In February an international NGO showed its true colors. This organization’s name has long been associated with the fight to uphold and fulfill human rights. Now it can only be associated with selling out, falling standards, and standing by as injustice grows. This NGO has recently made the rounds on social media and various websites in Australia, as the falling standards have been presented for consideration to its Australian branches.
Who is this organization? What have they done to so soundly discredit their own reputation?
Before I answer those questions, I have to say that I am super proud of Kiana. You’ve probably heard me mention her before. Kiana is an Australian teenager who volunteered with HOPE61 Australia last year. She went to New Zealand with me twice, did research and photography, helped set up for events, and put up with my slow, grandmotherly driving. I am proud of Kiana because even though 10,000 miles of ocean and land separate us, she Facebook messaged me to alert me to these happenings. Now there’s a good volunteer. 15-year-olds can be prettttyyy cool. HOPE61 Australia & New Zealand would fail without you, Kiana!
Amnesty International says its mission is to “be the most effective force for freedom and justice that [it] can, globally.” Supporters and members of the group exist in at least 150 countries and territories, according to their website. Sadly, this year they failed their own mission and brought shame upon their previous vision of justice. Amnesty International has started to express support for the decriminalization of prostitution.
It’s true, prostitution is not human trafficking. Not necessarily. There are men and women, even children, who appear to have chosen prostitution. Unfortunately there are countless stories and hour of research that make it clear – “choosing” prostitution is most often the result of things that have happened to a prostituted person. Things out of their control. Abuse, homelessness, poverty, and debts of one’s family or partner are a few of the factors.
What is true, though, is that prostitution around the world is a quick and easy cover-up for human trafficking. Many men and women, boys and girls, are being shown to the world as prostitutes – but they’re displayed this way against their will. It is also true that prostitution and human trafficking are inextricably linked. Prostitution, especially legal prostitution, encourages trafficking. Gives it a place to hide and grow stronger, feeding on innocence and ignorance as no one tries to stop it. People who are prostituted are also commonly assaulted. Prostitution itself encourages gender inequality. Is there really equality between men and women as long as a man knows he can purchase a woman’s time and body? Where is the humanity in purchasing a person for any reason?
In a press release, Amnesty International said that decriminalizing prostitution could prevent the social marginalization of the prostituted. It could ensure police protection and prevent other human rights abuses. If the rights and care of the “sex worker” is really Amnesty International’s perspective, the Nordic Model makes far more sense than decriminalization. Originally from Sweden, this legislative movement criminalizes the buyers and sellers of sex and decriminalizes the prostituted person. Health care, safety, and social integration are all benefits of the Nordic Model. Survivors of forced and elected prostitution have also spoken up in favor of this model. In Victoria, Australia, where prostitution has been legal since the 1980s, the Nordic Model is gaining significant ground among anti-trafficking groups as well as a group that provides an exit program for currently prostituted women.
Amnesty International’s decision to consider this policy is not only shameful, but formed from an ignorant point of view. I did not find evidence that they have consulted survivor networks. It is difficult to excuse an organization that has worked in the area of human rights for over fifty years. The issue has come up in Australia recently as branches of Amnesty International have been delivering their own proposals and opinions. Queensland and Tasmania have both rejected the idea of decriminalization and advocated for the Nordic Model; Western Australia questioned Amnesty International’s very process of consultation.
While it is exciting to see some advocates from these states refusing decriminalization, it is important to gain greater support for the Nordic Model in the others. At the risk of being a wet blanket, Christians must not also be ignorant. We must be aware that spiritual strongholds exist in Australia because prostitution has been legal for so long. Not to mention brothel owners. Do you really think they will so easily give up what they’ve claimed as their livelihood? Not to mention those who have had brothels or sex work in their family for generations. Accepting this kind of life, also means accepting the spirits of lust, greed, and power, as a part of life. We cannot pretend to separate our hearts from our bodies. Bondage to one means bondage to the other unless we accept the love of a pure and holy God.
It is my prayer that on July 22 I can return to Australia with HOPE61, seeking the hope and freedom of spirit that Jesus Christ alone can deliver to those in bondage. He does not look down or consider the vulnerable and afflicted as less, but as beautiful. They are possibilities for wholeness in His hands.