Erotic Service Providers Legal Education Research Project(ESPLERP) thanks Amnesty International for calling for decriminalizing sex work, recognizing sex workers’ human rights
San Francisco, CA – Last week Amnesty International released its Policy outlining state obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of sex workers – and calling for the worldwide decriminalization of sex work. A predictable howl of outrage ensued from abolitionist groups, but very little of that outrage actually tried to address the quality of Amnesty’s analysis.
Amnesty also released four geographically specific reports, looking at the different legal frameworks in Norway, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, and Buenos Aires Argentina, and the debilitating effects of those frameworks on sex workers.
Both the Policy and the reports are detailed, meticulous, carefully researched and data-driven, and incorporate input from a wide range of stakeholders – such as sex workers themselves, social workers, government agencies including police and prosecutors, and state ombuds for equality and anti-discrimination. And the conclusions are incontrovertible.
— Decriminalization is the only approach that protects sex workers’ human rights.
— All other approaches, such as criminalizing sex workers, or criminalizing clients, or criminalizing those associated with sex workers (like other sex workers, friends, family, landlords) make sex workers less safe, abridge their human rights, and provide impunity for abusers.
“We applaud Amnesty for doing the work”, said Clair Alwyne, Board Member of ESPLERP. “They did the research, and actually talked to sex workers, and arrived at the obvious conclusion – the first step in protecting sex workers’ human rights is decriminalization”.
The Amnesty policy identifies the most prominent barriers to the realization of sex workers’ human rights and underlines states’ obligations to address them. It is unflinching in its opposition to abuses such as human trafficking, exploitation, and gender inequality and each finding is grounded in the principles of harm reduction, recognition of the personal agency of sex workers, gender equality and general international human rights principles. It recognizes that sex workers have the right to basic human rights that others take for granted and the decriminalizsation of sex work is instrumental in achieving this.
In seeking to support sex workers, and decriminalize sex work, Amnesty joins a long list of reputable organizations who are calling for decriminalization of consensual sex work in order to protect human rights and public health. These include the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women; Global Commission on HIV and the Law; Human Rights Watch; UNAIDS; the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health; and the World Health Organization.
“Amnesty actually talked to sex workers”, said Maxine Doogan, President of ESPLERP. “Decriminalization is the obvious first step. But beyond that, we need to develop legal frameworks to protect sex workers and our families under the law; to oppose harmful diversion programs and outlaw discrimination against sex workers and our families; and to provide sex workers with access to health, education, social security and other services.”
In March 2015, ESPLERP filed a groundbreaking court case in District Court of Northern California ESPLERP v Gascon arguing that California’s anti-prostitution statute 647 (b) is unconstitutional. The case is largely based on Lawrence v Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court landmark decision that held that intimate consensual sexual conduct between adults was protected by the 14th Amendment. On May 23rd the District Judge dismissed the case. So on May 24th ESPLERP filed a Notice of Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, seeking our day in court – where we are confident that the merits of our case will finally be recognized and we will be granted our basic human rights.
The Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) is a diverse community-based coalition advancing sexual privacy rights through litigation, education, and research.
Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP)
2261 Market St. #548 San Francisco, CA 94114