Rights of Sex Workers

Rights of Sex Workers

 Amnesty International Policy on Sex Workers 

Our policy on sex workers is supported by rigorous global research which shows that sex workers face serious human rights violations across the world, such as rape, violence and human trafficking. Therefore, we launched our policy on sex work decriminalisation in May 2016 in hopes of ending abuses to sex workers’ rights. We demand that governments should implement their obligations of protecting human rights through three levels of intervention:

  1. Applying criminal laws to prevent forced labour, human trafficking, abuse and violence in the context of commercial sex and the involvement of children in commercial sex acts.
  2. Ensuring that legal protections pertaining to health, employment and discrimination are accessible to sex workers and are effective in protecting them from abuse and exploitation.
  3. Putting in place specific economic, social and cultural law and policy measures in order to address the intersectional discrimination, harmful gender stereotypes and denial of economic, social and cultural rights that may lead to entry into sex work, stigmatize sex workers and prevent exit for those who wish to stop selling sex.

Amnesty International also calls for the decriminalization of all aspects of adult consensual sex work due to the foreseeable barriers that criminalization creates to the realization of the human rights of sex workers

Our policy paper can be downloaded here:


 Research Reports 

Our policy stance is supported by rigorous and credible research. We conducted detailed and first hand research in Argentina, Hong Kong, Norway and

Papua New Guinea and consulted more than 200 sex workers from around the world. We come to the conclusion that human rights abuses exist in all four regions.

Our offices around the world also contributed to the policy through extensive and open consultation with sex worker groups, groups representing survivors of prostitution, organizations promoting criminalization, feminist and other women’s rights representatives, LGBTI activists, anti-trafficking agencies, HIV/AIDS activists and many others.

The research reports can be downloaded in the following links:

 Sex Work in Hong Kong 

Amnesty International Hong Kong pays close attention to human rights abuse cases of sex workers in Hong Kong. We are aware that the police force of Hong Kong misuses laws and powers to set up, punish and abuses sex workers, such as using entrapment. Also, they use questionable tactics in their enforcement: undercover officers are allowed to receive masturbation services, and some officers even demanded sex as the price of not arresting sex workers. Sex workers are also violated by clients. The report also shows cases of discrimination by the police and correctional services when the sex worker concerned is transgender. We strongly urge the Hong Kong government intervenes to address the above problems.

 Related Research 

Apart from four research reports in Argentina, Norway, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea, our policy consultation process was also supplemented by Amnesty International’s existing human rights research which highlights violations and abuses against sex workers including:

  • Our 2010 report on Violence Against Women in Uganda where we highlighted the cases of women who were told that because they were selling sex they were “asking for it”, that “a prostitute can’t be raped”
  • Our 2012 public statement calling on Greece to stop the criminalization and stigmatization of alleged sex workers found to be HIV positive
  • Our 2014 report on the use of torture in Nigeria and how sex workers were particularly targeted by the police for financial bribes and rape
  • Our 2014 Urgent Action on the targeting and killings of sex workers in Honduras
  • Our 2014 Urgent Action on the eviction and abuse of sex workers by police in Brazil
  • Our 2015 report on Tunisia which detailed how sex workers are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, blackmail and extortion primarily by police.