Release by Pivot Legal Society yesterday:
Sex worker charter challenge denied
Supreme Court rules sex workers cannot challenge prostitution laws
For Immediate Release: December 15, 2008
Vancouver - A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that a group of street-based sex workers from the Downtown Eastside will not be permitted to challenge the constitutionality of the laws that criminalize them.The case was brought by the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society, a non-profit society composed of active sex workers, and Sheryl Kiselbach, a former sex worker with 30 years of experience in the sex industry.
The judgment, by Supreme Court Justice Ehrcke, held that the plaintiffs did not have the legal right to initiate such a challenge, and that it must be brought by an individual, active sex worker. He rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the highly public nature of the court process effectively prohibits active sex workers from launching a challenge due to fears of arrest and retaliation, as well as social censure and discrimination against themselves and their families.
“It’s ridiculous that 30 years of experience in sex work, including criminal convictions, is not enough to give me the right to challenge the prostitution laws,” says Sheryl Kiselbach, plaintiff. “I have the safety and support to do it now, but it would have been impossible for me while working in the trade.”
“The court seems to fail to understand the risks that sex workers face in coming out publicly. That’s what this whole case is about,” says Katrina Pacey, lawyer for the plaintiffs. “This case is about how the laws marginalize sex workers, and it is ironic the court won’t even let them through the door to make the argument.”
The plaintiffs and their lawyers will be reviewing the judgment and considering their next steps.
Pivot Legal Society and the West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals will be hosting a Masquerade Fundraiser this Wednesday, December 17, in honour of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and to raise money to advance the rights of sex workers.
Pivot’s mandate is to take a strategic approach to social change, using the law to address the root causes that undermine the quality of life of those most on the margins. We believe that everyone, regardless of income, benefits from a healthy and inclusive community where values such as opportunity, respect and equality are strongly rooted in the law.