Amnesty International has signalled that it may advocate the decriminalisation of prostitution in a move which has been heavily criticised by Hollywood stars.
A proposal by the organisation to support decriminalising “sex work” will be voted on by its members at an annual meeting on 12 August.
A petition against the proposal has already been signed by more than 4,500 people including actresses Anne Hathaway, Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet.
The proposal outlines a policy that seeks to protect the “human rights of sex workers, through measures that include the decriminalisation of sex work”.
A similar policy was brought forward last year but was voted down by Amnesty members.
The celebrity endorsed petition, addressed to Amnesty International leaders, says that the petitioners are “deeply troubled by Amnesty’s proposal to adopt a policy that calls for the decriminalisation of pimps, brothel owners and buyers of sex”.
It adds that Amnesty’s reputation would be “severely and irreparably tarnished if it adopts a policy that sides with buyers of sex, pimps and other exploiters”.
Last month, a former prostitute who suffered horrific physical and mental abuse for 25 years told of her successful work to help young girls escape the sex industry.
Brenda Myers-Powell spoke to the BBC World Service’s Outlook programme about her devastating experiences, and how her life was turned around after a desperate prayer to God.
She has started a foundation, which works with young women to prevent them from entering the sex industry and helps those who are already trapped to escape.
Research from the London School of Economics has discovered that “countries where prostitution is legal experience larger reported inflows of human trafficking”.
Legislation designed to counter human trafficking came into force today across England and Wales, following campaigning by charity Christian Action Research & Education (CARE).
The Modern Slavery Act, which was given Royal Assent by the Queen earlier this year, is the first piece of anti-slavery legislation for nearly 200 years.
CARE spokesman James Mildred said: “This is a day of huge significance in the fight against modern slavery.”