Amnesty for some
August 3, 2015 9:06 AM   Subscribe

The Guardian view on Amnesty International’s call to decriminalise sex work: divisive and distracting - "Obviously, Amnesty is right to say that sex workers have human rights and that these should be respected. But many Amnesty supporters believe that the trade itself tends to corrupt or to violate these rights, except for a lucky few participants. The broadest coalitions unite around the narrowest agendas. A call to decriminalise sex work is a distraction from Amnesty’s core mission, and dangerous to it too."
posted by Punkey (42 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Will decriminalized prostitution industries involve violations of human rights? I don't think it can be reasonably argued that they won't.

Does criminalizing prostitution solve this problem? I don't think it can be reasonably asserted that it does.

Criminalization is something that should only be present when it has a useful purpose, in this case, it does not seem to. However, it's a complex issue and I think we should all be willing to listen to diverse voices discussing it.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:11 AM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Will decriminalized prostitution industries involve violations of human rights? I don't think it can be reasonably argued that they won't."

That's a bit of an assumption. Why will it necessarily lead to violations of human rights if it becomes decriminalized?
posted by I-baLL at 9:16 AM on August 3, 2015


Wow. "Hey - we all agree people shouldn't be murdered, so... why call for measures that might work to improve the lives and reduce the suffering of those being exploited? Plus, some supporters of Amnesty don't agree with that policy..."

It's not a human rights issue? WTF? Working towards fostering environments where women aren't seen as objects but as having the right and dignity as workers, that's somehow beyond the pale?

This is isolationist/moralistic/individualistic thinking at its core, refusing to look systemically at a problem and acting faux-concerned, while saying something to the effect of ... well... I dunno - their moralizing is more important than creating a healthy social attitude and environment towards women who work in the field?

There are definitely problems with prostitution and the business itself. But the answer isn't to continue doubling down against those who engage in the work.
posted by symbioid at 9:17 AM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's a bit of an assumption. Why will it necessarily lead to violations of human rights if it becomes decriminalized?

Economic coercion seems unavoidable to me. That is a factor in any job, but when it comes to something of a sexual nature it just seems like a bridge too far to me.

Beyond that though, the history of human trafficking in the industry is one I don't think is going to end just with decriminalization. Though, again, the laws against prostitution are clearly not solving the issue.

To be clear, my post was just my own opinion on what is reasonable or not on the topic, I'm not writing anything here that I would debate to the death. It's honestly a very difficult and confusing topic for me. I have a lot of social libertarian values that are in conflict with a lot of, "This is just plain exploitative," values going on at the same time. I'm not sure what the real world practical policy balance on the issue is.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:23 AM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Regulation, oversight, and legal protection would be a good start. Like what decriminalization does.
posted by Punkey at 9:31 AM on August 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


"Will decriminalized prostitution industries involve violations of human rights? I don't think it can be reasonably argued that they won't."

That's a bit of an assumption. Why will it necessarily lead to violations of human rights if it becomes decriminalized?


Name a single perfectly legal industry that doesn't involve violations of human rights. But before you do, think about what you're wearing and what you've eaten recently.
posted by Etrigan at 9:32 AM on August 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


Governments of the world: untapped profit center right in front of you! Require the prostitutes to get licenses. Honestly, if you just re-frame this stuff, it'll work.
posted by gsh at 9:34 AM on August 3, 2015


Name a single perfectly legal industry that doesn't involve violations of human rights. But before you do, think about what you're wearing and what you've eaten recently.

Also, consider that the workers involved probably didn't risk going to jail just for making that clothing and that food.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:37 AM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


ugh this is so concern-trolly

Good on Amnesty International for taking this stance. It is important, especially in the face of rising Anti-Sex-Trafficking efforts that are largely if not entirely 2nd wave feminism sex-worker-haters in disguise.
posted by likeatoaster at 9:39 AM on August 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


Eh, let me rephrase my question as some of you kinda argued my point in response back to me:

""Will decriminalized prostitution industries involve violations of human rights? I don't think it can be reasonably argued that they won't.""

