Amnesty’s Misguided Resolution

On August 11 Amnesty International’s (AI) governing body adopted a resolution supporting the legalization of “consensual” sex work.  You can read the press release regarding this decision here.  Frankly, I’ve been a bit angry about it.  I haven’t been a supporter of AI for many years, primarily because I decided to focus my charitable giving on organizations that work to help women and girls (like Soroptimist).  But this action will certainly prevent me from ever donating to AI again.

The organization has received sufficient backlash on the proposed (now adopted vote) to create Frequently Asked Questions about it.  I’ve read it, and it sure seems like AI is talking out of both sides of their mouth.  On the one hand, they state they oppose human trafficking in all forms.  Yet they have adopted a policy that decriminalizes prostitution–the most common destination for women being trafficked.  They have chosen to ignore the Nordic model (Sweden, Denmark) that criminalizes the purchase of sex because “operational aspects – like purchasing sex and renting premises to sell sex in – are still criminalized. This compromises sex workers safety and leaves them vulnerable to abuse.”  And yet Sweden and other countries that have criminalized the purchase of sex have seen significant declines in the incidence of human trafficking by as much as 70%.

The problem with AI’s resolution is that it assumes the “consensual” sale of sex is the norm.  The average age girls enter prostitution in the United States is 12 to 14 years of age–and it is rarely consensual.  (Actually, under federal law, it’s automatically considered to be trafficking if the victim is younger than 18.)  Is AI really advocating to legalize child rape?

In 2010 Soroptimist adopted a resolution on “Prostituted Women and Girls”.  Here’s what it says:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that Soroptimist clubs condemn prostitution as violence against women and undertake the following activities in order to end the prostitution of women and girls and decrease trafficking:

  1. Support laws and programs that assist the victims of prostitution and do not treat them like criminals
  2. Advocate for laws that criminalize the buying of sex
  3. Encourage education (including workshops with former prostitutes) for purchasers of sex
  4. Promote school programs that teach young people about healthy intimate relationships
  5. Fight efforts to legalize prostitution
  6. Work to change the attitudes about prostitution from the “world’s oldest profession” to the “world’s oldest oppression”
  7. Have frank and open discussions about prostitution with the men and boys in our lives and the effect it has on women, girls and relationships
  8. Oppose efforts to treat prostitution as a legitimate occupation (Emphasis added)

If you’ve been wanting to flex your advocacy muscles, this would be a good cause.  We need to let AI know that we oppose their resolution due to the harm it will cause to women and girls.


cathy-standiford Cathy Standiford is passionately committed to improving the lives of women and girls, locally and globally, and advocating for their basic human rights. Cathy served as 2009-2010 President of Soroptimist International of the Americas,’s sponsoring organization: a global volunteer organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.

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