Vancouver Rape Relief urges AI to retract the resolution on “sex work”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dear Amnesty Delegates,

We write to you as the members of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, a collective of front-line anti violence workers and feminists and Canada’s first rape crisis centre.  Since 1973 we have responded to over 40,000 women escaping male violence. We work toward women’s liberation globally and to end all forms of male violence against women, including prostitution.

We strongly urge you to retract the resolution on “sex work” that was voted in this morning, August 11th, 2015. We are extremely alarmed by the disregard of mounting criticism by feminists, survivors of prostitution, anti-violence workers, abolitionists and other allies in the fight for women’s liberation.

Amnesty International’s decision to support the decriminalization of all aspects of prostitution promotes the subordination of women and legitimizes the buying and selling of women and girls. As you already know, the majority of those sold into prostitution globally are women and girls, and women of colour, Aboriginal women, and women living in poverty are grossly overrepresented. Those who are responsible for the buying, selling and trafficking of women are overwhelmingly men.  This fact alone reflects the stark power imbalance between men and women that this industry flourishes and thrives on.

Amnesty International’s insistence that it “considers human trafficking abhorrent in all its forms” while promoting the decriminalization of pimps and johns displays a refusal to recognize the reality that the male demand for women’s bodies fuels the global trafficking of women.

As an organization that claims to promote the human rights of marginalized people globally, you are making a grave mistake. This decision is harmful to women in prostitution and promotes the power and impunity of pimps and johns to continue their war on women and girls. 

The decision to call for the decriminalization of men who buy and sell women supports and encourages a capitalist multi-billion dollar industry that is inherently patriarchal, colonial, classist, and racist. In adopting this resolution, Amnesty International will help legitimize the exploitation and abuse of women and girls worldwide.



The Collective of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter,

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada