Of course we share their sympathy for the woman who was assaulted and held against her will for several days in South Riverdale. That incident is horrifying, and we agree that sexual violence happens entirely too often in this area.
However, the current legislation does not increase the risk of violence and it certainly does not force women in the sex trade to work in dangerous environments. The law does not cause harm to prostituted women; pimps and johns do. Under the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), any woman in the sex trade is free to work almost anywhere she wants, including in the safety of her own home, and can screen her clients extensively. Women who are working in the sex industry are protected under the new laws, meaning that they can go to the police for help without fear of being arrested and prosecuted. Additionally, they can advertise for themselves, rather than relying on brothels or individual pimps to advertise them as if they were commodities.
Contrary to what the statement in NOW Magazine says, current legislation shows that the lives of prostituted women are a top priority. The government has sent a strong message that everyone's lives matter and that purchasers of sex create an unsafe environment for prostituted women. Additionally, the laws have been in place for such a short time that as of yet nothing has been proven about how it affects the Canadian sex trade in the long run. However, by looking at other countries with similar laws, we can see that it makes the industry safer for women, not more dangerous.
On the other hand, in countries like Germany where the sex industry has been decriminalized and regulated, it's plain to see that prostituted women are in more danger than ever. In fact, Germany has been called "the brothel of Europe." That is not what we want to see here in Canada. There is in fact no safety and dignity in prostitution. Not only is it an inherently dangerous industry, but what dignity is there in selling your body to be used for someone else's pleasure?
It's worth pointing out that NOW Magazine has a vested interest in suppressing enforcement of the new laws, since a lot of their revenue comes from third-party sex trade advertisements. Massage parlours, pimps, escort agencies, strip clubs, etc. are no longer allowed to advertise sexual services of an individual; however, women can advertise for themselves if they wish. If law enforcement cracks down on the advertisements in the magazine, they will lose a big chunk of change.
In addition to the resources listed in NOW's article, there are many other sex worker-positive organizations in Canada that are dedicated to assisting women who are currently or formerly part of the sex trade industry. We have listed some of them here:
- Chrysalis Anti-Human Trafficking Network: A free hotline that provides trauma counselling to trafficked and exploited individuals as well as sex providers who do not identify as being exploited. Call 1-888-528-7109.
TORONTO/GTA AND LONDON, ONTARIO
- BridgeNorth: A community organization based in York Region that helps exploited women build healthy lives of their own, outside of the sex trade. Contact Casandra Diamond at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (416) 834-9561.
- Defend Dignity: A Toronto-based organization that works with exploited individuals with the goal of abolishing sexual exploitation in Canada. Contact Glendyne Gerrard at (416) 674-7878 or email@example.com.
- Walk With Me: A survivor-led organization in Toronto that provides and coordinates services for victims of human trafficking. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Covenant House: Canada's largest shelter for homeless youth, including those who have been trafficked or prostituted. Contact 1-800-435-7308.
- Rising Angels: A Toronto-based survivor-led organization dedicated to raising awareness of the sex trade as well as providing support services to exploited women. Contact Katarina MacLeod at email@example.com.
- Sextrade 101: A survivor-led organization in Toronto dedicated to advocating for the rights of trafficking and prostitution survivors as well as raising public awareness. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- London Abused Women's Centre: A non-residential service provider that offers counselling, advocacy, and support services to prostituted, trafficked, and abused women. For crisis counselling, call (519) 642-3000. For information or to make an appointment, call (519) 432-2204.
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
- Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter: A Vancouver shelter and crisis centre that provides numerous services to women in need, including a 24-hour crisis hotline and a free legal clinic. For assistance, call (604) 872-8212 or email email@example.com.
- EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating): A survivor-led advocacy group that promotes awareness and education about human trafficking and prostitution from a feminist perspective. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or use the anonymous contact form at http://www.educating-voices.com/connect.html.
- Dignity House: A second-stage home in Winnipeg that provides care and mentoring services to women exiting the sex trade. They are a Christian ministry and welcome women of all faiths. Contact Shona Stewart at (204) 222-7384 or email@example.com.