Behind the Scenes at CSW

There is a struggle going on between NGOs that work against trafficking and some UN and non-profit agencies seeking to normalize prostitution by calling it “sex work.” This terminology is being pushed by some UN agencies and even Amnesty International, under the banner of human rights (“women have a right to decent work,” “men have the right to buy sex”).  We think it seeks to “sanitize” it and minimize the harm to victims. In a political debate at one of the civil society caucuses, positions seemed to solidify around the “Netherlands / Dutch Model” (decriminalizes and regulates prostitution like a business, but still treats trafficking as a crime) and the “Nordic Model” (criminalizes the use and sale of prostituted people but treats the women and children as victims and provides help).

UNAIDS had released a briefing note on “The legal status of sex work: Key human rights and public health considerations”

This briefing note is extremely problematic as it: 1) de-links trafficking from prostitution; 2) states that decriminalizing the purchase of sex protects human rights; 3) states that the Nordic Model harms people in prostitution (it erroneously assumes that criminalizing sex buying also includes criminalizing the victims). Some think there is a controlled and well-funded campaign targeting powerful and strategically located individuals at the UN and in the women’s/ human rights movement.  Watch for this in your area!