Teenage prostitution on the North Shore

10 07 2009

There is more evidence that no one is fully immune to the affects of the sex trade. No community can safely declare that they are not touched by prostitution or the violence that sometimes accompanies the sex trade.

A few days ago, the North Shore Outlook published an article about under-aged prostitution. According to this article and I am sure that our readers who are familiar with North Shore communities would concur, “The North Shore is so shiny and squeaky clean.”

North Shore

The article goes on to state that these girls (in this case, they are mainly teenage girls) were in relationships with young males who supplied them with drugs, expensive gifts and alcohol. Once, the young women were addicted, they needed a way to pay for their new dependency.

The article also mentioned that there were some initiatives that these communities are looking into to curb teenage prostitution and encourage the maintenance of safety among these girls. The points in the following list could be used in some communities to prevent or delay entry into the sex trade by teens.

  • Arrange for counseling (through Hollyburn Family Services or another accredited counseling center) teens already involved in the sex trade who have addictions and family problems.
  • Form partnerships between the RCMP and schools to develop education plans that reach students from kindergarten to grade 12.
  • Seminars and support groups directed by Children of the Street and SAFETEEN outreach workers can be held for high schools. These programs would need to remove the morality question and concentrate on myth-busting and safety. Otherwise, teens may find the seminars “preachy” and refuse to participate.
  • Start conversations between students, parents and educators (as a result of these programs).
  • Open more drug treatment facilities for youth. Teenage prostitution is often a way to pay for a new habit. If drugs were taken out of the question, former addicts would be able to choose more freely if they want to be in the sex trade.

It was also mentioned that these teens could easily end up on the DTES as this area is a “a dumping ground for a lot of women from other communities”. To abolish violence in the sex trade and provide more choices to youth so that if they do become  a sex trade worker, it is a more open choice, our education system needs to be addressed. Our teens need to know how to stay safe and what their rights are. They also need to know that there are alternative options to the sex trade and that there are programs to help wean them of their addictions, if that is their goal.

Teens

These programs, if administered properly, will provide young teens with more choices and more information. If they are still wanting to enter the sex trade, it will be a freer choice and one that is not coerced by a violent pimp or an illegal drug.

The effectiveness of the proposed solutions is yet unknown. The rate of education reform on this topic is very slow as it is a touchy topic with many parents and communities. There is also a sense of “that sort of thing does not happen here”. On a side note, because it DOES happen “here”, we must be even more vigilant on the eradication of violence against sex trade workers. An often overlooked but obvious fact is that these women are our daughters, sisters, friends, wives, mothers and aunts.





Support Services and Employment Programs

4 07 2009

Helping those who want to get out of sex work without stigmatizing those who want to stay means offering non-judgmental support services and employment programs.

It’s not easy to simply ask a sex worker to change their line of work.  You would think that creating job opportunities, retraining these workers for a different job can solve the problem.  It’s not that simple.  Once they enter the sex industry, it’s not easy to exit as you please.

“The weight of society saying prostitution should be  illegal and you’re dirty and awful and depraved and you’re going to get diseases and die it adds to people’s lack of self-worth and that’s really not going to help people.” (quote from former sex worker, Todd Klinck)

In addition to programs to get unwilling workers out of the sex trade it’s necessary to provide services to stop people from getting there in the first place.  Until poverty is eradicated we’re always going to have this situation arising. As a society, our decision is whether we choose to allow people to die or work with dignity and safety. Prostitution is not the issue. The issue is what got these women and kids on the street in the first case.  These things often get overlooked. The action that should be taken is to demand that politicians implement non-judgmental employment programs and support anti-poverty initiatives in general.