In a move to stick up for what the head of Amnesty International describes as "one of the most marginalized groups in the world who ... face constant risk of discrimination, violence, and abuse," the organization voted today to recommend decriminalizing that group's line of work: prostitution and sex for trade, Time reports. The NGO can't actually create or enforce industry laws, but it hopes its thumbs-up vote will pave the way for better protection against the abuse and stigma of sex workers by keeping consensual, adult sex work out of legal hot water, while still going after those involved with sex with minors or coerced sex work. But there are some who, while in agreement with Amnesty's goal of protecting sex workers (including not making them face legal consequences), don't think individuals who facilitate the trade should receive the same benefit.
"By calling for the decriminalization of all facets of commercial sex, including sex-buying, pimping, and brothel-owning, Amnesty is saying they value the rights of exploiters over the exploited," says a rep for Demand Abolition, a group seeking to end sex trafficking. "It's equally critical to hold accountable sex buyers, pimps, and traffickers who perpetuate this predatory industry." Former President Jimmy Carter agrees: Before the vote, he sent a letter to Amnesty delegates asking them to vote no to the proposal, as did a number of celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet through an open letter sent by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. But a policy adviser for Amnesty tells CNN the proposal is simply meant to lead to better conditions for the sex workers, including an improved relationship with law enforcement. (Sex workers have it especially rough in Iraq.)