Amnesty International calls for decriminalization of Adult sex work [Read report]

Amnesty International calls for decriminalization of Adult sex work [Read report]

Amnesty International (AI) has come out with a policy statement on Wednesday calling for the decriminalization of sex workers based on a detailed study on sex workers in different countries. The policy statement defines ‘sex work’and other allied terminologies. According to the report. The term “sex work” is used to describe situations where adults who are engaging in commercial sex have consented to do so. Where consent is absent for reasons including threat or use of force, deception, fraud, and abuse of power or involvement of a child, such activity would constitute a human rights abuse which must be treated as a criminal offence.As per the report “Sex workers are at heightened risk of a whole host of human rights abuses including rape, violence, extortion and discrimination," While dealing with criminalization, the report says;

“Criminalization: For the purposes of this policy, “criminalization” refers to the process of prohibiting consensual adult sex work and attaching punishments in law. criminalization of consensual adult sex work generally takes three different forms which are applied in a variety of combinations across countries. These can be summarized as:



  • Laws which make the sale of sex by consenting adults a criminal offence, including for example laws on solicitation, and under which penalties are imposed upon sex workers themselves;

  • Laws which make the organization of adult consensual sex work a criminal offence. These include, but are not limited to, laws against keeping a brothel; promotion of prostitution; renting premises for the purposes of prostitution; living off the proceeds of sex work; and facilitating sex work through the provision of information or assistance. These laws can result in the imposition of penalties against sex workers themselves for organizing their own sex work and against anyone who assists them; and

  • Laws which make the buying of sex from consenting adults a criminal offence and under which penalties are imposed on buyers.


For the purpose of this policy, “criminalization” also refers to other laws not specific to sex work. Such laws could include those on vagrancy and loitering which are either applied in a discriminatory way against people involved in sex work, and/or have a disproportionate impact on sex workers which can in practice work as a de facto prohibition. Similarly, immigration laws can be applied in a discriminatory way against sex workers as a de facto prohibition on sex work by migrants. The criminalization of irregular (sometimes called “illegal”) entry or residence may give rise to – or exacerbate – the penalization of sex work by migrants, as engaging in this type of work may make them more visible and liable to being targeted by state authorities.”

Report also deals with four independent research reports on the sex work situation in Papa New Guinea, Hong Kong, Norway, and Argentina.

The report is very siginificant in the Indian context as India does not have a policy in this contentious issue.

Read the report here.