Amnesty International: Release Nigerian Schoolgirls But Legalize Prostitution
Religion & Liberty Online

Amnesty International: Release Nigerian Schoolgirls But Legalize Prostitution

amnesty internationalYesterday, Joe Carter wrote about Boko Haram, the terrorist group that has kidnapped hundreds of girls in Nigeria from the Christian school, and is now threatening to sell them into the sex trafficking trade. Salil Shetty, Secretary General of the human rights organization Amnesty International, is calling upon the Nigerian government to initiate a transparent investigation of the girls’ kidnapping and an immediate release of the girls.

The horrific abduction shows the serious nature of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law being committed by Boko Haram. It is imperative that Nigeria acts swiftly and firmly to secure their safe return – with international support if needed – but the process must also demonstrate a commitment to human dignity, human rights, transparency and accountability. To do this, Nigeria needs the help of all its friends attending the Abuja World Economic Forum.

Yet Amnesty International is also pushing for legalized prostitution or, as they say,“the decriminalization of sex work.”

In March, women who are survivors of human trafficking raised issue with both Amnesty International and the United Nations for calling for legalized prostitution. One woman said she would listen the pro-prostitution arguments only from people who had worked in a brothel.

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.

On Amnesty International’s website, they are careful to distinguish between “forced prostitution” and the rights of “sex workers,” rights that include (but not limited to) legalizing prostitution.

Amnesty International’s call (along with the United Nations’) to legalize prostitution is a slap in the face to the millions of victims of sex trafficking world-wide. Legalizing prostitution means legalizing the use of one human being’s body for the sexual pleasure of another, which denigrates both parties. It will also increase the demand for “sex workers” which means an increase in sex trafficking – all “legal,” of course. Amnesty International says this is for the good of humanity:

Laws that ban people from buying or selling sex should be scrapped because they breach their human rights, according to Amnesty International.

A policy document drawn up by the charity claims that prostitutes, pimps and men who buy sex are simply ‘exercising their autonomy’ and should be allowed to do so ‘free from government interference’.

The proposal… also bizarrely compares prostitutes to coal miners and domestic workers…

In a paper entitled “Decriminalisation of Sex Work: Policy Background Document,” Amnesty International 

…argues that pimps and johns should be “free from government interference” and allowed to “exercise their autonomy.”

It says governments have an obligation to establish an environment where pimps can operate freely to engage prostituted people; to do otherwise “threatens the rights to health, nondiscrimination, equality, privacy, and security of persons.” The document also insults the disability community by claiming that men with disabilities require access to prostituted women to further their sense of “life enjoyment and dignity.”

Amnesty International has argued that the document is a draft and is in the discussion stage. But Amnesty International representatives appeared at the Northern Ireland Assembly in January, lobbying to strike down proposed legislation that would criminalize customers for buying prostituted women.

Survivors of sexual exploitation don’t see it this way. They are decrying Amnesty International’s stance on legalizing prostitution. As the survivors succinctly depict it: $ Does Not = Consent.

Amnesty International: you can’t have it both ways. You cannot call for the release of the Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram while at the same time say that “sex workers” need autonomy. The terrorists of Boko Haram would surely appreciate the ability to “exercise their autonomy” and be “free from government interference” as they attempt to sell off these girls to be brutalized. Human trafficking is human trafficking. Prostitution is exploitation of human beings. Don’t think that legalizing debased behavior will in any way make it moral.


Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.