Does anyone care?

9 07 2009

Following Jason’s post on the “fate” of Aboriginal women, there are some questions that need to be asked.

Why are Aboriginal women disproportionately represented in street-level sex work? Why are they “over-represented for both HIV/AIDS“? When Aboriginal women living on the streets go missing, why don’t the police and society react as quickly?

This inaction is especially absurd when compared to rescue of a UBC student who went missing…in this case, 200 officers were assigned and $1.2 million was spent. In contrast, a $100000 reward was posted to secure the locations of 31 women, after much controversy. There was a suggestion of $100000 for the safe return for EACH woman, but apparently, society found that absurd.This reward is still less, per missing individual, than the “usual reward of a single homicide” which is $10000. By my math, the reward should have been $310000 as most of these women were already presumed dead.

Missing Women

To put this into context, the same week that this reward is put out after the long-time disappearances of these women, a $100000 reward was offered after one week of suburban robberies.

A reporter of the Vancouver Courier commented that the heated discussions for the missing women reward were happening as the cell phone plan ($3000 for 100 “safety” cell phones) had been struck down as a waste of taxpayer money. He then wrote, “It seems these women are worth far more to us dead than alive.”

While I do not wish to trivialize his ordeal – no one should ever have to go through what he did, the kidnap victim (who lived in the “wealthy Southlands area of Vancouver”) was found within 8 days. In comparison, some of the missing women from the DTES had been missing for 9 years. Not even their bodies have been recovered.

According to Vancouver’s Missing Women, 71 women are still listed as missing, many of whom were/are of First Nations descent.

Does anyone care?


Pro- vs. Anti-Prostitution

3 07 2009

Before trying to dive into the search for innovative solutions to mitigate the problem of violence against sex trade workers, I’d like to comment on the controversy that surrounds the topic of prostitution.

woman on street

In my research on the topic of violence against sex trade workers, I have come across different points of view on this topic. At one end, there is the religious right, for which prostitution is immoral, perpetrators should be punished, women who have fallen off the path of purity should be reformed, etc. On the other end, there are sex-positive feminists who, as one would expect, denounce the exploitation of women but accept that the choice to enter the sex trade belongs to the individual and that sometimes, due to barriers to employment, there really is no other “choice”.

A surprising find was that of feminists on the far edges of the left who believe that anyone working in prostitution is automatically a victim. In her 2004 paper ““RESCUED FOR THEIR OWN GOOD”: THE REALITY OF PROSTITUTION LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE ABUSE OF PROSTITUTES BY THOSE PAID TO PROTECT THEM“, Norma Jean Almodovar talks about how individuals who have seemingly made it their life’s work to “save” prostitutes have made the lives of these women much harder. The list of these individuals include the following:

From my readings, it seems that what these individuals had in common was the desire to save women from themselves or “for their own good”.

Though I felt that a brief background into the controversy was necessary, our blog is not here to make a judgement on survival sex trade workers. It is also not to say that they are victims who need to be saved. Our blog’s main message, though, is “Yes, prostitution exists and violence against prostitutes occurs far too often. This violence needs to be stopped“.

This situation is getting out of control and only came to light for the general public in Vancouver when Robert Pickton was arrested as a serial killer who preyed on women in the DTES. There have been disapearances since then but since the publicity associated with the trial is over, these women who have gone missing have become an afterthought. Again.