BY LISA GOLDBLATT GRACE, CO-FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF MY LIFE MY CHOICE
As I write this blog post, two of our girls, Mara and Nisa, are missing. Both fifteen, they were referred to us when they were found to have been sold on Backpage.com. Grown men had bought them like commodities —for pleasure, for the rush, to do harm. A trafficker had lured them, coerced them, manipulated them, until they believed he was their family and would do anything for him. Though recovered by law enforcement and having just initiated services with us, they are gone again. It is likely that right now someone is abusing these two middle schoolers—degrading them, demeaning them, and hurting them.
Let’s play this out: In three years, these girls will be 18 years old; Adults. What if they weren’t able to access services from us or anyone? What if they found themselves alone and stuck, and continued to be sold? Would this make them “empowered sex workers” who have “chosen” this path? Would they really be exercising their right to "sex work"?
It is this ludicrous idea that is behind Amnesty International’s decision to recommend that countries decriminalize the commercial sex trade. Though the organization is clear that youth should not be bought or sold, the most frequent age of entry into the sex industry is fourteen-years-old and it is these children who grow into the adults being sold for sex. In essence, Amnesty International recommends that in addition to prostituted people not being charged with a crime (something we wholeheartedly support), neither should buyers or traffickers. (It is important to note that while Amnesty International has tried to make a distinction between traffickers, “pimps,” and exploiters, all of these terms are interchangeable and no such distinction exists.) It is within this free market that Amnesty International believes the sex trade will be safer. They are wrong.
There is simply no credible evidence to back up Amnesty International’s assertion. Wherever prostitution has been made legal, the incidence of illegal trafficking has spiked, as exploiters see a fertile environment for exploitation. Further, women who are prostituted in these legal brothels have the same high rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and addiction as those who are forced to sell sex in illegal venues. (Farley, 2007)
At My Life My Choice, we are profoundly disappointed with Amnesty International’s decision. How can an institution that holds human rights to be inalienable not see how misguided they are? And while we understand that Amnesty International does not write government policy, we fear that the word of such a well-respected organization will be seen as tantamount and lead nations to make the wrong policy decisions.
When we find Mara and Nisa, they deserve love and acceptance and a path to safety. And those who bought and sold them deserve to be held accountable; and that holds true for all the Maras and Nisas of the world, no matter how old they are. Please stand with us in pushing Amnesty International to right this wrong, and to decide not to adopt this misguided policy. Take action: Sign the petition today.