This blog entry expands on the previous one about the current prostitution policy debates in the Canadian Parliament. I was reading over the transcripts some more ( http://openparliament.ca/bills/41-2/C-36/?tab=mentions&singlepage=1 ) and further noticing a disturbing trend in which people expressing the importance of getting people out of prostitution while speaking in support for C-36 (proposed legislation described in the previous blog entry) tend to trivialize efforts to support sex workers’ human rights while doing sex work. It doesn’t have to be an either-or thing since it is possible to support people looking to leave sex work while also supporting the human rights of people while doing sex work.
If anybody I’m referring to reads this and to anybody else who may have such attitudes, please stop acting like human rights do not matter while we’re doing sex work. Even if you find prostitution to be inherently oppressive, you don’t speak for all sex workers and it’s not okay for you to act like we need to leave sex work in order to be allowed basic human rights. We deserve them while we’re doing sex worker. As I expressed in the previous blog entry, hatred and oppressive policies against sex workers put sex workers at increased risk for violence. This includes, but is not limited to, the violence of forcibly hand-cuffing sex workers and forcing sex workers into jail cages under oppressive anti-prostitution laws. Though these are structural issues that extend beyond only sex work, misogyny, racism, transphobia, homophobia, and classism can permeate into sex work, affecting levels and frequency violence.
Also, arguing that there’s no way to guarantee safety in prostitution doesn’t justify trivializing efforts to increase degrees of safety. We’re never guaranteed to be perfectly safe in this world no matter where we are or what type of work we do. Thus, unless the world ever becomes perfectly safe, we need to consider safety in degrees rather than as absolute. Not all prostitution is equally as dangerous and there are safety precautions sex workers can take to decrease the likelihood of experiencing violence, such as screen clients. This includes not only indoor workers gathering names, phone numbers, checking references, etc. before ever meeting the client in person, but also street workers doing initial assessments of clients before getting into cars with them. The Swedish or Nordic model being promoted by many supporters of C-36 interferes with this by criminalizing the clients. As has been mentioned in testimony to the Canadian Parliament against C-36, Vancouver police have attempted this method and sex workers reported feeling more rushed by clients and less able to do screenings. Swedish sex workers reported similar experiences ( http://www.petraostergren.com/pages.aspx?r_id=40716 ).
Additionally, decreasing the client pool does not protect sex workers and has the opposite effect by putting sex workers in a position where it is harder to be selective about the clients they service, thus being more likely to go with clients they get a bad feeling about because they need the income. They are put in a position where they can only hope that these clients don’t turn out to be violent or take advantage of them, despite the bad vibes they got from the clients and how they would probably not service them if they had a wider client pool.
Considering how C-36 endangers sex workers when compared to decriminalization, it is not surprising that I have not noticed anybody identifying as a current sex worker supporting it. On the Contrary, Amy Lebovitch, a plaintiff in the Bedford v. Canada case that ruled Canada’s anti-prostitution laws unconstitutional, testified to Parliament against C-36 while identifying as a current sex worker Her testimony is in the first video on the left side of the screen in this link (http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/bill-c-36-hearings-told-not-to-conflate-prostitution-and-trafficking-1.2702095).