Is this question asking whether decriminalized prostitution will have more violation of human rights than criminalized prostitution? Or is it just asking if there's going to be violations of human rights in general? Because those are two completely different questions. In my opinion I think decriminalized prostitution will have less human rights violations. And in regards to the second interpretation, decriminalizing prostitution will allow prosecution of human rights violations since people won't be afraid to come forward.
posted by I-baLL at 10:00 AM on August 3, 2015


This is a complicated issue that I find tricky to think about, with much evidence to be weighed on both sides of the argument… but a huge amount of the pro-decriminalization commentary seems to be based on the implicit claim that "sex worker" is a fundamental and fixed description of a human identity, rather than a description of a human activity. Yet we agree, as democratic societies, to make all sorts of activities legal and all sorts of other activities illegal – and you are not denying a person the same basic rights as other people when you outlaw specific activities. (It reminds me a bit, by analogy, of the campaign for "smokers' rights", as if there are some people called "smokers" and that it's an outrage to deny them the rights you grant non-smokers.)

People generally agree that it should be lawful for people to be carpenters, and not lawful for people to be sellers of their internal organs. This doesn't mean we're permitting certain rights to the people who are carpenters that we're denying to the people who are organ-sellers.
posted by oliverburkeman at 10:03 AM on August 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


Is this question asking whether decriminalized prostitution will have more violation of human rights than criminalized prostitution? Or is it just asking if there's going to be violations of human rights in general? Because those are two completely different questions.

Yeah, it's the latter. My conclusion is that I can't see the criminalization as justified given the lack of positive results, but I'm being wishy washy because it's a topic where I feel I could be persuaded otherwise if someone has a solid argument there.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:28 AM on August 3, 2015


Interesting and very pertinent to this is looking at prostitution in Asia vs. non-Asia, because in Asia prostitution reaches degrees of organization and visibility that it simply doesn't elsewhere, and in many cases, it's normalized to a degree that it simply isn't in much of the rest of the world. How did that happen, why did it happen, and what does it mean for the rest of us, I...don't know. But just do some reading on Bangkok and Pattaya, on Hong Kong/Macau, on Singapore, on Dongguan, on Jakarta nightclubs (!insane), on the vast underground cultures of prostitution in Seoul and Tokyo, and hold your nose and keep reading. Read the first-hand accounts, and the academic papers, and the enthusiast forums, the advertising, the news reports, etc. Devote a month of your life to this, because it is that important. Go read up on those things, then come back and read this article in the Guardian and the Amnesty International report.

You may come out for or against criminalization after that, but I think, if you put aside your preconceptions, what you'll come away thinking is - we, as a society, have a problem, and the problem is us, because we have no idea what we're doing, and we don't know because we don't understand our own sexuality at all, at a personal or a social level, and we understand "theirs" (quotes indicating the participants in this industry) even less, and we are stupid and arrogant enough to think we do understand. What astounds me about these places is how normal it continues to be, under so many different legal and value systems, and how varied the experiences of the participants seems to be...and, how little coercion is (or how subtle and multifaceted is the coercion) actually involved.

What I believe, after a long, long time watching this industry around me (the only way you can escape it living here is willful ignorance), is 1) it should be among the worst crimes anyone can commit to engage in prostitution with a minor, they're minors because judgment doesn't work yet, there's a reason we set the global average around 18, and 2) everyone everywhere needs the protection of professionalization and legitimacy, or abuse will happen; sometimes professionalization and legitimacy happen without legalization, but not often; nor often with it either, and 3) it will always be a hyper-local problem, and rarely will a solution work at levels of abstraction above the city block, meaning it will also never be "solved" completely.

I wish I knew more, but I've seen too much to pretend I know more.
posted by saysthis at 11:20 AM on August 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


I wonder how many folks on the Guardian editorial board will actually be impacted by this issue:
“At the end of the day, this is a proposal that impacts my life and not Lena Dunham’s,” Jane says. “The fact that celebrities who have no stake in this and will not be impacted by it are getting the largest voice is frustrating and, frankly, dehumanizing.

“Weighing in on a situation that doesn’t impact your life is absolutely going to be harmful because it’s saying the people who are impacted don’t deserve to speak and your voice is more important.”
Maybe it's best for folks to stay in their lane?
posted by Ouverture at 12:06 PM on August 3, 2015


Wow. "Hey - we all agree people shouldn't be murdered, so... why call for measures that might work to improve the lives and reduce the suffering of those being exploited? Plus, some supporters of Amnesty don't agree with that policy..."

