Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Sex Professionals of Canada is delighted by Justice Susan Himel’s decision to acknowledge our right to legally practice our chosen profession. This important victory gives us hope that sex work will one day be fully regarded as the legitimate occupation it is.
The invalidation of Section 210 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits bawdy houses, will mean that we can ensure our safety by working together indoors. We can now report abuses of anyone in our occupation to the appropriate authorities, without fear of arrest. Ontario sex workers will no longer be vulnerable to eviction or arrest on our business premises.
The invalidation of Section 212 (1j) of the Criminal Code, that prohibits living wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution was developed to protect us from ‘pimps’. In practice, it makes us and our live-in partners, and even elderly parents we support, susceptible to being charged, and serving up to ten years in jail. The invalidation of Section 212 (1j), will allow our families to finally stop fearing arrest. Our employees, such as receptionists, drivers, etc. will no longer fear criminal prosecution. Section 212 (1j) has stigmatized and punished us and denied that our work is a form of gainful employment for too long.
The invalidation of Section 213 (1c) of the Criminal Code prohibited “communication for the purposes of prostitution”, that means soliciting clients in any public place, including the use of cell phones, the Internet, hotel lobbies, bars, and even rooms with an open door or window. We are liable to being arrested for stopping or even attempting in any manner to stop a person or motor vehicle. Subject to the communication law, we are forced to limit our negotiating time with clients, preventing us from having enough time to determine if the client is trustworthy or potentially dangerous.
All over Canada, sex workers are calling for an end to criminalization. We have developed workable plans to increase the safety of ALL community members.
Our plans are detailed and could be developed to fit communities from coast to coast. We believe in having a process in place to combat youth exploitation and human trafficking, specialized policing services, sex consumer education, municipal bylaw revisions and a system of professional accreditation to ensure all workers are given access to resources and help should we need it. The tools to make safe decisions about our occupation will help combat exploitation in the sex industry, while respecting the choices of adult sex workers.
Inclusion is key. Consensual adult sex workers must be included in decisions that will affect our occupation. Business owners and residents must be heard also. The only way this will truly work is if all people’s concerns and experiences are respected.
Our opposition’s strategy is to eliminate prostitution, including all consensual adult prostitution. This is unrealistic and unworkable. We do not wish to be further criminalized and driven underground by anti-sex work policies.
Under the guise of saving youth and trafficking victims, our opposition is willing to compromise the human rights of thousands of adult consensual sex workers. Compromising the rights of one group to “save” another is prohibited by the International Declaration of Human Rights, which explicitly states that no part of the declaration may be used to justify the removal of an individual’s rights and SPOC questions the motives of any person willing to harm a woman to save a woman.
It is time to put the voices of sex workers at the forefront. It is time to move away from punishment, toward protection.
We do not need to inherit other nations’ mistakes. We will be working diligently to develop a Canadian model.
We would like to thank Justice Susan Himel, the legal team, all our witnesses, Alan Young , Ron Marzel, and Stacy Nichols.
We would also like to thank Terri Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch, Valerie Scott and all the fine sex workers in Canada who have been working towards this victory.
We will be keeping you posted as more information comes in.
Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC)
With special thanks to the British Columbia Coalition of Experiential Communities. (BCCEC)