down to basics.

    This is one from the Psychiatric Times* [* Psychiatric Times is a medical trade publication written for an audience involved in the profession of psychiatry. It is published monthly by UBM Medica and is distributed to about 50,000 psychiatrists monthly].
    Noteworthy: this is in article they published back in 2004


    From Psychiatric Times: Prostitution Is Sexual Violence</

    “[..] Even today, some assume that prostitution is sex. In fact, prostitution is a last-ditch means of economic survival or “paid rape,” as one survivor described it. Its harms are made invisible by the idea that prostitution is sex, rather than sexual violence.

    Prostitution has much in common with other kinds of violence against women. What incest is to the family, prostitution is to the community. Prostitution is widely socially tolerated and its consumers are socially invisible.”

    Prostitution Is Violent: “Although clinicians are beginning to recognize the overwhelming physical violence in prostitution, the internal ravages of prostitution have not been well understood. Prostitution and trafficking are experiences of being hunted down, dominated, sexually harassed and assaulted [..]”

    “Clearly, violence is the norm for women in prostitution. Incest, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, stalking, rape, battering and torture are points on a continuum of violence, all of which occur regularly in prostitution. A difference between prostitution and other types of gender violence is the payment of money for the abuse. Yet payment of money does not erase all that we know about sexual harassment, rape and domestic violence [..]”

    Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: ” [..] Direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s personal integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person.

    In response to these events, the person with PTSD experiences fear and powerlessness, oscillating between emotional numbing and emotional/physiologic hyperarousal. Post-traumatic stress disorder is known to be especially severe when the stressor is planned and implemented (as in war, rape, incest, battering, torture or prostitution).

    In nine countries, across widely varying cultures, we found that two-thirds of 854 women in prostitution had symptoms of PTSD (Farley et al., 2003) at a severity that was comparable to treatment-seeking combat veterans (Weathers et al., 1993), battered women seeking shelter (Houskamp and Foy, 1991; Kemp et al., 1991), rape survivors (Bownes et al., 1991) and refugees from state-organized torture (Ramsay et al., 1993).

    “[..] It is a cruel lie to suggest that decriminalization or legalization will protect anyone in prostitution. It is not possible to protect someone whose source of income exposes them to the likelihood of being raped on average once a week (Hunter, 1994)”

    “[..] Much of the literature has viewed prostitution as a vocational choice. Yet the notion that prostitution is work tends to make its harm invisible. Prostitution is institutionalized and mainstreamed when it is considered to be unpleasant but legitimate “sex work.” Even organizations such as the World Health Organization and Amnesty International USA have made the policy error of defining prostitution as a job rather than as human rights abuse [< My note: this was written back in 2004!]”

    Conclusion: “Certainly there is an urgent need to address the mental health needs of women during prostitution and after escape. However, it is equally important to address men’s demand for prostitution. Acceptance of prostitution is one of a cluster of harmful attitudes that encourage and justify violence against women. Violent behaviors against women have been associated with attitudes that promote men’s beliefs that they are entitled to sexual access to women, that they are superior to women and that they are licensed as sexual aggressors (White and Koss, 1993). Customers of prostitutes strongly endorse these attitudes toward women [..]”

    “Those of us concerned with human rights must address the social invisibility of prostitution, the massive denial regarding its harms, its normalization as an inevitable social evil, and the failure to educate students of psychiatry, psychology and public health. Prostitution and trafficking can only exist in an atmosphere of public, professional and academic indifference”

    LINK> http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/sexual-offenses/prostitution-sexual-violence/page/0/1

    • David

      More recent and comprehansive from a Psychiatrist/psychotherapist specializing in psychotraumatology.

      In French but Google does a good job of translating.

      “Amnesty, as we shall see, is not content to ignore the violence of what prostitution is and the infringement of rights, dignity and physical and mental integrity of the persons, it is in denial of the violence of johns and pimps and the sex market, the daily risk of being tortured, kidnapped, killed, and disappeared. So much so, that in its resolution, it denies the psycho impact of prostitution on prostitutes, it denies the sexual violence that prostitutes have undergone prior to entry into prostitution in childhood that make them the preferred targets of prostitutors.”

    • Priscila

      Thanks for sharing that. Unsurpising to see they never cared about women. 🙁

  • Heartening and heartbreaking to see all those tweets. That anyone should have to point any of this out. So exhausting.

    Also, great comment and link, Radfem. I was thinking as I read it, “This has to be the work of a woman.” Sure enough. Melissa Farley. Which is also heartbreaking. The fact that when I read something in which it’s taken for granted that women are real people, I’m sure it’s written by a woman. And then, it is.

