Delegates from around the world voted last Tuesday in favour of protecting sex workers’ rights. The resolution authorised the AI board to develop and adopt a policy that supports decriminalisation of all aspects of consensual sex work and calls on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.
“Sex workers are one of the most marginalised groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse. Our global movement paved the way for adopting a policy for the protection of the human rights of sex workers which will help shape AI’s future work on this important issue,” AI secretary-general Salil Shetty said.
“We recognise that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex and that is why we have addressed this issue from the perspective of international human rights standards. We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world.”
The research and consultation carried out in the development of this policy over the past two years concluded that this was the best way to defend sex workers’ human rights and lessen the risks they face.
Violations that sex workers can be exposed to include physical and sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, extortion and harassment, human trafficking, and forced HIV testing. They can also be excluded from healthcare, housing services and other social and legal protection.
The policy will be drawn from an extensive evidence base from sources, including UN agencies, while research was conducted in four countries. Consultation included sex worker groups, abolitionist organisations, women’s representatives, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender activists, anti-human trafficking agencies and HIV/Aids organisations.
“This is a historic day for AI. It was not a decision that was reached easily or quickly and we thank all our members worldwide, as well as all the groups we consulted for their contribution to this debate. They have helped us reach an important decision that will shape this area of our human rights work going forward,” Shetty said.