Amnesty International has approved a policy to decriminalize sex work and prostitution worldwide, in a move that has sparked concerns over further exploitation of women.
On Tuesday night, the human rights group voted in Dublin to endorse a policy that it argued would help safeguard the human rights of sex workers: governments calling an end to prosecutions of prostitutes.
The policy is a result of a two-year study by Amnesty in which the organization talked to a number of groups, including sex worker groups, groups representing prostitution survivors and HIV/AID organizations in a number of countries.
"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 statement.
However, the issue has raised fierce debate. On July 17th, a raft of celebrities, including Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Anna Wintour and Lena Dunhum backed an open letter by non-governmental organization, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-International (CATW), opposing Amnesty International's "Draft Policy on Sex Work."
In the letter, CATW agreed with Amnesty that people bought and sold in the sex trade should not be criminalized, however, said that the draft could "incomprehensibly" proposes that the wholesale decriminalization "in effect legalizes pimping, brothel owning and sex buying."
CATW backed up their letter, by giving examples of where countries have decriminalized or deregulated the sex trade, like Germany and the Netherlands, and since then have seen an "explosive growth of legal brothels" and increase in sex trafficking.
CATW released a statement after the announcement, saying that Amnesty's decision to decriminalize the sex industry underlines a "willful and callous rejection" of women's rights and equality.
"The human rights organization opted to side with the multi--‐billion dollar international sex trade and to exclude prostituted individuals... from the rights granted to all people in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
There has also been heated debate throughout social media on the issue: Director of anti-trafficking policy and advocacy at Sanctuary for Families, Lauren Hersh, tweeted she felt "deflated" and "disgusted" by the decision, while others called on people to cancel donations to Amnesty International.
In response to the controversial responses, Amnesty International addressed this "hugely complex" issue, adding that they'd taken different views on-board during the vote.
"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. We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world," Shetty said in a statement.
Furthermore, Amnesty International commented on its Twitter feed, replying to some that their policy "absolutely does NOT protect pimps or buyers of sex" and redirected them to the Q&A page which discusses what the policy outlines.
—By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs, follow her on Twitter @AlexGibbsy.