Czech Amnesty branch backs call for decriminalising prostitution

Photo: Czech Television

Nearly 500 Amnesty International representatives from around the world passed a resolution at the group’s International Council Meeting in Dublin on Tuesday night, advocating the decriminalisation of sex work and prostitution as well as decriminalisation of the purchase of sex. I spoke to the head of the Czech branch of Amnesty International, Mark Martin over the line from Dublin and I first asked him about the reasons that led the human rights watchdog to make the decision:

Photo: Czech Television
“This policy fits in quite well with Amnesty International’s general overall humans rights focus because it is quite clear that there are thousands and thousands of people working in the sex industry who are terribly marginalised and whose human rights are abused to a very significant degree. So Amnesty felt that at this time it was appropriate to address that problem directly and to call for the decriminalisation of sex work.”

So what are the main benefits of decriminalising prostitution?

“There are essentially three models that have been adopted by states around the world. There is the abolitionist model in which it is completely illegal, then there is the so-called Nordic model in which for the most part it is the seller whose services have been decriminalised and there is the newer decriminalisation model that Amnesty is proposing.

“We feel that it is necessary in many cases to remove the stigma that is attached to this work and that in fact doing so and removing the illegality of the buying and selling of sexual services will in fact create an environment that is much easier regulate and that it will be far easier for people engaging in the selling of these services to find protection under the law and so that states will then be much better able to protect the rights that are currently being violated so blatantly and so frequently.

Mark Martin,  photo: Czech Television
Secretary General Salil Shetty said it was not a decision that was reached easily or quickly – what was the Czech Republic’s stand on the issue?

“This is a question that the Czech Republic has been discussing for some months, almost eighteen months, within the movement as a whole. And as with other sections in the movement around the world it was kind of a difficult decision to come to some kind of a position.

“In the end the Czech section of Amnesty International essentially took the position that we felt there were a number of human rights instruments that we had available that would enable us to attack violations of human rights in this particular area without necessarily creating a strong policy calling for the decriminalisation.

“So we felt that it was possible to address the substance of the issue without necessarily doing this. Having this additional policy available to us now however will certainly not cause the Czech section any significant difficulties and we will be moving forward with the rest of the movement and support Amnesty’s work in this area.”

Photo: Kristýna Maková
Finally, there has been an ongoing debate in the Czech Republic on legalising prostitution. Will you engage in advocating legalisation of prostitution?

“No, our position is not legalisation, our position is decriminalisation. Amnesty is in no way promoting the institution of prostitution, it is simply seeking to protect the rights of those engaged in sex work and to ensure that these people, who are in many cases, as I said before, truly marginalised and the victims of many violations of their human rights, that they will be protected.”