Human rights NGO Amnesty International on Tuesday voted to adopt a policy to “protect the human rights of sex workers”, notably putting forward suggestions to decriminalise the consensual sex trade while safeguarding sex workers from possible exploitation.
“Our global movement paved the way for adopting a policy for the protection of the human rights of sex workers which will help shape Amnesty International’s future work on this important issue,” Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement.
The group came to its decision following two years of research and consultation, the statement said, adding that it had conducted research around the world and conferred with several United Nations agencies in the process.
However, the decision to support the legalisation of the sex trade drew mixed reactions from across the world – a Change.org petition demanding a “no” vote for decriminalising “pimps, brothel owners and buyers of sex” has received over 8,700 signatures since the announcement, and the New York Times quoted former US president Jimmy Carter as saying the group should “stay true to its mission”.
However, the Cambodian Women’s Development Agency – an organisation that advocates on behalf of sex workers, among other things – has lauded Amnesty’s decision, airing hope that it will decrease the stigmatisation of sex work in the Kingdom, both at an official and societal level.
“The biggest issues surrounding Cambodia’s sex workers are mindset, discrimination and violence,” said CWDA program coordinator Keo Sichan.
“We cannot change it if we don’t do anything ourselves.”