Megan Murphy has been writing about sex work on rabble.ca and has been causing a bit of a stir… Please visit the site to post on the comments!
It’s become so predictable that, now, I just sit back and wait. I’ve written several pieces about prostitution and the abolitionist movement, and several more that don’t directly address these issues, but perhaps mention the word “prostitution.” And really, that’s all it takes these days.
What I’ve come to realize is, no matter what I write, no matter what argument I make, no matter the points I bring up, the sex work lobby doesn’t care. Because if you aren’t agreeing with them, you must be stopped.
Public use of the word “prostitution” is enough to justify skimming right past the contents of any article and heading straight to the silencing. The silencing is the most important work, after all. It is the goal. “If we can bully them into shutting up, maybe we’ll win,” is what they seem to be thinking.
An appeal court decision expected early next year could decriminalize prostitution in Canada, putting us on par with the Netherlands. Experts there say it’s the best way to protect women, but officials in Sweden, where they have a zero-tolerance policy, say it would be a big mistake. Claire Tremblay looks at the two approaches to see what Canada can learn
By Claire Tremblay, Ottawa Citizen December 3, 2011
Det.-Insp. Kajsa Wahlberg, a middle-aged woman with short blond hair, exudes an air of policing officialdom. As Sweden’s National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, the seasoned police inspector has witnessed human trafficking at its worst. From lone pimps exploiting teen girls and seducing them with promises of love, to complex crime syndicates that drag drugged women en masse into anonymous hotel rooms across Europe, Wahlberg has seen it all.
And as the Ontario Court of Appeal considers a case that could see prostitution decriminalized in this country, she has a warning for Canada: Do so at your own peril.
Expect prostitution to skyrocket, she says. Expect drugs, crime and human trafficking to soar.
“If Canada adopts a model of decriminalizing sex buyers, prostitution will explode. It will become like the Netherlands,” says Wahlberg. “The sex buyers will require more and different types of weirdo sex and new varieties and services. It would be a big mistake.”
The court case that so alarms Wahlberg is Bedford v. Canada, the September 2010 Ontario Court of Justice case where sex workers Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Leibovitch and Valerie Scott took the federal government to court over Canada’s sex laws – and won.
By Charlie Smith, November 24, 2011
An author and scholar who likes to refer to herself as the “Naked Anthropologist” has compared the current climate against human trafficking to the panic over white slavery in the late 19th century. Laura Agustin, author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (Zed Books, 2007), told the Georgia Straight by phone that in the earlier case, there was an uproar over whether Caucasian and Jewish women moving to New York or Buenos Aires, Argentina, were being traded as slaves.
While she won’t use the word “panic” to describe the current situation (“I try to avoid these labels,” she said), Agustin suggested that there is a widespread “rescue movement”, led by governments and the United Nations, which is trying to characterize a range of issues—migrant sex workers, child labourers overseas, and people who pay huge fees to immigrate—as “slavery”. Using this terminology gives a growing “antislavery” movement, largely based in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, the moral justification to launch interdiction programs as part of an international justice movement.
By Niresha Velmurugiah——
I recently attended a workshop by Vancouver-based sex worker support and advocacy agency, PACE, on providing health care for sex workers. PACE is a sex-worker driven organization, and the guidelines at the workshop are based on firsthand experiences with service providers. I left the session content with the progressive care for workers in such a marginalized profession. Then my friend remarked, “Isn’t it messed up that treating people with respect has to be such a revolutionary idea?”
The advice from the workshop was a sad reflection on the status quo. Don’t treat sex workers like they’re dirty. Acknowledge the interplay between sex work and drug use, and how intertwined the two often go. Don’t brush off sex work as illegitimate. Don’t talk down to sex workers or treat them like they need saving. Respect the terms sex workers use to describe their profession. The underlying themes of respect and sensitivity to the context of a person’s life are basics of health care provision. There is, however, a discrepancy between theory and practice, because current health care fails sex workers.
Back from a brief vacation with a long post that will probably annoy some people, but is the result of a long-standing annoyance…
By now I am getting extremely annoyed with a certain discourse around sex work that has become popular amongst some sectors of the North American (and occasionally European) left. Originally a discourse that was limited to lifestyle [and predominantly male] anarchists, as well as a few hippy sex fetishists, the political assertion that sex work is liberating, and that the liberating potential of sex work should be treated as part of a radically progressive politics, is now being embraced by the broader left-wing population and gaining the support of so-called feminists, socialists and communists who should know better. Indeed, the unqualified pro-prostitution position is being treated by some as a litmus test for numerous radical commitments as it is now attached to, and turned into a falsely essential component of, feminism, queer and trans liberation, and other anti-oppressive political positions.