Human Rights organisations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are all about the freedom of conscience, expression, and speech except, that is, when ones’ conscience, expression, or speech challenges their ideological dehumanisation of people in poverty. When confronted with the problematic ethics of making sex work a human right for people who through poverty have no other choice, Amnesty’s Colm O’Gorman ignores the point and says that, as a victim of rape, the image attached to the article was “violently offensive” to him. Strangely enough the offending image was circulated by formerly prostituted women who are vehemently opposed to Amnesty’s position.

We know that Colm O’Gorman is a rape and abuse survivor, and he and all victims of sexual violence and abuse rightly have our sympathy and our support, but this cannot be used as a diversionary tactic in the face of the suffering of others. The image was a response by victims of prostitution to his organisation’s agenda, and what he does is reference it as though it were a weapon used just to offend him. When pressed further he merely tweets the webpage with the policy which states that Amnesty International will “advocate for the decriminalization of all aspects of consensual adult sex work;” which makes not a single reference to poverty, and which is the reason for the objection discussed in the blog post. This was all O’Gorman had to say. It fell to the ground troops of the pro-exploitation lobby to carry the flag from this point. One woman who chose a career in sex work did everything in her power to muddy the waters by insisting that the original post was conflating “consensual” prostitution and abuse.

No such conflation was ever made. In fact in a previous article it was stated that there are people with social and economic freedom who freely choose sex work. The article was not concerned with such people. It was repeatedly made clear that the objection was that people in poverty, with no other choices, are forced into prostitution, and that this was being advocated as a right, and a consensual choice. Lack of alternatives is not a choice. Yet this suggestion of conflation is a standard ploy used by sex industry promoters – including traffickers and pimps – to silence valid criticism. One Twitter user even went so far as to suggest that it was arrogance to speak up for those in poverty.

So it’s a disappointment that this author would have such an opinion on the position that those in poverty have been put in, especially after supporting the right of same-sex couples to marry? Perhaps I should make myself clearer in future. I support the right of couples to marry, regardless of their sex or gender, and I support this because I believe it to be a fundamental human right. It is because I believe in human rights, and because I cherish the idea of human dignity and worth, that I stand against Amnesty on its stance on prostitution. I will say again that I am not talking about people with social and economic freedom to choose otherwise. Neither am I writing against prostituted people. I am against a culture that would have poor people prostituted rather than commit to dealing with the social and economic causes of poverty. Over any right to sell sex, people have the human right not to be forced into prostitution due to poverty, and this is exactly what Amnesty is advocating.

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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