A need for legislation change

12 07 2009

26victimsI’m pretty sure you are familiar with the image on the left. If you weren’t then maybe you’ll recall the name Robert Pickton.
They are the women whom Robert Pickton was charged of murdering. Many people believe after the conviction of Robert Pickton, something would change. Many people believe that something would have been done to protect the sex trade workers, mainly in the downtown Eastside.

Unfortunately, not much has been done. “According to police reports submitted to Statistics Canada, there were 171 sex trade workers were killed between the year of 1991 and 2004, and 45% of the homicides remain unsolved” (ctv.ca). How many were unaccounted for? How many were unreported?

Unfortunately for these women, and other sex trade workers in Canada, the Canadian legal system offers no protection for these women at all. Under the Canadian law, prostitution itself is not illegal, but the activities related to it are. Individuals who were found to sell sex can be charged under the Criminal Code. And it only puts these women in more danger. Reporting bad dates may lead to arrests and imprisonment, therefore many violence victims have chosen to stay silent.

“The lack of legal protection and non-recognition of the work of sex workers is leading to violence and marginalization”. A statement by Jenn Clamen, coordinator of Stella, a Montreal-based support and information group by and for sex workers. I couldn’t agree more. Decriminalizing prostitution will provide more protection for these women. Violence victims will be able to make reports without being treated like criminals. And this has been a continuing struggle for years. Take a look at this article too.

Whom we need to treat like criminals are the violent clients and the predators. Not these women, for trying to survive or to make ends meet. Instead, we need to protect them. They are no different from us. They are our fellow human beings. In fact, they are just like us. They are someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s sister, someone important to someone else.

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Sex workers in the midst of constitutional lawsuits

11 07 2009

Sex workers in Vancouver are challenging Canada’s solicitation laws in different ways but with a common desire—to work and live with greater dignity.

On October 6, 2009, the Ontario Superior Court is scheduled to hear what’s become of this on-going constitutional challenge that has the aim to strike down three sections of the Criminal Code. These include:

  • prohibitions on keeping a bawdy house,
  • living on the avails of prostitution, and
  • communicating for the purposes of prostitution.

According to Alan Young who’s leading the challenge there: “Bringing this case is of utmost importance because, despite the fact that prostitution is a legal occupation, the current Criminal Code provisions operate to deny sex workers safe legal options for conducting their legal business. Ultimately this fight is destined to go all the way to the Supreme Court.”

The objective is not legalization rather decriminalization. Decriminalization is commonly confused with legalization, but there are key differences. Legalization is viewed as a potentially overbearing state overseeing and regulating sex workers. While decriminalization would simply remove specific sections of the criminal code from the law books.

The bottom line is that sex workers and their advocates want to ensure that sex workers are no longer a segregated labour class having to work under inhumane conditions and on the wrong side of the law.

Credits & article by: Diane Walsh.  Read more here





The Red Light District

8 07 2009

Survival/street/outdoor sex workers are most vulnerable to violence.  I’ve mentioned already in the entry about prostitution displacement that these workers are pushed to abandoned, deserted areas that makes them more proned to violence.   These women work in isolated, dangerous environments that have insufficient or no lighting.  It’s not the inherent flaw of the sex trade industry that breeds violence but how the industry is organized in Vancouver’s DTES.  The lack of regulation means a lost of accountability and a system that is dysfunctional.  The leads us to the direction of comparing the business model of sex trade in Vancouver and the business models of this trade in other areas (e.g. Amsterdam).

In the Netherlands, prostitution is legal.  In Amsterdam, prostitution is concentrated in the Red Light District where it has enjoyed a long tradition of tolerance.

(source: http://www.amsterdam.info/prostitution/)

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands since 1830. Until 1980 there was a law  forbidding taking profit from prostitution. This was the law against people exploiting working girls. In practice the law has been rarely applied and prostitutes were actually not protected. In 1988, prostitution has been recognized as a legal profession. The new law introduced in October 2000 clearly makes prostitution legal, subjecting it to the municipal regulations about the location, organization and the practice of business. The authorities try to regulate prostitution, aiming at protecting minors, eliminating forced prostitution and combating the new phenomena of human trafficking. Any sex business must obtain from a municipality a license, certifying that it has fulfilled the legal requirements to operate.

Monitoring the regulations
The police, urban district council and municipal health authorities are the main bodies responsible for enforcing the existing laws. Police controls sex establishments, to verify that minors or illegal aliens are not working as prostitutes. Infringements such as the presence of illegal prostitutes or employment of the minors may be the reason for the business closure. In 2007 the municipality of Amsterdam withdrew the licenses to as many as 30 different sex businesses, accusing them of breaking the existing laws.

The Dutch believe that banning existing social phenomena makes them more difficult to control, and therefore more difficult to eliminate the gravest criminal behavior as trafficking with women, their exploitation and prostitution of minors. Dutch administration makes a big effort to fight all these criminal activities.

Health care and support
The city health services inform the prostitutes about a free or low -cost clinic for sexually transmitted diseases, provide free or low cost medical car. A number of or organizations, some of them established by the prostitutes themselves (often still active as working girls), as the support group The Red Thread (Dutch: De Rode Draad) and the Prostitution Information Center (Prostitutie Informatie Centrum), try to help prostitutes with their problems. Foundations AMOC and Rainbow (Regenboog) are helping the prostitutes with drug problems.

So why are Europeans seemingly more tolerant than North Americans are of the sex trade?  The argument to decriminalize sex trade is similar to legalizing drugs. If the sex trade industry in Vancouver were regulated, we wouldn’t have street sex workers in dangerous and isolated areas.  If there are employment laws and health and safety regulations to protect construction workers (or any other dangerous occupations), why shouldn’t sex workers despite the nature of their “job”?  They deserve just as much protection as any other worker in any occupation. Violence surged when theses workers were moved to the DTES and industrialized, rural areas.  By creating a safer work environment, even adding more lighting to streets can make a difference.

More on prostitution laws & facts : http://www.newint.org/issue252/facts.htm