    • Non-PC RadFem

      Yeah, apologies for botching-up the tags 🙁
      I didn’t intend to post a wall of bold text. I hope it’s still readable, but… there’s always the link as a backup.
      It’s a great piece that should be read in its entirety anyways 🙂

      And you’re quite right, quixote. Every time you read something where women are considered fully human, 9 out of 10 times it’s a woman who wrote it.
      Conversely the reverse it’s also true when you read something devoid of sympathy/empathy towards women, you can bet your butt, it’s a man or a woman so sick with internalized misogyny that she’s mimicking her oppressors mind-set [also called ‘introjects’]

      “[..] Trauma therapists speak of perpetrator introjects. There are two types of introjects; aspects of perpetrator identification and perpetrator loyalty

      Perpetrator identification is often a male introject (80 to 90 percent of physical and sexualized violence is perpetrated by men). Perpetrator loyal introjects, often termed female introjects, are incorporated into the victim’s personality if they were exposed to the (adult) perpetrator for long enough. These are thoughts that the perpetrator has about us, sentences he says about us or orders that he gives us. In one form or another, everyone has something like this. In a situation in which we are entirely at the perpetrator’s mercy, we ‘merge’ with him. We adopt the opinion he has of us and begin to think about ourselves the way he does. These are dysfunctional attempts at self-protection: “If I torture myself and beat myself up, then the ‘bad people’ won’t have to do it so much.” Or, “If I do exactly as they say, maybe they will leave me be.” The identification with the perpetrator’s gaze that this causes has a life of its own, changes are perceived as threatening, everything has to stay the way the ‘tormentor’ would have it. A typical example is psychological dependence on a pimp [..]”

      More at the link> http://www.trauma-and-prostitution.eu/en/2014/11/27/prostitution-and-choice/#more-26

  • DefenderofThemyscira

    They are more interested in men’s orgasms than women’s rights. They should be prepared to be one of our targets for criticism from now on. We will still be here, fighting for the rights of women and not be letting pimps and johns get away with this shit.

  • “I have lost trust in #AmnestyInternational I will find another human rights organization that also supports the human rights of women.”

    That should read “I will find another human rights organisation that is actually a HUMAN rights organisation, not a Men’s Rights Activist group.”

    My response is “we’ll be back, we’ll be back, we’ll be back….” And one day we will win or the hopes of exploited and impoverish women worldwide will die.

  • Alexis Brown

    Except…”Amnesty International considers human trafficking abhorrent in all of its forms, including sexual exploitation, and should be criminalized as a matter of international law. This is explicit in this new policy and all of Amnesty International’s work.”

    They called for the decriminalization of SEX WORKERS and maintaining the illegality of those who exploit them.

    • Shana

      you probably haven’t been informed about this issue long enough to know that, but when AI says ”all aspects of consensual sex work”, they do mean decriminalizing the johns and pimps ; in their draft policy they call it ”the operational/managerial aspects of sex work” and they say restricting it means ”indirect criminalisation of sex work”. The tl;dr is that AI is in favor of complete decriminalization which means complete freedom for exploiters, increased demand which means increased trafficking, even less legal recourses for prostituted women because brothel owners, johns and pimps will all be protected by the law.

      Amnesty claims being against trafficking simply to save face, because they advocate for measures who are proven to increase trafficking. Their claim to be against trafficking is nothing more than hiding behind the ”sex work and trafficking are two different things entirely!!!” fallacy.

    • Applejack

      Unfortunately it is the so-called “sex workers” who defend the prostitution/rape industry who help pave the way for trafficking. “Sex work” is an offensive euphemism, by the way.

      Isn’t it funny on these threads all the so-called “sex workers” who come out to defend their noble trade and accuse everybody of being oppressive and pearl-clutching and SWERF-y and white feminists and on and on and the same tired slurs when women speak out against women’s bodies being used as sperm spittoons—what the fact that it even exists as an option says about humankind.

  • Thank you for this post, now I can follow all these wonderful abolitionist groups! The feminist wave continues to build momentum!

  • Pingback: Does decriminalising pimping further women's rights? | Em News()

  • sex worker

    just to provide a different view. I want sex work to be decriminalized so that I can do my job *more* safely. I am completely against trafficking and so is AI. I am not trafficked. I work because I need money. it’s much more fulfilling than working at Wal Mart or K Mart. a decriminalized sex industry makes me and others like me safer. my job becomes *more* dangerous in places where it is illegal. please consider my rights and my safety when you comment.

    • Priscila

      Please consider the rights and safety of 99,99% of prostituted women when YOU comment.

    • ArgleBargle

      Please also consider the rights and safety of all the vulnerable girls and women who may be coerced into prostitution to meet the increase in demand that follows full decriminalization. All women and girls are placed at risk when living in a State that gives explicit or implicit support to the idea that it is OK for men to purchase the opportunity to penetrate women with their penis.