Last Thursday sex work advocates, Terri-Jean Bedford and Valerie Scott brought forward a challenge to the Supreme Court demanding the legalization of brothels in Ontario. The challenge follows the decision made in the Ontario Courts to strike down the law prohibiting brothels but upheld the ban on communicating in public for purposes of prostitution. Proponents of legalizing brothels say that women will be safer while opponents disagree stating that such legislation will increase demand thus increase the need for workers thus increase human trafficking.
Larissa Crack is a co-founder of the local group, Coalition of Women In Numbers (CWIN). She worries that the community views a win for Bedford and the legalization of brothels as a good thing. “People aren’t understanding that the women fighting for this represent a very elite few. They don’t represent prostitution as a whole. The majority of prostitution is supplied through human sex trafficking, minors and drug addicts.”
Crack states that once brothels are legalized that it may bring some women off the street but this now becomes a new threat because they are now out of sight. The opportunity for violence increases. Further, the legalization of prostitution means that ‘managers’ –formerly ‘pimps’, can now legally recruit from anywhere in a legal position.
“They can walk into our schools, set up booths at the mall. Sex work is going to come into so many more people’s lives, homes and families than it already is. I don’t think people really understand what this will do. Locals are scared and angry that there are prostitutes on their streets in front of their house. If this law passes these bawdy houses and massage parlours will be opening up everywhere. If you look at countries where they’ve implemented these things they are actually regretting doing so.”
Germany is one of a few countries that have legalized prostitution. Since making this decision in 2003 the country has been rethinking the move. The new legislation has done little to improve the lives of prostitutes and women in general. The government can now step in and play the role of pimp. Unemployed women who refuse a ‘job’ as a prostitute are threatened with having their employment benefits revoked.
“Historically and all over the world, prostitution is an issue of the rich victimizing the poor, over and over and over again. It is men who are financially stable victimizing women who do not have the means,” stated Crack.
In Amsterdam, politicians, police, citizens and many prostitutes admit that ‘state-sanctioned prostitution is a failed social experiment’. The country has witnessed an influx of economically desperate women from East Europe, Africa and Asia seeking work as prostitutes. In addition, prostitution is controlled by criminal organizations and there has been a marked increase in heroin and crack cocaine abuse, and human trafficking. The legalization of prostitution means that would be pimps who live off the avails of prostitution are now perceived as managers and business owners.
Natasha Falle is the head of Sextrade101, which bills itself as ‘Toronto’s only sex trade survivors and abolitionist organization.’ Natasha is also a survivor of the sex trade.
Falle gave testimony for the federal government when the case was before the lower courts on the matter of legalizing bawdy houses or brothels and the ban on street prostitution and living off the avails. She sees all forms of prostitution as exploitation that should eradicated
“If it’s so great, why aren’t they bringing their sisters and their daughters in?” she says. “The more they say the women are there by choice, the harder it is for us to convince police, social workers and everyone else that these people are vulnerable.”
Abolitionists favour the ‘Nordic model,’ established by Sweden, which limits decriminalization to prostituted women and obliges authorities to treat them as victims of crimes perpetrated by pimps and johns. The Nordic model of prostitution law has been gaining wide spread respect.
In 1999 Sweden passed legislation that criminalized the buyer of sexual services. The legislation acknowledges that a man purchasing a woman for sexual exploitation, ‘whether masked as sexual pleasure or sex work’, is unacceptable. Within ten years of implementing the new model street prostitution was cut in half though there is no evidence that this decrease may have led to an increase of prostitution elsewhere.
The legislation also provides increased services for women, and there has been a decrease in the trafficking of women and children in Sweden.
Crack hits on a deeper issue that isn’t always mentioned in the research about legalizing prostitution. “We’re putting a price on a woman’s body and we’re telling not only women and little girls that it’s ok to do that but we’re telling men and young boys that it’s ok to do that too. People say that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world but no- it’s the oldest oppression in the world.”
The Coalition of Women In Numbers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on facebook. On Wednesday June 26th CWIN will be hosting an evening information night. Please mark the date. Further information will be released shortly.