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Explaining our draft policy on sex work

Sex workers are one of the most marginalised groups in the world so it is important that we understand how, as Amnesty International, we can work to support their human rights.

The violations that sex workers can be exposed to include physical and sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, extortion and harassment, human trafficking, forced HIV testing and medical interventions. They can also be excluded from health care and housing services and other social and legal protection.  

This is a divisive, sensitive and complex issue and it is important that we get it right. That is why we have been working for the last two years to develop a proposed policy to protect the human rights of sex workers based on solid research and consultation with stakeholders.

The current draft has drawn from an extensive evidence base from sources including UN agencies, such as the World Health Organisation, UN AIDS, UN Women and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. We have also conducted detailed research in four countries.

Amnesty International’s national offices around the world have also contributed to the policy through extensive and open consultation with many different stakeholders. These have included sex worker groups, groups representing survivors of prostitution, abolitionist organisations, feminist and other women's rights representatives, anti- trafficking agencies and HIV/AIDS activists.

The research and feedback have helped shape the current draft of the proposed policy.

It is important to stress that given that the consultation process is still on-going, no decisions have been made. No policy has been adopted by Amnesty International and it is not possible to speculate about the eventual outcome of the vote.

The consultation doesn't change Amnesty's long-standing position that forced labour and human trafficking constitute serious human rights abuses and must be criminalised. Under international law, States have obligations to prevent, suppress and punish human trafficking, especially of women and children, and Amnesty will continue to call for this.

The draft policy will be voted on at Amnesty International’s main decision-making forum, the International Council Meeting (ICM), which takes place in Dublin from 7-11 August. Whatever decision is made, this meeting will not determine the final wording of the policy - instead, if passed, it will give Amnesty's International Board the go-ahead to develop and agree a policy in the near future. 

Read the draft policy