It's not a human rights issue? WTF?


That’s unfair. The arguments put forth in the editorial against the idea seem to be more nuanced and complex than that. They’re also arguing with that very premise that decriminalisation would itself "improve the lives and reduce the suffering" etc. Also, that a proposal is so divisive is not an irrelevant factor, for such an organisation with such a broad mission.

Whatever you think, this editorial doesn’t deserve to be rephrased so simplistically. It makes valid points and is coming from a genuine concern.
I myself really don’t have an instant clearcut opinion either way, I can see good arguments both pro and against Amnesty’s motion. One problem I see is that this is an argument about a "what if" scenario on a huge scale, it implies assumptions about what might work not just locally, but at major international level, on the backdrop of a firmly established reality where legislation can be so complicated and the politics behind it even more so, and for such a big step as this to be based on such huge assumptions can in itself be problematic.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:10 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


and, how little coercion is (or how subtle and multifaceted is the coercion) actually involved.
saysthis

What about economic coercion? Ignoring that seems like the classic libertarian canard.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:35 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


But if lack of economic coercion is the standard we'd have to outlaw virtually every job in existence.
posted by Justinian at 1:14 PM on August 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Economic coercion to have sex can pretty reasonably be considered different than coercion to sell burgers I think.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:18 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Prostitution has been legal in Australia for more than 20 years.
posted by onya at 2:40 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Economic coercion to have sex can pretty reasonably be considered different than coercion to sell burgers I think.

Were sex work legalized it wouldn't generally be "economic coercion to have sex", though, at least in developed countries. It would be "economic coercion to have some way to make money" which for some people would likely result in a choice to engage in sex work. This doesn't apply in some countries where no other options appear to exist.

Of course in those countries that just means people engage in sex work illegally so it's not like you've eliminated sex work by eliminating legal protections for sex workers.
posted by Justinian at 3:44 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


The anti-legalization argument always strikes me as similar to those who argue against needle exchanges because we don't want to encourage heroin abuse.
posted by Justinian at 3:45 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not at all an expert on this subject nor will I claim to be, but it looks a lot to me like the ideas that sex-workers are hurt by a lack of a regulated recognized legal framework for their profession and that human trafficking is facilitated by "normalizing" sex work (for lack of a better word, I guess) aren't mutually exclusive.

Now, I personally agree with amnesty here, and feel like once a framework is in place, and something is taxable, the government becomes a shitload better at dealing with all the issues surrounding it, and that doing so will make things better for everyone in the industry but the pimps, and obviously fuck the pimps. That said, this feels like one of those issues where if you're genuinely concerned, you're probably a good enough person to sit down and listen to concerns of others. People don't need to be fighting over this. We're all trying to help women not be harmfully exploited here.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:04 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wish one of the ways we encouraged protection of women were the suggestion that maybe men aren't entitled to sex at any cost.
posted by JLovebomb at 4:13 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


In this prostitution debate, listen to sex workers not Hollywood stars

It is essential to listen to sex workers all over the world in order to draft laws to help keep us safe. This is both a simple and yet radical act. From Zimbabwe to Paris, Bangkok to Guatemala, sex workers are hoping that Amnesty will not be bullied out of voting for the truth of its own research when its members meet this week. We are hopeful that the quieter voices of sex workers remain audible next to those of Hollywood’s stars.

Accounts on twitter to follow if you're interested in hearing the actual voices in sex work:

https://twitter.com/CharoShane
https://twitter.com/melissagira
https://twitter.com/pastachips
https://twitter.com/KerryPorth
https://twitter.com/LenaDuvall
posted by triggerfinger at 4:41 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Amnesty, like the ACLU, should stick to supporting just the popular rights.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:22 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


previously>/a>, in NZ.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:12 PM on August 3, 2015


the actual voices in sex work

Obviously, it would be absurd to conduct this debate without a major input from people who are actively involved – but almost always that position seems to morph into one where only those currently involved in the industry have any right to speak about it. That's not how democracies decide which kinds of industry ought to be legal or not. Besides, surely there'll be a massive selection bias involved in a) which sex workers end up with prominence in the media and how representative they really are; and b) the fact that any sex worker who had the desire and opportunity to leave the industry and then did so is thus disqualified from counting as an "actual voice"?
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:02 AM on August 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


and, how little coercion is (or how subtle and multifaceted is the coercion) actually involved.
saysthis

What about economic coercion? Ignoring that seems like the classic libertarian canard.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:35 AM on August 4 [2 favorites +] [!]


