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Amnesty International: Protecting the ‘Human Rights’ of Johns, Pimps and Human Traffickers

Posted on Aug 16, 2015

By Chris Hedges

  After a government raid last year on an illegal mining camp in La Pampa in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, a discarded bra lies on the ground outside an informal bar that allegedly employed sex workers. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

The decision by Amnesty International’s decision-making forum, the International Council Meeting, to call for the decriminalization of prostitution is another in a long line of triumphs for heartless neoliberal economics and the grotesque commodification of human beings that defines predatory capitalism.

Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said: “Sex workers are one of the most marginalized 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 Amnesty International’s future work on this important issue.”

In the sickness of modern culture, the ability to exploit with impunity is distorted into a human right even by a renowned and respected humanitarian organization. That is quite a card trick. We live in a global culture where the wretched of the earth are chattel and where sexual slavery—which is what most prostituted women and girls around the globe endure—is sanctified by market forces. These women and girls are among our most vulnerable. After being crushed by poverty, racism and sexism, they are unable to find other ways to make a sustainable income. They are treated little better than livestock transported to markets for consumption. That a so-called human rights organization parrots vile justifications is emblematic of the depth of our moral degeneration and the triumph of misogyny.

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Women and girls who are prostituted should be treated not as criminals but as victims. The criminals are the johns and the pimps and traffickers who profit from the sale of human flesh. Decriminalizing prostitution, which allows these modern slave masters to openly ply their trade, means the exploitation will grow explosively. We must work to create a world where those who are dispossessed of their human rights are not forced into this dilemma. We must not accept a world where poverty destroys the lives of the weak and the vulnerable, including children. Those who profit from prostituting women and girls must be driven out of business. 

“In sheer numbers, it is the poor brown women of the world who pay with bruises, humiliation and deaths for this ignorant and hideous decision that has brought Amnesty International so low,” Lee Lakeman, the Canadian feminist, told me by email. “When Amnesty International’s ‘progressive leftists’ blithely refer to ‘free choice to prostitute,’ do they choose to forget prostitution as imperialism? Third world brothel cities, the tourist brothels sprung up where once armies were stationed, man-camps of resource thieves that overrun indigenous communities, UN troops buying sex from women in refugee camps by offering them food? Abandoned migrant addicted kids and women in the ghettos of the world’s cities being bought for the price of a quick hit? Or are they [Amnesty and those who support its decision] imagining this free choice: the women, babes in arms migrating from war zones and environmental deserts who are bought with rides, food, water or with a chance to save a child? Surely they know how indigenous girls are groomed with drugs and alcohol and rides to the city from hopeless homelands. But they cannot have missed the inherent racism of prostitution that exoticizes every racial stereotype of woman on the back pages and internet sites of the world. And those of us, women of the global north, who have food and shelter? We fight now for the public life of full citizens. Are we obliged every time we leave our houses to face a barrage of men bloated with entitlement of class and race and sex, who sit scanning as we pass for our price tag? Consciousness is in part knowing who is standing with you. We know Amnesty International sold us out.”

Among those, including women, who have no concept of what being prostituted really means, it has become hip and edgy to talk about the legitimacy of “sex work.” Movies like “Pretty Woman” and the pro-prostitution lobby’s slick portrayals of the “sex industry” bear as much resemblance to the reality of prostitution as “Sands of Iwo Jima” does to war. If you want an honest window into what the prostitution industry is like, read “Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution” by Rachel Moran, who at 15 was prostituted on the streets of Dublin. She endured this nightmare for seven years.

Moran says, based on her experience, that there are three types of men who use prostitutes: those who treat women as if they do not have human emotions; those who are conscious of a woman’s humanity but choose to ignore it; and those who derive sexual pleasure from crushing the humanity of the women they buy.


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