– The Swedish chapter of Amnesty rejects Amnesty International’s proposal to decriminalise the purchase of sex acts

Malmo – Swedish Amnesty rejects the endorsement of sex purchasing proposed by Amnesty International.
At its annual meeting in Malmö this weekend, the Swedish section will adopt a clear position against legalizing the prostitution system.

TEXT: ERIK MAGNUSSON, http://www.sydsvenskan.se/sverige/motbud-laggs-om-sexkop/, published May 8, 2014 05:30

Last winter, Amnesty International wreaked an outcry among Swedish women when its International Secretariat in London presented a proposal to the organization advocating the decriminalization of buying and selling sex.
Under this proposal, recourse to prostitution would become a human right for both men and women.
Legalization is described as a way to give prostituted people greater autonomy.
Ever since the proposal was presented, the Swedish section of Amnesty International worked aon a response to this consultation, one that rejects the parent organization’s proposal. Swedish Amnesty has endeavored to anchor each syllable of its response in local associations and women’s organizations.
“We are taking a decision this weekend. We have examined the issue from all angles. Our proposal is well established,” says Sofia Halth, chair of the Swedish chapter of Amnesty.
“We oppose the policies proposed by the International Secretariat. We are proposing our own starting points for how we want to work on this issue,” she adds.
According to the Swedish official response, it is only appropriate for the selling of sex to be legalized. This is consistent with the Swedish Sex Purchase Act (of 1999) and described as « an important step in preventing abuse … by police and other actors. »
On the other hand, Swedish Amnesty is firmly opposed to the decriminalization of buying sex and pimping.
The Swedish Sex Purchase Act has already been copied by Norway and Iceland. France is currently adopting a similar legislation. Belgium, Finland, Ireland and the UK are looking to introduce similar laws.
However, there are countries such as Denmark, Holland and Germany who have no plans for a law on sex purchasing akin to the Swedish-Norwegian pattern (a.k.a. as the « Nordic model »).
There is much anger among Amnesty members in Sweden against plans by the parent organization to globally decriminalize sex purchasing, but Sofia Halth puts it diplomatically when she comments on the proposal by Amnesty’s International Secretariat.
She believes that this proposal, rooted in human rights, is « inadequate », it has a too one-sided focus on legislation, and the rights issues referred to in the proposal is « not formulated clearly enough ».
“In addition, the material that has been developed is biased with regard to the existing literature,” adds Sofia Halth.
Swedish Amnesty is expected to call on Amnesty, at its annual meeting in Malmö, to shift its focus in terms of prostitution. They want to go from affirming « voluntariness and consent » to the demand that no one should be forced to sell sex because of discrimination, coercion, violence, vulnerability or distress.
Swedish Amnesty’s wish is that prostitution be addressed not only through legislation, but also through a variety of social interventions.
« Those who sell sex are often at the bottom of the social ladder and are subjected to severe human rights violations. The Swedish section therefore thinks it is an issue for Amnesty, but that we should focus on the substantive violations against people in prostitution, » reads the proposed Swedish official response.
Amnesty International is expected to adopt, no earlier than this Fall, a final decision on how the organization should relate to issues of prostitution. Amnesty’s proposal is being submitted this summer to an international consultation.

(Translated by the TRADFEM collective)

Sofia Halth