In one of my early posts on the blog I shared about a fundraiser I organized with one of my best friends. The two of us had both stumbled across the shocking reality of human trafficking and been horrified. Most of my experience was just through reading about it (primarily in Benjamin Perrin’s book Invisible Chains), whereas she had met human trafficking survivors while attending Salvation Army War College.
We felt frustrated, and helpless, but we wanted to do something, anything to prevent it from happening to more vulnerable individuals.
After discussing it a few times, we decided to create some kind of event where we could raise awareness for human trafficking here in Canada. We even created a petition that advocated for the “Nordic Model” of prostitution law. This model was advocated by Perrin in his book and basically entails attacking the demand side of prostitution rather than the supply, specifically by making the purchase of sex illegal, rather than the sale. In theory, this means that the individuals who are victimized by the sex industry would be protected, while those who are perpetuating human trafficking or contributing to the prostitution demand would be punished.
So I should be really excited now that Canada is currently debating a bill that would change our current prostitution laws to something much more in line with the Nordic Model, right?
Well, I’m suddenly not so sure.
Unfortunately McKay is also the guy who said that there aren’t many female judges because they are busy being stay at home moms, because children need mothers more than fathers. He also sent out lovely emails complimenting mothers and fathers on his staff. The mothers he commended for their hard work changing diapers, and the fathers, for their work in shaping future leaders. Not entirely sure how he managed to snag human rights activist and beauty queen, Nazanin Afshin-Jam.
According to a summary by the Huffington Post, the bill would create new offences for:
— The purchase of sexual services and communicating in any place for that purpose, with penalties ranging from a $500 fine to five years in prison.
— Receiving a financial or material benefit from the prostitution of others, including through businesses that sell the sexual services of others online or from venues such as escort agencies, massage parlours or strip clubs.
— Advertising the sale of sexual services in print media or on the Internet.
— Communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services in public places where a child could reasonably be expected to be present. Now in Canada we have been offered the opportunity to introduce the kind of legislation that could severely discourage the demand on prostitution.
I love the idea of reducing levels of human trafficking and prostitution.
Morally, I still have an issue with prostitution. I don’t believe that sex and intimacy is something you should feel that you have a right to access, just because you paid someone some money. That being said, I don’t want men and women to suffer violence just because they have different moral values than I do. Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of individuals who are working in the sex industry say will happen if Bill C-36 passes.
“In Sweden, where the laws targeting clients of sex workers have been in place since 1999, sex work has been pushed further underground. Sex workers have little time to screen their clients because clients fear arrest. Sex workers are subpoenaed and ordered to testify against their clients in court. Many clients simply start seeing workers indoors, leaving only those clients who are otherwise undesirable for street-based workers (e.g., they have a criminal record already), as well as increasing competition among women for a reduced client base. If they choose to operate indoors, which is safer than working on the street, they can be evicted because landlords are charged with profiting off a sex worker’s earnings—their rent—if they do not evict the tenant.
Sex working mothers run the risk of losing custody of their children. The case of Petite Jasmine, a Swedish sex worker, is exemplary on this point. Her children were taken from her because of her work in the sex industry and given to her abusive husband, who later stabbed her to death during a visit with her children.”
While I still appreciate Bill C-36 and its attempt to target demand, I am troubled by the last three aspects of the bill that seem intended to drive prostitution out of sight, where it becomes all the more dangerous. In fact, they essentially act to prohibit the existence of brothels (where sex workers can watch out for each other) and “safer” forms of solicitation that allow them to screen their clients before seeing them.
So I want to ask the people who actually know about these things, was I wrong? Did I get caught up in fighting the problem of sex trafficking because it was quite literally the sexiest social justice cause out there? Did I understand the complexity of life in prostitution well enough to use my social advantages to push for changes in our laws? And am I willing to do the smaller, less “exciting” sacrifices in order to actually prevent the victimization of vulnerable persons?