Amnesty’s Policy Decision Makes Their Human Rights Stance Questionable

In August, Amnesty International made a u-turn in terms of protecting the rights of women and girls around the world with their policy decision to endorse the decriminalization of prostitution and all aspects of the sex trade – despite the global outcry of women’s rights organizations.

Along with several survivors, organizations, and the European Women’s Lobby, the Swedish Women’s Lobby calls out Amnesty International to no longer stand for human rights as the global organization now stands behind the trade of humans.

Julie Bindel, who exposed the internal plan of Amnesty to campaign for the decriminalization of the sex trade and forced the organization to oversee their decision, writes that some women inside the organization were unable to convince men within Amnesty that decriminalization of the sex trade would harm women in prostitution. She writes,

“The right of men to buy sex appears to be paramount according to Amnesty.”

Amnesty International has addressed the critique by stating that through decriminalizing the sex trade, they will be able to support the health and rights of sex workers who no longer would be forced to go under ground to do their work.

There are several serious concerns about Amnesty’s approach to the sex trade. Amnesty’s policy to decriminalize the sex trade…

  • promotes impunity for those who financially and sexually exploit women, making it close to impossible to hold any traffickers, pimps or purchasers accountable.
  • leads to an increase in trafficking of human beings. This has already happened in states that decriminalized procuring of prostitution (Germany and Netherlands).
  • legitimizes a patriarchal structure that makes women’s bodies available for men’s sexual use.

Furthermore, this decision by Amnesty International takes a strong turn against many existing and established women’s groups and human rights organizations at the local and international levels that work against all forms of sexual violence, including rape, trafficking, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

Here are a few things you can do today:

The Thin Line Between Violence and Art

When it comes to sexualisation in the media, often people respond with – “sex sells.” Although sex may sell, I often wonder at what cost? Who is footing the bill? The answer: everyone.

Sexual exploitation in advertisements affects the whole of society in one way or another.

However, women bear most of the costs and, as a result, our mental health and well-being suffers. Although much has been said on the sexualisation of women and girls in the media, sexual violence, particularly in fashion advertising, must be addressed.

In 2007, Dolce and Gabbana (D&G) published the advert below:

Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com
Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

Many women’s rights groups and advertising watchdogs have argued that the advertisement above clearly symbolises gang-rape. Held down against her will, the woman in the image falls victim to her male oppressor while an additional three men look on eagerly, seemingly awaiting their turn. Gang-rape is a horrifying and grotesque human rights violation from which no one should ever have to suffer. Why then, is it perfectly acceptable to normalise gang rape and use it as a concept in advertisements and marketing campaigns? In response to the global public outrage, D&G withdrew the advertisement from all its publications. However, D&G insisted the image was not meant to be controversial but simply represented an erotic dream.

The fashion industry continues to push the boundaries of what is new, edgy and original. Some argue that fashion advertising is art and therefore should not be taken literally, yet I beg to differ. Take this 2012 winter collection titled ‘Shameless’ from the Dutch company Suit Supply:

Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com
Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

The advertisements above suggest that, by buying a Suit Supply suit, women will allow men to do whatever they desire, including sex, touching and groping and peering at our vagina’s. Suit Supply’s advertisements not only represent women as sexual slaves, but also imply that men buy suits to enhance their sexual appeal solely to women, thereby ignoring the entire homosexual population.

Some advertisements are ridiculous, stupid and extremely offensive, others are indescribable:

last image
Image Courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

Considered ‘fine art’ by the fashion world, marketing executives marvelled at the degrading advertisements.

Studies show that such violent images negatively impact adolescents’ self-esteem and confidence. The continuous bombardment of violent  images on television, magazines and the internet reinforce negative gender stereotypes and normalise violence and the sexual exploitation of women and girls.

Whether deemed fine art or fashion, it is wrong and unacceptable.