Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Anti-sex work revamp is just so wrong

Could this be Peter MacKay?
How timely to have University of Victoria researcher Cecilia Benoit and her team looking into the realities of the Canadian sex industry right now. Cecilia and other key researchers connected to the multi-project research have been gathering really meaningful information about the sex industry for many years, and with this project are investigating all aspects of the industry, from working conditions to management structures and clients.
    Such research will mean little to the Conservative government, which has already proven on a number of occasions that evidence-based research plays little role in its decision-making. But it's at least a branch to cling to for the rest of us in the coming storm around Bill C-36, which will set Canada back to the dark ages around sex work if it becomes law by criminalizing even more aspects of the work despite all evidence that criminalization doesn't work for anyone.
    I know how emotional this issue can be for people. I know how much people absolutely despise even thinking about the sex industry, having lived 10 years now of trying to talk about the realities of the industry and finding only a handful of people who want to hear about any of it. But for Canadians to stand back and let Peter MacKay and the federal government do this terrible thing - well, I just have to hope we can open our minds just a little to think differently about the people who work in this industry, regardless of our preconceptions.
    Bookmark the "Understanding Sex Work" page, which is already a great source of unbiased information on a profoundly misunderstood industry. For reasons I don't understand, we prefer to believe that all sex workers are forced into the business and are waiting to be rescued, and that all it's going to take is for Canada to get tough on "perverts" and pimps. The truth is that 80 per cent of the sex workers in this latest research said they chose to work in the industry.
    They are workers. They need standard work regulations, and access to all the resources the rest of us have to deal with the occasional exploitive, violent bosses or customers. They need support, not rescue. They need empathy, not these endless attempts to render them powerless, demoralized victims in the hands of horrible and violent men.
    The highest court in our land struck down the previous laws around prostitution, most of which we'd had for 150 years. Bill C-36 is no solution. It's a giant step backwards, and a truly heartbreaking development for those who understand sex work.

1 comment:

Norm Farrell said...

Hypocrisy, prejudice and ignorant narrow mindedness have long shaped laws related to human sexuality. Rather than just expressing empathy for sex workers, we ought to accept that sexual behaviour is a natural human behaviour that might involve consenting adults in long-term monogamy, in near anonymous relationships of short-term convenience and various styles between.

A few of Canada's current ruling politicians would have been comfortable in Georgian or Victorian England. Despite its ubiquity, governing classes believed the sex trade was a great social evil. One significant writer declared it rooted in ”the year 1802, when immorality had spread more or less all over Europe, owing to the demoralizing effects of the French Revolution.” This explanation was politically convenient even if it ignored evidence that prostitution had persisted throughout time.

The Economist's review of Dan Cruikshank's book, ‘The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital,’ says,

"As many as one in five young women were prostitutes in 18th-century London. The Covent Garden that tourists frequent today was the centre of a vast sex trade...

"Prejudice barred women from all but menial jobs. Prostitution at least offered financial independence...

"The sex trade transformed Georgian London. Rich brothel-keepers fed a construction boom that spawned thousands of elegant villas in Soho and Marylebone to house up-market courtesans..."

Of course, the trade also took more respectable forms than the activities within London's brothels. The East India Company transported "superfluous women" from England to India to partner with unmarried officers of the company. ‘The Fishing Fleet’ by Anne de Courcy notes that females of that day might be taught, "If you are unfortunate enough to be born clever, for heaven's sake, be clever enough to hide it."

I think there are elements of this thinking among Ottawa's Conservatives. For example, they are satisfied with a federally appointed bench that is, according to a Globe Editorial, "overwhelmingly, a white, male bastion."

Peter McKay seems to think women should stay home to care for husbands and babies. He denies saying those words but the fact is that of 13 recent judicial appointments, 12 of them were men. Of the 200 or so judges appointed by Harper's Government, all but a few were white.

Given a preference for what they call “social conservatism” and their unquestioning support of unrestrained development and disregard for warnings of science, or cautions of high court decisions, we should not be surprised that they intend to blunder on, ignoring social experts, and criminalize everyone involved with sex trades. The surprise would have been a choice to do something different.