Women rescued from prostitution are criticizing UN agencies and Amnesty International for trying to legalize prostitution insisting legalization would lead to more girls being trafficked, and transform pimps into legitimate businessmen.
“When [UN personnel] work in a brothel then will I listen to their argument,” said one former prostituted woman referring to the newly-created agency called UN Women.
“What the hell are they [Amnesty International] thinking,” said Rachel Moran, a former prostituted woman from Ireland. Author of Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution, Moran refers to a leaked draft paper advocating for legalizing “sex work.” The report, said by a panelist at the event, was authored in part by a former pimp now on staff with Amnesty International, was criticized for creating a “right to men to buy sex”.
The survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution spoke to an overflow crowd at the UN’s annual conference on women. The panel on ”Prostitution or Sex Work,” organized by The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), was held as diplomats negotiated whether to describe prostitution as “sex work.”
The term “sex work” originated by US-based pimps in order to normalize prostitution. While many use the term to avoid offending prostituted women, mainstreaming the phrase only benefits pimps and panderers, panelists said. Prostitution is not work, they argued – it is paid rape, and using the term hurts efforts to stop it.
UN agencies recently released reports telling countries to decriminalize all aspects of prostitution to reduce HIV/AIDS and promote human rights. A UN Development Program (UNDP) report on HIV and the Law and Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific, a UNDP, UN Population Fund and UNAIDS-backed report, calls for decriminalizing prostitution.
The UN reports imply prostituted women “work” by choice. However, Natasha Falle, founder of SEXTRADE 101 said upwards of 95 percent want to exit but need assistance. Falle, a Canadian sex trafficking survivor, has helped hundreds of women escape prostitution.
The UN reports suggest legalization provides safeguards for prostituted women. Wrong again, said the panelists. Men paying for sex are addicts using women’s bodies as drugs, said a former victim. Men believe the time they have purchased to be with a woman puts them completely in control. Laws requiring condom use cannot be enforced.
Attendees gasped when told an email obtained from UN Women revealed support for decriminalization. The former prostituted women encouraged the packed audience to tell UN Women they must retract their support for decriminalization and that prostitution must be treated as gender-based violence.
Last month Amnesty International responded to backlash from its leaked report stating, “no decisions…have been made yet.” Amnesty noted that the World Health Organization, UN Women, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, and Human Rights Watch all “support or are calling for the decriminalization of sex work."