In the United States, it is estimated that around 1 million people have worked as a sex worker. Between 70,000 to 80,000 are arrested per year because of it.
But thanks to Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, that will change. Yesterday in Dublin, it voted to form policies that protect the human rights of sex workers worldwide and decriminalize the industry on a global scale.
Here's why: One, criminalizing sex work won't help regulate it, which makes it harder to spot the people putting others' lives at risk. A whopping 40 percent of prostitutes were forced into the practice as children. And two, jailing anyone and everyone who chooses to be a sex worker takes basic human rights away from those women (and men) who have the freedom to choose to do whatever they want with their bodies.
According to the press release, those human rights can be anything from "physical and sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, extortion and harassment, human trafficking, forced HIV testing and medical interventions," as well as limited access to proper health care, housing and legalities due to stigma.
"Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse," Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, said in the release.
In fact, disease rates have not been shown to go down in countries where prostitution is policed.
Decriminalizing the practice would also allow workers to file income taxes, reach out to authorities for help, regulate their own work and more. It would also weed out the sex traffickers, allowing adults who choose the line of work to do so without fear or stigma.
"Often, sex workers are portrayed as passive victims who need to be saved. Assuming that all workers are trafficked denies the autonomy and [choice] of people who sell sex," the UN report said.
In The Netherlands, where sex work is legal, sex workers have access to STD testing, safe buttons and are even part of unions. They work in their designated areas and make their own hours and keep their earnings.
Amnesty International conducted their own research on the issue over the course of two years and concluded decriminalization was the most effective course of action.
"This is a historic day for Amnesty International. It was not a decision that was reached easily or quickly and we thank all our members from around the world, as well as all the many groups we consulted, for their important contribution to this debate. They have helped us reach an important decision that will shape this area of our human rights work going forward," Salil Shetty concluded.
We're looking forward to seeing the policies that come next.