GAATW-IS Statement on attack on UN research calling for the decriminalisation of sex work
US-based NGO Equality Now has launched a campaign against some UN research into HIV, human rights, and sex work, which concluded that States should decriminalise sex work. GAATW-IS regrets that it is necessary to make clear that not all anti-trafficking organisations support the claim made by Equality Now that decriminalising prostitution will increase human trafficking. On the contrary, GAATW’s years of experience working on trafficking in persons, all over the world, has led us to the opposite conclusion. GAATW-IS advocates for the decriminalisation of sex work, for labour rights for sex workers, and the conceptual de-linking of sex work and trafficking in persons (for example here). We have documented the harmful effects of anti-trafficking measures on specific groups of people, such as the sex workers who are affected by raids on brothels carried out ostensibly to find people who have been trafficked, a finding echoed in the Sex Work and the Law report. Such a bias in approach also often overlooks other forms of labour trafficking.
The reports that have triggered this call to mobilise against the UN are the Global Commission on HIV and the Law’s 2012 report, HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health, published by UNDP, and Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific, also published in 2012, by UNDP, UNFPA and UNAIDS. GAATW-IS thank these agencies for their work on these reports – for their focus on the health and rights of, and for their collaborative approach with, sex workers. Recognising sex workers as partners in the work on HIV and human rights is an important step to ending the epidemic. It is a good practice that should be repeated in all other research on issues that affect them. We also welcome UN Women’s recently shared position statement on sex work, sexual exploitation and trafficking. We call on UNDP, UNFPA, UNAIDS and UN Women and other relevant UN actors to promote this research and the good practice that produced it and work towards implementing the recommendations.