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Amnesty International’s report on Norway

13 juli 2016 arrangerte våre samarbeidspartnerer SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment) sammen med Watchwell et symposium i London; “Shifting the Burden – Sex Trade Survivors Symposium”

Agnete Strøm fra Kvinnefronten tok opp Amnesty Norges uholdbare rapport, og situasjonen i Norge. Les hennes innlegg her;

Comments on the Amnesty International’s report on Norway

Let us go back to Dublin last year, 11th August 2015; this is the day when Amnesty International adopted its Policy on Prostitution.
As a reaction to this new policy the Women’s Branch Amnesty Norway declared the same day in a press release that all the members of the Women’s Branch Norway were now leaving Amnesty, because:

“this policy and this recommendation go against the present law in Norway and might change Amnesty Norway into a lobby organisation for decriminalisation of sex byers and pimps and facilitate commercial sex”.

In Dublin last year Amnesty said their new policy on prostitution was based on four country reports, one of them was on Norway. No one had access to the reports apart from Amnesty HQ. We had to wait 9 months until 26th May this year.

Apparently the release of the report was a big moment for the secretary general of Amnesty Norway. He really became a media star and made headlines when he out of the blue told the press that:
….the Norwegian state is breaking “sex workers’ human rights”.
And his proof was the actual Amnesty report on Norway, for according to Amnesty’s report:
- when Norway criminalises brothel owners, closing brothels, criminalising pimps and criminalising buyers Norway are committing human rights abuse against prostituted women and the prostituted men. The message was: Norway; don’t touch the sex industry! The law is bad!!

The report

For a reader in any other country than Norway, or for any reader in Norway not knowing the historic facts the title itself is a cunning masterpiece in mixing words with confusing double meanings, and English is not my mother tongue.
The title goes like this: The human cost of ‘crushing’ the market. Criminalization of sex work in Norway.

Who is criminalised?

For me the title indicates that prostituted women are criminalised in Norway, that selling sex is a crime by law in Norway.
Is this true? No! The human beings exploited in the sex industry in Norway are not the ones that are criminalised by Norwegian laws.

Historical facts

125 years ago in 1884 selling of sex was decriminalised, and has since then been legal. At the same time brothels and pimping were criminalised and have been ever since.
It took another 130 years, in 2009, before Norway got the law that criminalises the buying of sex.
Summing up: In Norway: to buy and to sell another person’s body are criminal acts. The ban on buying sex is deeply rooted in Norway, and tells something about what we, as a society, will accept or not: a majority before the law, and a majority after.
This was my comment regarding the tittle. When it comes to the report, the whole report is as wrong and misleading as the title.

Methodology

- page 8: This report is part of a series of research reports undertaken by Amnesty International to document human rights abuses experienced by sex workers in four countries and to explore the role which criminal laws on sex work and penalization of sex workers play in relation to these abuses.
Without demonstrating any theoretical framework Amnesty claims the 100 pages report on Norway to be research, and they repeat this throughout the report.

Is it research?
Did they do a good job?
- page 19: The research carried out by Amnesty International is qualitative, so this document does not present its findings in quantitative terms.
They may well state this but the report is not independent research.
The report stands out as biased, and we cannot let Amnesty get away with this biased way to treat this important issue and call it research.

Why did they pick Norway? What is special with Norway?
Norway criminalised the buying of sexual activities in 2009, Sweden did it in 1999, ten years before and it would have been natural to make a report on Sweden, but they picked Norway. Why?
Amnesty Norway HQ has people who have personally worked against the Swedish model, the ban, for several years, (Ms. Patricia Kaatee) and close connection to Norwegian academics in the field who are openly against the Swedish Model, both personally and also somewhat in their research. But most of all Norway was picked because in 2013 we got a new government who had told the voters that when in power, they would repeal, remove the ban.

Norwegian academics

A huge part of the report is a so-called desk-based research on several articles written by Norwegian academics and Amnesty quote them extensively.
I have read many of them, and going through the list I see that many articles and reports are written well before 2009, few after. After 2009 one deals with violence, other articles are trying to prove that public fear of visible street prostitution/clean the city movement was the main rationale behind the ban, other articles are criticizing the Evaluation report from 2014. One researcher, Kotsadam, is the only academic doing research about the effect of the law who has a feminist view on prostitution, he is a young economist who looks into social change of young men, the demand, the market, the money and the criminal gangs, trafficking in the European countries and the laws on prostitution, and his research is interesting. Nothing of this quoted, but Amnesty found in one of his articles that 8 months after the law in 2009, there was somewhat a slight incline in people who thought both buying and selling should be criminalised. When I asked him if he had any comments, he said: There are definitively no mistakes in what they write/quote, even though they have chosen to focus much more on what suits them.

