January 25, 2022 - 3:45pm

‘Research reveals how sex workers are forced to risk their life in order to avoid police,’ reads a new report by Amnesty International, Ireland. The report, entitled ‘”We live within a violent system”: Structural violence against sex workers In Ireland’, is based on interviews with a small sample of 30 individuals currently or previously involved in the Irish sex trade. Their aim is to discredit and repeal a 2017 law in Ireland that criminalises the buying of sex, which Amnesty argues makes the punters more violent, even though there is no credible evidence for this.

Yet this hasn’t stopped Amnesty pursuing their foolhardy crusade. Along with a number of other male-led human rights organisations, it seems hellbent on blaming everyone — the police, legal system and even the state — for violence towards sex workers, except for the perpetrators, namely pimps and punters. Instead, Amnesty calls for the decriminalisation of “all operational aspects” of the sex trade, including the sale, facilitation and buying of sex. Under this regime, a pimp becomes a manager, a sex buyer a client, and a prostituted person a ‘sex worker’.

The research behind this report is flawed. Aside from the suspiciously small sample, a number of the interviewees are lobbyists for full decriminalisation of the sex trade in Ireland. Those interviewed claim to be ‘independent’ sex workers, which is a misrepresentation of the sex trade population, the majority of whom are pimped, trafficked and otherwise coerced.

Amnesty also takes the line that disabled men have a right to access sex via prostitution. Its global policy position, published in 2016 reads:

For some—in particular persons with mobility or sensory disabilities or those with psycho-social disabilities that hamper social interactions—sex workers are persons with whom they feel safe enough to have a physical relationship or to express their sexuality.
- Amnesty

Legalisation has been a disaster in the countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland etc.) that have adopted such a position. Under this regime, demand, the trafficking of women and girls, and the illegal brothel sector has grown, as have murders of prostituted women, primarily by pimps and punters.

In Germany, which legalised its sex trade in the Seventies, there are approximately 400,000 women in prostitution, and around 1.2 million men buy sex every day. As Helmut Sporer, former Detective Chief Superintendent of the Crimes Squad, Augsburg, has admitted:

[Legalisation] has led to a massive reduction of the legal standing of the women. What has developed is a legally instituted relationship of precedence and subordination that is being exploited by the profiteers in the red-light business.
- Helmut Sporer

Prostitution is a form of violence in a world in which human flesh has come to be viewed as a commodity, and yet Amnesty, supposedly on the side of the oppressed, has chosen to treat the buying and selling of women as a job like any other.

Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.