Nonono. You're a fool if you ignore the economic coercion.

You get people saying economic coercion is involved in any industry, but sexuality is so, so, so individual that there really, honestly is no way to equate it with moving bricks or sitting in a cubicle filling out TPS reports. That's also not to say that some people can't build the psychological armor to make it so. The ONLY useful referent I can think of is pornography, where there are some people who make a career of it and thrive, and some who suffer terrible trauma, and lots of experiences in the middle of the road. I think it's useful to remember that for anything people do outside the realm of the universally acceptable, from skydiving to drugs to tornado chasing, can be defended by saying, "There are people who can handle it," special cases whose psyches are more durable than the rest of us. While true, that's not applicable in the context of economic coercion in prostitution, I think. Prostitution = sex, for better or worse, and that means that the universality, simplicity, banal danger, and diverse cultural baggage of it make it a unique case when you're trying to identify where economic coercion applies and where it doesn't, vs. other professions.

Libertarians and their canards be damned.

Personally, I believe that the only reason more of us in the Anglosphere haven't experienced prostitution first-hand is because we have a huge cultural stigma about it. And guess what, that informs the markets in countries where US economic influence has normalized it. In the Philippines, Japan, and Korea, there are very, very complicated cases to be made that the presence of US troops shaped the prostitution markets in those countries, and that the normality of it in those countries then proceeded to influence the return and normalization of prostitution in China, from where it rebounded back to those original markets and reinforced them while changing them from a (relatively) benign institution from a land far far away to something more menacing, patriotic, and close to home.

And I think this is a topic where the world has a long, long way to go before we reach an equilibrium understanding, and who knows if that will be healthy or not? But no, ignoring economic coercion as a factor in prostitution, that's just silly. It's a HUGE factor. But look at how much economic coercion is present in the American milieu. Do people buy vs. rent purely from logical, rational perspectives? Do people buy & sell stock because they're all perfect at risk assessment? Do we save vs. spend at rational rates? We're emotional animals driven by...nobody knows what yet, but we know we don't like it when someone impinges on our autonomy, and we know where trauma danger zones are and we go there anyway.

I offer this example as something to think about, without offering a definite position on legality - a 23-year old daughter of a Muslim farmer in the Philippines chooses to sell sex to a sexually attractive 35-year old businessman from India (with a US green card) who enjoys taking ecstasy and Viagra together. Her family owns a car, but also owns a small house made of mud and sticks. The father drives the car as a taxi to and from the only airport on the island, and paid for a technical education for his daughter and two sons from that income. The other two brothers work as software engineers at a local startup, where they make above-average income, but not enough to buy a 4000sqf. beach villa for the parents for another 8 years. The daughter, by going to a bar twice a weekend for a year, can save up enough money to do so, after which point she plans to continue doing this for another two years while she saves up startup capital to buy a rental property on Borocay to rent to tourists on AirBnB and quit the business. She is single. The parents suspect what she does, but have never asked in detail, and the story is she's found a good job in the city. The father has internet on his phone and speaks enough English to read forums about his country. Should she be prosecuted, taxed, licensed? What, exactly, should be done with her, and him?

I don't know. But is economic coercion part of that argument? Probably.

This is what happens all the time around me. People I like engage in both sides of it. I don't know what to think anymore.
posted by saysthis at 12:31 AM on August 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Personally, I believe that the only reason more of us in the Anglosphere haven't experienced prostitution first-hand is because we have a huge cultural stigma about it"

Eh, that's a bit of a generalization. For example, the UK actually has, surprisingly, some pretty liberal laws regarding prostitution. Though I'm wondering what you mean by "experience it first hand" since that would probably involve either directly selling or buying and I'm not sure what percentage of the population engage in both sides prostitution in the Anglosphere or anywhere else.
posted by I-baLL at 5:40 AM on August 4, 2015


There is a whole section on the topic on the Guardian, also with pieces from associations supporting the proposal, and another one against it (and in favour of the "Nordic model") that goes into more details and takes an even more critical view than the editorial, and cites international laws supporting their position:

There can be no amnesty for those who buy sex – not even if women ‘consent’
The author is Esohe Aghatise, anti-trafficking manager at Equality Now.
posted by bitteschoen at 9:53 AM on August 4, 2015


From Aghatise's "There can be no amnesty for those who buy sex – not even if women ‘consent’" article:
In New Zealand, according to a 2008 report, women in prostitution said they were no more likely to report acts of violence or access health services than before decriminalisation.

