CATW ED Responds to August Editorial in 'The Lancet'

CATW International December 16, 2015

On Aug. 8, 2015, as Amnesty International's International Council Meeting was gearing up in Dublin, "The Lancet," a weekly, UK-based medical journal, published an editorial entitled "Keeping sex workers safe" that re-established the publication's position on the decriminalization of traffickers, pimps and buyers of sex and proclaimed its agreement with Amnesty's policy on "sex work." In a letter to "The Lancet" finally published on Nov. 28, 2015, CATW's executive director, Taina Bien-Aimé, responded to the journal's editorial: 

"The Lancet Editorial (Aug 8, p 504) made reference to an open letter that has now been signed by over 600 organisations and individuals, and which specifically states, “We firmly believe and agree with Amnesty International that human beings bought and sold in the sex trade, who are mostly women, must not be criminalized in any jurisdiction and that their human rights must be […] protected to the fullest extent”. However, we vehemently disagree that the wholesale decriminalisation of the sex industry, which effectively decriminalises pimps, brothel owners, and sex buyers, will protect the health and human rights of people engaged in selling sex. Linking the sex trade and sex trafficking is not conflation; instead it points out the inextricable connection between a means and an end.

"Furthermore, women's rights and health are far more complex than prevention of HIV, however important those efforts. Strategies for reduction of harm are not enough to protect people engaged in selling sex; complete elimination of harm is crucial. Additionally, HIV intervention in the sex industry seems to be aimed at the health of sex buyers rather than that of people engaged in selling sex. WHO, UNAIDS, and many HIV prevention workers have no expertise or apparent interest in women's rights. A leap from HIV prevention and protection to a call for the decriminalisation of pimps, brothel owners, and buyers of sex defies principles of equality for women, and international law."