A recent Amnesty International resolution advocating the decriminalization of prostitution drew mixed reactions from local advocacy groups yesterday.
A resolution supporting the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work was adopted by Amnesty International’s international council meeting earlier this month, with the organization stating that decriminalization was the best way to prevent abuse of sex workers.
Garden of Hope Foundation director Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容) said a full decriminalization of prostitution would be unjust because the practice inherently exploits women.
She said that based on the experiences of countries such as the Netherlands and Germany, decriminalization could also lead to an increase in human trafficking.
“[Amnesty International] ignores who the exploiters and beneficiaries [of prostitution] are. Full decriminalization will only make these people bolder,” she said, adding that it would be impossible to effectively regulate prostitution if legalized.
Calling for a reform to the way prostitution is prosecuted, she said that because sex workers are often subject to exploitation, making them the focus of prosecution is unjust.
The government should focus on prosecuting clients and other beneficiaries of prostitution, while not prosecuting prostitutes themselves, she said.
The foundation was founded to combat child prostitution, later branching out to other women’s rights issues.
Meanwhile, the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (COSWAS) affirmed Amnesty International’s resolution, saying that legalization would reduce the pressure and exploitation sex workers face.
“We cannot pretend that legalization will solve everything, but at the very least legalization would put the transaction above the table,” COSWAS secretary I Yo-ko said.
Legalizing prostitution would also reduce exploitation by enabling sex workers to be more self-sufficient, she said.
Prosecuting the customers of prostitutes ultimately harms those most vulnerable to exploitation by taking away their customer base, she said, adding that police enforcement focuses mainly on relatively vulnerable street prostitutes rather than the expensive “companions” provided by bars and karaoke establishments.
Because of the difficulty in switching occupations, taking away sex workers’ clients would only serve to further disadvantage poorer prostitutes, she said.
“Those who could transition to other jobs have already done so — this is not a problem that can be addressed by expecting them to switch career tracks,” she said.
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