Pivot response to Amnesty International’s new policy on protection of sex workers’ rights

Vancouver, B.C. [May 25]—Today Amnesty International published its policy supporting decriminalization of sex work to protect sex workers from human rights violations and abuses. Pivot Legal Society fully supports this new policy and calls on the Canadian government to abide by the state obligations it lays out.

The policy calls on governments to do more to protect people who do sex work from violations and abuse. It recommends the decriminalization of all aspects of adult consensual sex work, including removing those laws that prohibit purchasing sexual services, communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services, and general organization of sex work.
In addition, Amnesty International’s policy calls for the participation of sex workers in the development of laws and policies that directly affect their lives and safety. It recommends creating effective frameworks that allow people to leave sex work if and when they choose, while ensuring that sex workers have equal access to justice, health care and other public services, and equal protection under the law, regardless of where they work.
“Pivot fully supports Amnesty International’s policy, which is based in evidence and human rights principles,” says Brenda Belak, lawyer and sex workers’ rights campaigner at Pivot Legal Society. “We urge our government to listen to people doing sex work here in Canada and ensure that our own laws prioritize the health and safety and human rights of sex workers. Currently, our laws do none of those things.”
In December 2014, the federal government enacted the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which introduced new laws around sex work, including criminalizing paying for sexual services. The laws also prohibit many activities related to sex work, such as advertising and communicating in specific public places. Sex workers are prohibited from working together with others in any kind of commercial enterprise — despite evidence that these environments can keep sex workers safer. The laws were brought in after a unanimous 2013 Supreme Court of Canada ruling struck down provisions in the Criminal Code criminalizing sex work.
Amnesty International’s policy recommendations come from two years of extensive consultations with sex workers and substantive evidence collection by the international body. The policy was released jointly with four research reports investigating human rights and sex workers in Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Norway and Argentina.
  • Amnesty International’s policy on the protection of sex workers can be found here
  • Summary of Amnesty International’s policy and four research reports can be found here
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About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Canada. Pivot’s award winning work includes challenging laws and policies that force people to the margins of society and keep them there. Since 2002 Pivot has won major victories for sex workers’ rights, police accountability, affordable housing, and health and drug policy.
 For additional information, or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Kevin Hollett, Communications Director