End The Violence

4 07 2009

Prostitutes are often blamed for the violence that is perpetrated against them. This is compounded by the fact that sex workers can be charged if they report having been assaulted or robbed while engaging in prostitution. With a woman working alone if she gets a bad client she’s terrified to report that to the police for fear that she’s the one that will be arrested and charged.  Many sex workers don’t report crimes against them for fear of being charged under laws that criminalize the business of prostitution.  Having sex for money in Canada isn’t illegal, nor is paying someone for sex yet there are laws that make it near impossible to engage in sex work both safely and legally.  Sex workers are caught in these terrible contradictions as a result of these laws.  There is the risk of facing persecution and violence.

“People realize the status quo is a complete failure and are looking for a different approach,” says NDP MP Libby Davies, “but you won’t get many elected representatives who want to take this on. It’s not seen as the most electable issue.”

Laws Surrounding Sex Work

While sex workers’ organizations across the country are campaigning to see sex work decriminalized, some states in the U.S. have gone the route of legalization instead. Legalizing sex work means instituting regulations that treat prostitution as a vice, as opposed to decriminalization which treats it like work. Under decriminalization sex workers are allowed all the labour-related rights and freedoms as any other worker. At present only New Zealand and the state of New South Wales in Australia have decriminalized sex work.  “A decriminalization position emphasizes the labour rights, health and safety rights, and human rights of sex workers,” says York sociology professor Deborah Brock who has published extensively on sex work. “It recognizes their ability to implement standards for the self-regulation of their trade, including forming professional associations governed by codes of conduct, rights and responsibilities, and to form or join trade unions so that they may collectively bargain the conditions under which they are prepared to work.”  In other words it takes the stigma out of sex work.

Safe Houses in Vancouver

In Vancouver, at least one serial killer had been murdering sex workers unchallenged for so long, there are several initiatives underway to keep sex workers safe – initiatives that include selective policing.

Vancouver is setting up a safe house that would be run by sex workers themselves, comparing the project to marijuana compassion clubs or Vancouver’s safe injection site where police know it’s there but don’t rush in and shut it down because they see it as preferable. The would-be safe house, or cooperative brothel, is a project of Vancouver’s Prostitutes Alternatives Counselling and Education Society.

Vancouver is in a unique situation.  With the 2010 Olympics around the corner, there’s a lot of pressure for gentrification of the downtown east side. Cooperative brothels could work all over the country. There is also a push in Vancouver for a moratorium on charges related to the communicating law, which makes it illegal for sex workers or their clients to discuss a transaction in public.

Rethink Sex Work

No other woman has to worry about being charged for reporting a rape. In Toronto there is a way for sex workers to report crimes against them without being charged.  Since January 2007 the special victims section within the sex crimes unit has worked exclusively on assaults against sex workers.  The section has its own 24-hour number as well as an anonymous bad date hot line, which has seen 9 convictions so far. If we could get police services across this country to give more man power and resources and education, to invest and dedicate to these services against assault against sex workers we wouldn’t have to devote so much to homicide.

source: 8 ways to revolutionalize the sex industry