The three academics Skilbrei (42), Jahnsen (24) and Bjørndahl (26) are heavily quoted, 92 times through out the report.

Who are these academics?

Skilbrei and Jahnsen: In 2014 when the European Parliament was about to vote over the Honeyball report the academics Skilbrei and Jahnsen signed on an international petition against the Honeyball report. The petition said:
- the Swedish Model is…ineffective and dangerous…and has a serious, and potentially dangerous, impact on already marginalised populations, i.e. migrants and EU citizens earning or complementing their livelihoods by providing sexual services in exchange for payment…
- and the Honeyball report … fails to consider the needs of male and transgender sex workers and the diversity amongst purchasers of sexual services.

Bjørndahl: In 2012 she wrote the report Dangerous Liaison, a report commissioned by Pro Sentret, a competence centre on prostitution. The report concludes that
… after Norway got the ban on buying sex, violence against prostituted women has increased.
Her report is quoted 26 times in several chapters throughout Amnesty’s report. No doubt, this is Amnesty’s most important evidence that criminalising the buying of sex has produced more violence.

Difficult for any reader of Amnesty’s report on Norway today to know that in June 2012, two days after the release of Dangerous Liaison the leader of Pro Sentret, Bjørg Norli, had to admit publicly to the media that the statistical foundation for the conclusions was very questionable and did not give any foundation for claiming that violence has increased; on the contrary it is possible that the opposite was correct; violence may have decreased.

But this is not the end of this story, one year after in April 2013; the same person, Norli, made the report available in English and distributed internationally and once again the false statistic popped up on the front pages, and was used by the pro-prostitution lobby in Northern Ireland, in France and is still used globally. You find it on the home page of Pro Sentret.

Amnesty’s use of words, wordings and concepts

From the introduction: this report is … to document human rights abuses experienced by sex workers in four countries and to explore the role which criminal laws on sex work and penalization of sex workers play in relation to these abuses.
What is sex work according to Amnesty? Let us see what they say about criminalization in their Glossary:
Criminalization: The process of prohibiting consensual adult sex work and attaching punishment and penalties through criminal laws. This includes laws that punish selling or buying of sex and the organization of sex work.

- Amnesty’s concept sex work and organization of sex work encompass the whole sex industry with brothels and brothel owners, pimps, agents, traffickers turned agents and the sex byers.
Yes, we know that brothel owners, pimps, agents, traffickers are all working very hard to exploit the people they prostitute. No wonder they have become the third biggest industry, and the next step now is to rip out the word criminal from the “label”: organised criminal industry, so they can enter the world market as the legal sex industry.
And Amnesty’s new policy comes very handy and Amnesty’s use of the expression sex work instead of prostitution, goes better when their aim to rebrand sex work as work and sex worker as a worker, one just doing a job, her job. And as an extra bonus, this will give less violence, according to Amnesty.

You cannot legalize away the violence and the harm

Violence is inherent in prostitution, but Amnesty who wants to legalize prostitution does not address the harm.

Reading the report on Norway, we question the whole foundation of Amnesty. It seems inconceivable to advocate for women’s rights and gender equality, as Amnesty does and on the other side designate a whole category of persons for whom life made of humiliation, attacks on their dignity and violence, would be acceptable.

The traffickers are the only ones that Amnesty excludes from decriminalization. But prostitution and trafficking of women are inseparable. “Consenting” women are largely insufficient to satisfy the sex trade, so pimps networks force the missing women into this activity. Amnesty of course condemns forced prostitution and declares “voluntary” prostitution acceptable. It is no longer the prostituted women’s situation, made by daily humiliation and violence which is questioned, but only the question if she was forced into this situation or not.

Who are the prostituted women and men in Norway?

