April 3, 2014
For Immediate Release
The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP)-Chicago supports the proposal put forth by Amnesty International to decriminalize prostitution. We believe that the criminalization of actors participating in the sex trade contributes to a host of negative effects for both sellers and buyers of sexual services: it alienates them from communities that support their health and human rights, precludes the development of social services that can help them address issues of concern, undermines their ability to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and other STIs, and eliminates the agency of individual sex workers. In countries where sex work is decriminalized, violence against sex workers is reduced and access to health and human services is increased.
The removal of punitive laws and policies targeting sex workers is crucial. SWOP-Chicago is not alone in this belief. International agencies such as The Global Commission on HIV and the Law, UNAIDS , the World Health Organization, the Global Alliance Against the Trafficking in Women (GAATW) and the Human Rights Watch have called for or support the decriminalization of sex work. Contrary to what some may have you believe, decriminalization is NOT an attempt to legalize ‘pimps’, nor does it increase exploitation of sex workers. Such arguments are made with a limited understanding of the sex trade, a limited understanding of global capitalism, and undermines the struggle for sex workers to live healthy, safe, stigma-free lives.
Decriminalization will help sex workers address all forms of exploitation, including abusive or sub-standard working conditions instituted by both state and non-state actors. In countries such as the United States where sex work is criminalized, sex workers are often afraid to come forth Criminalization of buyers of sex will not eliminate this concern, but would instead drive the industry further underground. Clients will be more likely to withhold personal information that sex workers need to keep them safe in order to prevent the police from using this information.
Finally, SWOP-Chicago is committed to ending human trafficking within the sex trade. Criminalization of prostitution hampers the anti-trafficking efforts of organizations working with people in the sex trade and makes it easier for sex workers to be wrongly categorized as trafficked persons. Moreover, under criminalization, there is a reduced chance that those who are trafficked into the sex trade will come forward against their traffickers. Criminalizing the buyers of sex is tantamount to eliminating the agency of individual sex workers, and creates an environment conducive to the proliferation of human trafficking.
SWOP-Chicago and other members of the sex worker rights movement are in agreement with with other human rights movements in condemning the abuse and violation of the rights of all individuals, including sex workers. Thus, we stand in solidarity with Amnesty International in calling for the full decriminalization of prostitution.
Please join us in posting this statement and spreading the word via social media using the hashtags on Friday, April 4 in support of Amnesty International’s consultation of the decriminalization of sex work.
Members of SWOP-Chicago