Equality Now says that countries are backtracking away from legalization and towards the Nordic model.

From that report in question (NZ essentially legalized and regulates sex work with the PRA):
over 90% of sex workers in each sector felt that they have legal rights under the PRA;

Over 60% of sex workers in each sector felt that they were more able to refuse to provide commercial sexual services to a particular client since the enactment of the PRA;

there is a high level of awareness of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) requirements in the sex industry, but compliance cannot be measured as there is no system of regular inspection;

Of those feeling in a position to comment, the majority felt sex workers were now more likely to report incidents of violence to the Police, though willingness to carry the process through to court is less common;

only a very small number of sex workers reported being made to work by someone else at the time of entry and after;

The Committee does not consider the PRA has increased under age involvement in prostitution. The Committee believes the passage of the PRA has raised awareness of the problem of under age prostitution;

Research indicates that there has been some improvement in employment conditions, but this is by no means universal.
I would take the rest of that Guardian article with a grain of salt, given their wilful misreading of the Committee's findings.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:04 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


In Spain it's legal to work as a prostitute, but not to profit as a pimp from the prostitution of others. Seems a good start to me.
posted by kandinski at 2:53 PM on August 4, 2015


I wish one of the ways we encouraged protection of women were the suggestion that maybe men aren't entitled to sex at any cost.

Thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 4:02 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


People who are anti-legalization of sex work are exactly the same as anti-abortionists, or the Just Say No idiots. People (mostly men) are going to pay for sex, mostly from women. The only logical thing to do is legalize, regulate, and ensure safety.

Require a licence. Easy. Put the onus on the client to check the worker's licence--now it becomes the client's problem if the professional they are visiting has been trafficked, is a minor, etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:03 PM on August 4, 2015


Yeah, I for sure am far from an expert on this, but the anti-decriminalization movement is super confusing to me. Sex work has always been around. It will always be around. I mean, are we thinking that it will somehow go away if it's criminalized? That seems excessively naive. Are we concerned about human trafficking? Are we concerned about women and the choices they might make? Haven't we come to a very general (and sometimes tenuous) understanding/agreement that women have agency over their own bodies? This, to me, is the main difference between sex work and people who want to sell their own organs. Women have 1) historically been denied agency in general, and 2) but specifically punished and persecuted over matters and choices they make regarding their own sexuality pretty much forever. The history around this is much more sensitive, which is why I don't think a lot of the comparisons being used here work. This is also why I think that listening to what actual sex workers have to say in the matter should carry much more credence than normally might be given on things like this. And from what I can see (without wanting to speak for them), they want to be safe.

To me, this opposition to this seems very similar to some states forcing women to have invasive vaginal ultrasounds before undergoing an abortion, based on some antiquated thought process that women don't know what they're doing, don't know "what's good for them" and don't have a clear understanding of their own thoughts and bodies. I'm a little dismayed that we seem to have to fight this same fight over and over again.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:12 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


But I'm inherently suspicious of any argument that dances back and forth so readily between "decriminalization is the least worst option; we've got to ensure safety" and "decriminalization represents basic respect for people's agency". Which is it? The former might well be the case, of course. The latter seems fundamentally confused, since virtually any law limits people's agency by definition. And of course the argument that this specific kind of law limits women's agency unfairly by comparison with men's is only plausible to begin with because it's largely men paying for sex with women and not the other way around – which undermines an argument on grounds of equality since it's only valid within a context that is unequal to begin with.
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:34 AM on August 5, 2015


I am personally big on legalisation of sex work, and at work, we have a purposefully neutral platform on sex work. That said, the New Zealand example always strikes me as a giant red herring in the debate because it's New Zealand - the country is not a transit for migration at all and it's too damn far for traffickers to bother bringing people to, while the country has a spread out population with a robust welfare system, socially enforced gender parity and a comparatively non-corrupt police force. Legalised sex work there is a completely different environment from legalised sex work in a country with widespread gender discrimination, corruption and major labour trafficking through it from physical geography. Legalisation is important, but it's not the sole answer to the abuse and trafficking in sex work.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:02 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


the New Zealand example always strikes me as a giant red herring in the debate because it's New Zealand - the country is not a transit for migration at all and it's too damn far for traffickers to bother bringing people to

Indeed. I think it’s more interesting to read up about the debate at European level because there you have different countries with different legislation, and on top of that EU-wide legislation and policies and recommendations. AND a lot, a huge lot of the prostitution market has to do with migrants, both inter-European migration and from outside Europe.

Here’s a briefing paper written for the European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality which cites a lot of other research and compares the two approaches and positions and analyses data. Just skimming it, some interesting quotes:
- The most conservative official statistics suggest that 1 in 7 prostitutes in Europe are
victims of trafficking
, while some Member States estimate that between 60% and 90%
of those in their respective national prostitution markets have been trafficked. Moreover,
the data available confirm that most trafficking in Europe is for the purposes of
sexual exploitation, principally of women and girls.

- It seems that the Swedish legislation, which targets the buyer (mostly
men) and thus criminalises the demand side instead of the prostitutes themselves, is the
only one which successfully criminalises men buying women. According to official
evaluations, this seems to have effectively reduced demand and deterred traffickers.


- From the background of the laws regulating prostitution in the two Member States selected
for this study, it can be concluded that the objective of their change in legislation was to
protect women from exploitation – in the Netherlands by providing them with a status of
independent worker, and in Germany by enabling selling sex with an employment contract.
For the latter, this meant also that the trade union for services, VERDI, opened their
membership to women selling sex. The objective was to empower women entering the
prostitution business by recognising legally and politically their way of working and earning
money, to end stigmatisation and to improve the working conditions of women selling sex.
As it was already visible from the statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in
Human Beings mentioned above, these objectives have not been reached. Even
organisations representing women selling sex, while rejecting the allegation that all women
would be exploited in prostitution, admit that the working conditions are still very bad.
Nevertheless, there is support from women’s rights groups and feminists for this approach.

- According to a report published in 201249, prostitution is a global phenomenon and involves
around 40-42 million people of which 90% are dependent on a procurer. 75% of them are
between 13 and 25 years old
. The prostitution market is a highly globalized and
“industrialized” phenomenon where millions of women and children from deprived
backgrounds all over the world are bought and sold by criminal circles to macro brothels
which can exploit hundreds of victims at once .
Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is considered one of the most lucrative illicit
businesses in Europe, with criminal groups making about $3 billion from it per year.

Human trafficking for sexual exploitation includes exploitation in prostitution and in
pornography

- The results of a study made in nine countries showed that 89% of 785 prostitutes
interviewed wanted to escape prostitution but could not because they did not have other
options for survival
.

- The debate does not put into question that trafficking for sexual exploitation and
violence against women should be eliminated. On the international, European and
national level, a broad range of legislation exists which qualifies sexual exploitation
as a criminal offense. European Directive 2011/36/EU furthermore urges Member
States to consider criminalising the known use of services of objects of exploitation,
and specifically the buyers of sexual services from trafficked persons."

- ...it has to be noted that experts have found a relation
between the liberalisation of prostitution and increasing numbers of trafficking in
human beings.

- Regarding the fight against trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation, it
should be noted that it takes place to a greater and lesser extent in all Member
States. Although, as this note shows, women are sexually exploited in a complex
legal, social and political environment, it is however astonishing that the literature
rarely examines the role of law enforcement, i.e. the police. (...) Again, Liz
Kelly can be cited who examined prostitution regimes in 9 countries: “Regulation is
invariably under-enforced and under-resourced, with a lack of clarity in law and
policy as to who is responsible. This has led, in many regimes, to unchecked growth
in illegal sectors and/or a failure to police the exploitations of prostitution offences.
Both create disincentives for the licensed sector to comply with policy goals.”

- KEY FINDINGS

• On average 70% of the prostitutes in the EU are migrant women. Prostitution in the
Member States is part of a globalized and transnational market.
• Men who buy sexual services can be considered a minority within the total male
population, yet around 30 % of all men have paid for sex at some point in their life.
Men who buy sex from prostitutes have been found to share in common a higher
likelihood to commit sexual coercive acts and violence against women.
• An increased demand for young women selling sex has been observed.

