A critical vote by delegates of amnesty international to protect the human rights of sex workers was passed today in Dublin, Ireland at Amnesty International’s decision-making forum, the International Council Meeting (ICM). The vote calls for the decriminalization of consensual sex work and protecting the rights of workers all over the globe.

“Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence, and abuse,” said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, in a press release. “Our global movement paved the way for adopting a policy for the protection of the human rights of sex workers which will help shape Amnesty International’s future work on this important issue.”

The resolution recommends that Amnesty International develop a policy that ensures not only the decriminalization of consensual sex work, but also calls on states to ensure the full and equal legal protection of sex workers from trafficking, exploitation, and violence.

“We recognize that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex and that is why we have addressed this issue from the perspective of international human rights standards,” Shetty said. “We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world.”

According to this consultation and research, carried out over the last two years in development of the policy, this would be the best way to defend the human rights of sex workers, and better protect them from abuse and violations.

Sex workers around the globe often face physical and sexual abuse, extortion and harassment, arbitrary arrests and detainment, and forced HIV testing and medical interventions. They can also be excluded from some other social and legal protections.

The policy was drawn up considering evidence from various sources, including the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, and UN Women. Amnesty International also conducted research in four countries and consulted sex worker groups, prostitution survivor groups, and feminist and women’s rights groups.

The group notes that human trafficking, in all its forms, is “abhorrent,” and should be criminalized under international law. This is stated clearly in the new policy, according to Amnesty International.

Despite the long list of sources and consultations, there are still some who question the new resolution, saying it will benefit only those who are doing the exploitation. Nicholas Kristof, in a New York Times op-ed, wrote that the theory behind decriminalization is nice, but a failed one.

“It has been tried repeatedly and it invariably benefited johns while exacerbating abuse of women and girls: A parallel underground market emerges for underage girls,” Kristof wrote.

Amnesty International considers the vote “historic,” though, and thanks their members and the groups they consulted for helping to reach this important decision.