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February 2015 Members eNewsletter
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July 2015

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Support for Resolution and draft policy calling for the decriminalization of sex work

Mr. Salil Shetty
Amnesty International
1 Easton Street
London, WC1X 0DW, UK
VIA EMAIL: Salil.shetty@amnesty.org


July 30, 2015

Dear Mr. Shetty,
The International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) would like to express its unqualified support for Amnesty International’s Resolution and draft policy calling for the decriminalization of sex work, tabled for adoption at the International Council Meeting, 6-11th August 2015. We applaud Amnesty International’s bold and practical draft policy and we support its passage.


ICW recognizes and advocates for decriminalization of sex work as an important measure for protecting the human rights of sex workers and addressing the violence that sex workers, especially those living with HIV, face around the world. Importantly, ICW recognizes that decriminalization is a key strategy to reduce the HIV epidemic and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV who engage in sex work.


Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, sex workers have experienced a heightened burden of HIV. Despite this, the criminalization of sex work has undermined the HIV response, increasing barriers to treatment, care, and support, limiting access to much needed health care services, and stigmatizing people who engage in sex work.


The criminalization of sex work, including the criminalization of sex workers, third parties, and sex workers’ clients, families, partners, and friends, has a detrimental effect on the lives and health of sex workers. This is particularly true for sex workers living with HIV in light of the intersection of these laws with laws that criminalize HIV non-disclosure, exposure, and transmission. As noted in a recent Lancet study on sex work and HIV, decriminalization of sex work could avert HIV infections by 33-46 percent in the next decade.1


We are concerned that opposition groups, such as Coalition Against Trafficking Women, who seek to continue the criminalization of sex work under the banner of ending the trafficking of women are misguided about what will make a real impact on the lives of the vast majority women engaging in sex work.


The failure of these groups to listen to the lived experiences of sex workers and to ignore the harms created by the criminalization of sex work will, ironically, harm all sex workers and perpetuate patriarchal policies that oppress women.


ICW agrees strongly that sex work should be voluntary. We also agree that criminalizing sex work is not the answer to ending human trafficking—on the contrary, empowering sex workers and ending criminalization of sex work is a more thoughtful strategy for increasing the ability of sex workers to address exploitation and coercion.


ICW is highly interested in supporting Amnesty International in the future in efforts to secure decriminalization, as we have keen interest in supporting the human rights of all sex workers.



Rebecca Matheson

Global Director



1 http://www.thelancet.com/series/HIV-and-sex-workers 

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