Following Amnesty International’s decision to support the decriminalization of sex work worldwide, politicians are split over whether to further liberalize Denmark’s prostitution laws.
“Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse,” Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We recognize that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex,” he added.
While the resolution includes much language about protecting sex workers' human rights and addressing the social and economic issues that can lead people to turn to sex work in the first place, it also calls for “recognizing and respecting the agency of sex workers to articulate their own experiences and define the most appropriate solutions to ensure their own welfare and safety”.
The Danish chapter of Amnesty supported the decriminalization stance.
“Our research shows that those [sex workers, ed] in countries with bans are much more subjected to violence and attacks, less willing to go to police and decline to take advantage of health services out of fear of being arrested,” Amnesty Danmark spokeswoman Trine Christensen said in a statement.
“We aren’t blind to the fact that some women are forced into sex work because of discrimination, poverty or other circumstances that leave them with no other choice. But we don’t believe that the solution is to criminalize these women for their lack of options,” Christensen added.
Both the sale and purchase of sex is already legal in Denmark but in light of Amnesty’s decision, some Danish political parties are suggesting that the nation loosen its procurement laws in order to allow sex workers to organize and hire security guards and receptionists.
Christensen said that the Danish branch of Amnesty will ask the government to thoroughly review its prostitution laws, including the so-called procurement paragraph that is designed to prohibit others from profiting off of sex workers. The law targets pimps and madames but also makes it possible to punish those who rent out locations to sex workers.
“We’re not saying that the law should be scrapped, but maybe there is a need to make it more clearly defined because in its current form it can have some unintended effects,” Christensen told Politiken.
The procurement law can make it particularly difficult for sex workers to establish bordellos and other permanent work locations.
Government support parties Liberal Alliance, the Conservatives and the Danish People’s Party all told Politiken that they supported loosening the laws, but ruling party Venstre and opposition parties the Social Democrats and the Socialist People’s Party (SF) are against making any changes.
SF wants Denmark to follow Sweden’s lead and outlaw the purchase of sex while keeping the sale of sex legal. The party criticized Amnesty’s decision to support a worldwide decriminalization of sex work.
“Amnesty is betraying the rights of women worldwide when they normalize prostitution and call it work that many women want to accept. Prostitution isn’t work, it is sexual exploitation,” spokeswoman Trine Torp said.