At least 90 % are foreigners, and the majority come from impoverished countries in Southern Europe: Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and from Nigeria in West Africa (Pro Sentret’s yearly report, 2014.) We cannot close our eyes to the fact that they probably are all linked up to criminal gangs of traffickers and pimps. But Amnesty does. Amnesty interviewed 30 women, no men, of which 25 women with experience from street prostitution, 5 from indoor prostitution. We don’t know how the interviews were conducted as there is no questionnaire or interview guide attached to the report. We can only guess. My guess is that Amnesty asked: Do you trust the police? If not? Why not? Do you support the ban on the buying of sex? If not? Why not?
Of the 30 women interviewed, only 12 are quoted, the other 18 disappear in thin air. And Amnesty quoted only those who agreed with them. “Ella”, a Nigerian trafficked woman, told the media a week ago that
I supports the ban, ..I escaped my pimp thanks to the police,
All this and more, she told Amnesty, but they did not quote her.

Why so few prostituted Norwegian women?

Choice is a relative concept. If all women were given the choice of a safe and nurturing childhood, freedom from poverty and homelessness, an education, and a living wage job or better yet a career; prostitution, the street corners and brothels would be empty. With the welfare social system in Norway, Norwegian women and men have other options than to be prostituted and if prostituted they have now legal rights to exit programs.

Amnesty International rewrite when they quote. Cut and paste, as you like!

The same comment as the one from A. Kotsadam came from the senior advisor in the Ministry of Justice, he is quoted several times. He told me: Amnesty gave me the opportunity to control my quotations, but after that I had no control over how they used the quotations, in what settings, what the focus was etc. I think Amnesty International had their ideology and politic already made up and used the quotations so they suited their policy. And he repeats this to the media one week ago.

Bear this in mind when you read the quotes from the following two reports on Norway from 2012: GRETA: European Convention on Trafficking of Human beings and CEDAW: the Convention on the Elimination on all forms of Discrimination against Women. Amnesty has ignored all the positive remarks in the reports and blown up out of proportion friendly recommendations as proof of failure. I was interviewed by the GRETA commission, and was very happy with one of their recommendations:
Norway should scale up their exit programs to meet the real need. This is not mentioned by Amnesty.

The Norwegian evaluation report of the ban, 2014 (Vista Analyse)

Stands to reason that those academics who opposed the ban also wrote critical articles about the evaluation report, saying it was a methodologically flawed document. Why? Because the evaluation team used so-called secondary data, = information from the police and from the out reach centres. And this is heavily quoted. (Tydlum and Brunowski.)

Facts:

The effects of the laws in Sweden and in Norway have been evaluated in both countries and the results are so positive that the Norwegian present government who originally wished to repeal, remove the ban, has declared that they will not remove the ban during the present period.
The most important and solid findings in the evaluations are linked to the fact that it is registered a change in how prostitution is looked upon:
- more people accept the ban
- and the number of men who buy women have declined, specially young men
- and the volume of the prostitution market has also declined,
- and would have been 35 % bigger without the law.
Thus the Swedish model stands out as an example of lawmaking that
• penalizes the buyers, men,
• reduce prostitution,
• and protects women.
But we should be able to perform better. This lack of rights for prostituted women being illegally in Norway comes from the Dublin agreement, and we will press hard that Norway will insist of granting these women the right to seek asylum while in Norway. The new French law gives us an example to follow.

No law without law enforcement. The word police pops up 574 times in the report, and allegations against the police in Oslo are repeated over and over. Are all the serious allegations true? No they are not.

It is not correct to say that women are loosing their homes. This subtitle is from the Evaluation report (Vista Analyse, 2014), the evaluation of 5 years with the Nordic Model in Norway.
The Oslo police have been criticized for causing foreign women, selling sex, to be thrown out of the apartment they are living in, and they are thus loosing their home. This can happen when the owner has been informed that the apartment has been used for selling sex. But the police point out that it is not correct to say that the police are taking the homes from the women, when 90 % of the market are women travelling in prostitution, and the home is thus a working place for a short period, from one day up to 14 days or more, but never the less of short duration. The negative effect of being thrown out of the apartment might be that the women loose the paid deposit, a deposit the owner of the apartment in some cases have refused to pay back.

One of the subtitles in the article in the newspaper Dagbladet, a week ago, goes like this:
The police are not throwing out people from their apartments.
And goes on telling that the “Operasjon Husløs” (Operation Homeless) was a police method used between 2007 till 2011, and ended well before Amnesty made their interviews November and December 2014.

And we can go on like this for the rest of the report.

Thank you.
Agnete Strøm

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