- In Europe, the main region of origin of migrants engaged in prostitution is Central and
Eastern Europe, including the Baltic and Balkan States, which together account for around
70%
. 32% are from recent EU accession States (EU 8), and 37% from non-EU States in
Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Other places of origin are Africa (12%), Latin America and
the Caribbean (11%), Asia-Pacific (4%), and other EU countries (4%).
etc. By the way, the article by the Equality Now representative did cite current European legislation and debate around legislation, of course it cited the elements in support of their position (critical of Amnesty’s position) but it wasn’t really making stuff up about that.
posted by bitteschoen at 9:17 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The results of a study made in nine countries showed that 89% of 785 prostitutes interviewed wanted to escape prostitution but could not because they did not have other options for survival.

But keeping prostitution illegal does not mean they don't engage in prostitution it just means they engage in prostitution illegally.
posted by Justinian at 1:41 PM on August 5, 2015


That was quoted as a relevant part of one side of the debate – "the lack of alternative experienced by women having difficulties in earning their living is, among other aspects, captured in the notion of vulnerability which has been included in all legal texts seeking the elimination of trafficking for sexual exploitation since the so called Palermo Protocol".

Actually, in a number of countries in Europe prostitution itself is not illegal, in several it is fully legal and regulated, in others it’s only the procuring that’s illegal, and in others it’s tolerated anyway. The cited study in nine countries was done in countries across the world, not just Europe.

For what it’s worth, I tend to agree in principle with the idea of full decriminalisation and regulation, but the more I read about this debate the more it seems to me that position is indeed based on a libertarian ideal, about an ideal scenario of freedom of choice and reduction of abuses and criminal exploitation, while the realities, including in countries where that ideal is already practiced (fully legal and regulated prostitution, as in Germany and Denmark) seem to be a lot more complicated. I wouldn’t want the issue to be put up for voting in a referendum, for sure.
Another ideal is that there should be some harmonisation of the laws across countries, that would be a way to see some consistent impact on the trafficking and organised crime involvement. That is also one aspect that makes me sympathetic to Amnesty’s proposal. But I also fully understand the specific criticism linked here. The evidence from data and existing different legal approches doesn’t seem to be that clear-cut as we wish it was.
posted by bitteschoen at 2:50 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree with that; I don't think the data is as clear cut as the data for, say, drug decriminalization. There are of course reasons for that and arguments as to why more widespread decriminalization in other places would address some of those issues but, yeah, in and of itself the data here appears not as clear cut as I wish it was.

I'm not sure one has to believe in a libertarian paradise to believe that the freedom-of-choice argument has merit. Hell, if the libertarians got their way I think it'd look a lot more like Somalia than Galt's Gulch. But I still think there is merit to "people should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies (as long as it doesn't harm others) without the government arresting them for it."
posted by Justinian at 3:59 PM on August 5, 2015


Absolutely agreed, Justinian, but that’s another extra complication of a debate about legislation: it does involve other principles than individual rights to do as we please with our bodies, namely the principle of bodily harm. It’s very much part of the legislative debate. One of the arguments is that prostitution is in itself exploitation and harmful and therefore consent is at best never really free, at worst outright impossible. And, on top of the bodily harm at individual level you have the idea of harm to a whole group (women) or society, in general.

It doesn’t matter what you or I or anyone thinks individually about that, on some philosophical abstract level, or even from a feminist perspective, the law always takes account of that principle of harm in many other areas, it cannot ignore that argument here either. And when you add the political debate on top of the legislative debate, that becomes even more complicated, because there is also the issue of what the state is sanctioning and approving and justifying to its own citizens.

And because the data is far from unequivocal, it is difficult to establish in practice which theoretical approach IS the more effective, really. Even just taking the issue of trafficking alone, full regulation has not eliminated the problem in countries like Germany. German brothels have become a magnet for girls and young women from poorer countries in Eastern Europe. There was a much debated cover report on Spiegel a while ago (English version here; one well-researched rebuttal here). I’m no wiser about what solution is best after having read all that, but it highlights a lot of issues I hadn’t really thought about, when considering the legalisation debate from a purely ideal perspective, of abstract principles. It’s a lot more messed up in reality.
posted by bitteschoen at 11:30 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


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