For Immediate Release:
Amnesty International Hawai’i Chapter supports Hawai’i State Legislature H.B. 1533 and S.B. 264 referent to the decriminalization of adult consensual sex work (prostitution) in the state of Hawai’i
Statement by Amnesty International Hawaii Chapter
Honolulu, HI (February 9, 2017)- The Hawai’i State legislature is considering bills (S.B. 264 and H.B. 1533) which aims to decriminalize adult consensual sex work (prostitution) in the state of Hawai’i. On February 8, 2017, Amnesty International Hawai’i Chapter formally contacted the Chair and Vice Chair of the Hawai’i State Legislature Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor to support S.B. 264, and to request that a hearing referent to SB 264 be scheduled. Amnesty International Hawai’i Chapter formally contacted the Chair and Vice Chair of the Hawai’i State Legislature Judiciary House Committee to support H.B. 1533, and to request that a hearing referent to HB 1533 be scheduled.
Amnesty International supports the decriminalization of ALL aspects of adult consensual sex work. Our research has shown that laws that criminalizes adult consensual sex work disproportionately target women, LGBTQIA individuals, and other minority groups, all of whom are overrepresented in the sex working trade and are at highest risk of arrest, and puts sex workers at further risk for human rights violations. In addition to the implications for criminalized sex workers of having criminal records, arrests for adult consensual sex work come with devastating collateral consequences, including eviction, denial of public housing benefits, no access to student and financial aid, limited employment options, loss of child custody, and even risk of deportation. We also recognize that the stigmatized and criminalized nature of sex work routinely forces sex workers to operate at the margins of society in clandestine and dangerous environments with few options for safety or state protection. Consequently, adult consensual sex workers face an increased risk of violence and abuses.
Amnesty International’s global policy advocating the decriminalization of adult consensual sex work was issued on May 26, 2016. To learn more about AI Global position on sex worker’s human rights, please visit:
- Amnesty International policy on state obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of sex workers (Index: POL 30/4063/2016):
- Explanatory note on Amnesty International’s policy on state obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of sex workers (Index: POL 30/4063/2016): https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol30/4063/2016/en
Amnesty International Policy on states’ obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of sex workers is grounded in the principles of harm reduction, gender equality, recognition of the personal agency of sex workers, and international human rights principles. Our policy to protect sex workers’ human rights is based on solid research and consultation with a wide range of organizations and individuals including The World Health Organization, UNAIDS, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, and the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women.
Our policy was additionally accompanied by detailed and first hand research in Argentina, Hong Kong, Norway and Papua New Guinea. Amnesty International consulted with more than 200 sex workers from around the world and held extensive and open consultation with sex worker’s groups, groups representing survivors of sexual exploitation in the sex trade, organizations promoting criminalization, women’s rights activists, LGBTQIA activists, anti-trafficking agencies, HIV/AIDS activists, and many others. Moreover, our policy has been supplemented by Amnesty International’s previous human rights research which highlights abuses against sex workers including but not limited to:
- Amnesty International report on Violence Against Women in Uganda:
- Amnesty International public statement calling on Greece to stop the criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers who were found to be HIV positive:
- Amnesty International report on the use of torture in Nigeria and how sex workers were particularly targeted by the police for rape and financial bribes:
- Amnesty International Urgent Action on the targeting and killings of sex workers in Honduras:
- The eviction and abuse of sex workers by police in Brazil:
- Amnesty International report on Tunisia which detailed how sex workers are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, blackmail and extortion primarily by the police:
On March 22, 2016, Amnesty International USA issued a statement to Hawai’i State Legislature HB 1902, pertaining to the inclusion of sex trafficking into sex work (prostitution) coercion liability act. Since then, HB 1902 bill was enacted as law, effective as of July 1, 2016. One of the concerns that Amnesty International USA brought to the Hawaii State Legislature’s attention was the incorporation of sex trafficking into an existing law on “prostitution” and “coercion into prostitution”. The other concern was the specific replacement of the offense of “promoting prostitution in the first degree” with “sex trafficking”. AI USA statement pointed out that we ran the risk of creating law and policy that conflated sex trafficking with coerced prostitution and prostitution. AI USA’s statement pointed out that it was important for the state of Hawaii to distinguish between human trafficking, coerced sex work (prostitution) and sex work (prostitution) in in our laws. To not do so threatens to compromise important efforts to end trafficking by misidentifying the population, the causes, and the solutions.
Amnesty International’s policy on sex workers’ human rights provides the state of Hawai’i several invitations to re-think current laws referent to adult consensual sex work. Amnesty International’s policy and research also provide tools to make much needed amends to ensure that sex trafficking and forced prostitution continue to be recognized as a violation of human rights and can be addressed without putting consensual sex workers’ rights at risk. Amnesty International supports the criminalization of human trafficking and calls on states to guarantee effective legal protections against it. States must investigate, prosecute, and bring traffickers to justice and guarantee victims access to justice and reparation, including all necessary levels of support. Criminalizing sex work has not been shown to help curb sex trafficking and can have the opposite effect, making it more difficult for consensual sex workers to help identity and aid victims of trafficking. Decriminalization of adult consensual sex work ensures that the human rights of adult consenting sex workers are recognized, honored, respected, and enforced because it repeals laws which criminalize the sale of sex between consenting adults, but also to repeal those which make the buying of sex from consenting adults a criminal offense.
The definition of “sex trafficking” laws in our state should be amended to be aligned with international legal standards, and our laws should provide clear guide posts for state officials responsible for law enforcement to make a distinction between human trafficking, coerced prostitution, and prostitution. Safeguards must be in place to ensure that the provisions of human trafficking are not enforced against consenting adults engaging in sex work. Consenting adults who engage in sex work are not sex trafficking criminals.
We understand many people oppose the decriminalization of sex work, many of them motivated by our shared desire to end exploitation, violence against women and LGBTQIA people, and trafficking. Our research shows, however, that the criminalization of sex work and the conflation of sex work with sex trafficking does not help end these human rights abuses but can, in contrast, exacerbate them.
At the local level, Amnesty International Hawai’i Chapter will disseminate information and education about AI’s policy on sex workers’ human rights with our local government, the community, and with the media. Amnesty International Hawai’i Chapter will be available to answer questions. At the national level, the lead AI USA contact person for questions and issues relating to AI policy sex workers’ human rights is Dr. Tarah Demant. Dr. Demant is the Senior Director of AI USA Identity and Discrimination Unit. Amnesty International Hawai’i Chapter has been working in collaboration with Dr. Demant since fall of 2015, and she will be available to answer any questions that you may have pertinent to AI policy on sex workers’ human rights. Amnesty International Hawai’i Chapter reiterates its commitment to work collaboratively with the state of Hawai’i to foster opportunities for the creation of much needed new bridges where the human rights of trafficking victims and the human rights of sex workers are equally valued, respected, protected, and ensured.
For more information, contact:
Amnesty International Hawai’i Chapter
Dr. Tarah Demant
Senior Director, Identity and Discrimination Unit
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003