Salil Shetty, Secretary-General, AI International Secretariat, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director, AI-USA, email@example.com
Local Group 543, Cape May County, firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Group 9/280, Midtown/EastSide, email@example.com
Dear Ms. Shetty, Mr. Hawkins & New Jersey affiliates,
It has recently come to our attention that members of Amnesty International will be debating at the International Council Meeting to address the issues that sex workers face, particularly in regard to the decriminalization of sex work. As representatives of a sex worker led group, we urge you and your fellow members to vote in favor of the proposed resolution for decriminalization and the policy in defense of sex workers rights.
Repressive government regulation of our bodies is a blatant violation of everyone’s human rights. We all deserve the freedom to decide how and why we engage in sexual activity. Some people choose to engage in sexual activity based solely on physical attraction, some choose based on long-term romantic attraction, and others engage based on the economic benefits. As humans of this earth, it’s not our place to judge others, but to allow people the right to live according to their truth.
Under the current criminalization regime in the United States, and in other places around the world, sex workers are made to be a second-class of citizens without the same rights granted to other members of society. In cases of rape and other forms of physical violence, often perpetuated from law enforcement themselves, there is no reprisal for justice. If one’s status as a sex worker is discovered, a landlord can evict you from housing violating one’s right to shelter. A sex worker’s right to health is consistently violated as condoms and other safer-sex tools are used by law enforcement as evidence for prostitution related charges. Additionally, the enforcement of prostitution laws is based entirely on stereotypes of who is and is not a sex worker with marginalized members of society feeling the heaviest impact of the law: transgender women, migrants, people of color, the poor, and LGBTQ youth.
Several high-level government and NGO agencies have called for the decriminalization of sex work. The International Labor Organization called on world governments to decriminalize as a right to labor. The World Health Organization and the UN Commission on HIV & the Law have recommended decriminalization to improve the health conditions of those involved in the sex trade. The United Nations Development Program, UN Women, and Human Rights Watch have also come out in favor of decriminalization as a human rights issue.
There is a misguided constituency in the world of human rights that views sex work as inherently exploitive. The vast majority of this lobby is made up of people who have chosen in their life not to engage in the sex trade and who base their views, not on facts, but on stigma and stereotypes of the work that sex workers engage in. Engaging in consensual sexual activity is not a crime. Violating labor rights, thwarting efforts to unionize, enduring sexual harassment on the job - these are crimes, and we must be very careful not conflate these separate issues. As a leading human rights institution, it is your responsibility to listen to the community you wish to advocate on behalf of. As sex workers, we demand to have our voices heard. We do not need to be rescued; we need our rights respected.
New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance