Sarah Jean de Vries , a set on Flickr.
Sarah de Vries was beaten by a john and this was the treatment she was afforded by the RCMP. As written Sarah de Vries.
BY IAN MULGREW, VANCOUVER SUNAPRIL 3, 2011
The Supreme Court of Canada will reconsider our archaic prostitution laws a decade after Robert Pickton’s murders underscored the vulnerability of street sex workers.
Why is reform taking so long?
Sex assault, stigma, lack of access to police protection, social inequality, torture and murder can all be linked to the criminal prohibitions around prostitution.
In affidavits, in court testimony, in parliamentary hearings, sex-trade workers have described in harrowing detail being beaten, robbed, held hostage and narrowly escaping death.
The violence is epidemic.
The inaction of lawmakers and the fact that women had to launch court challenges to bring this issue to the fore is a scandal.
Let’s be clear, the Supreme Court has been part of the problem.
Under former chief justice Brian Dickson in 1990, the country’s top bench considered the constitutionality of the prostitution provisions.
The justices decided the bawdy-house provisions did not offend the Constitution because there was no economic “right” to pursue a particular occupations.
But they ruled the communicating-for-the-purposes-of-prostitution section violated the right to freedom of expression.
Still, the justices declared the provision reasonable and justifiable under a section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and upheld the law.
On Thursday, the high court, now led by a woman, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, decided it would hear an appeal involving the case launched in 2007 by a group of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside sex-trade workers seeking to have prostitution laws struck down.
The key issue, though, is whether they even have the right to argue their case.
The B.C. Supreme Court initially dismissed the suit because the woman involved was no longer working in the sex trade. However, the B.C. Court of Appeal reversed that ruling and gave the woman standing, prompting a Crown appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In a separate action, an Ontario Superior Court judge last year struck down the prostitution laws, saying provisions meant to protect women and neighbourhoods actually endangered sex-trade workers. The ruling was suspended until an appeal is heard in June.
Why can’t consenting adults buy and sell sex freely like any other service? The Supreme Court has already said we can go to swingers’ clubs and cavort like Caligula.
Street prostitution is one of the scariest behaviours and the tragic litany of Pickton’s victims is an indictment of the status quo.
Police enforcement of the bawdy-house provisions against massage parlours pushes more women onto the corner and exacerbates the situation.
What is the point?
We pretend prostitution is legal while maintaining laws that make it illegal to solicit in public, to keep a bawdy house or to live off the avails of prostitution.
We need an overhaul of the Criminal Code and the government doesn’t need to wait.
The discussion around prostitution is mostly cant — people’s personal morality bleeding into public policy.
Using the Criminal Code to address a social problem is misguided.
Almost all vice investigation is directed at street prostitution, which researchers say accounts for less than a fifth of the sex trade.
The poorest and most vulnerable are targeted; the high-class hooker and the escort agency profit freely.
It’s time for decriminalization and proper regulation of the sex trade — the status quo is unacceptable.
No one should be going to jail because two consenting adults agreed to have sex for cash.
That said, I recognize the vast majority of street prostitutes are charged because they are causing a nuisance.
And at the moment, I think the debate blurs what is sex-trade work with subsistence sexploitation — one may be an occupation, the other is an act of desperation. One is an economic activity that can be regulated, the other a measure of what a human being will do to survive and requires intervention.
To focus on the sex laws as the streetwalker’s nemesis when they are mired in poverty, struggling with addiction and crippled by other social woes is naive.
Those who engage in subsistence sex will not be significantly aided by a change to the sex laws, but only by society addressing poverty, inadequate housing, violence, poor health, addiction and bad policing.
Even without the criminal law many, if not most, street prostitutes would be prohibited from a legitimate sex industry because of addiction, disease or mental illness. Yet that should not deter decriminalization.
We still will be faced with international procurement rings, incidents of sex slavery and the continuing sexploitation of children, women and men.
But at least the law will task our law enforcement agencies with targeting the perpetrators, not their victims.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, THE PROVINCEAPRIL 1, 2011
VANCOUVER — Thursday's denial of legal standing to sex-trade workers to argue their case in Canada's highest court is a matter of life and death, says lawyer Katrina Pacey.
"The laws against prostitution are creating extremely dangerous conditions for sex-trade workers," said Pacey, the Pivot Legal Services lawyer who originally launched a Charter of Rights challenge on behalf of sex-trade workers.
"To prolong this legal battle by forcing us to fight for our very right to be heard will endanger sex-trade workers and cost some women their lives."
On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada granted leave to the federal attorney-general to defend its own prostitution laws, but the sex workers' group that launched the case has been denied the right to be heard.
Pacey said Pivot's legal team, working pro bono, already has racked up "hundreds of thousands of dollars in time" since it launched the case in 2007 and now will have to fight about three more years "just to be heard."
"But no, we are not going to fold. Sex workers have the same Charter rights as other Canadians and do not deserve to work under laws which cause them to experience systematic discrimination, exploitation and violence every day."
Susan Davis, 42, said that, in her 25 years as a sex-trade worker, she has been exposed to extreme danger and violence due to "archaic, sexist federal laws."
"The federal attorney-general is forcing sex-trade workers to prove we're human and allow us to argue that we should have the same Charter rights as every other Canadian," Davis said.
Pacey launched the Charter case in 2007 on behalf of Sheryl Kiselbach, 61, a sex-trade worker for 30 years, and Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV), a group of survival street-level sex-trade workers.
The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that none of the women qualified for "public interest standing" to challenge federal laws against openly soliciting sex, keeping a common bawdy house or taking someone there.
The B.C. Court of Appeal in October 2010 reversed that decision, giving the sex workers standing, but the federal attorney-general applied to the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal that decision.
© Copyright (c) The Province