Do Sex-Workers Deserve a Safer Workplace?
Terri-Jean Bedford, a woman titling herself Canada's most famous dominatrix, has launched a constitutional challenge with three other sex-workers and Allan Young, a law professor from Osgoode Hall, to repeal three provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with sex work.
The three provisions have to do with the ban on bawdy houses, communication with potential clients and living in the avails of prostitution. At the heart of this protest against these provisions are concerns over the safety of sex-workers and, in a statement by the group known as the Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC), "the provisions challenged in this application operate to deny sex workers safe legal options for the conducting of legal business".
After all, prostitution is legal in Canada, as long as it's of the independent outcall variety, but this places the onus on the individual woman to ensure her own safety while simultaneously acknowledging the current laws.
Due to the criminalization of third-party involvement in the business of selling sex, many sex-workers operate alone which increases the risk of them being preyed upon by violent individuals who might otherwise not risk the potential intimidation of a group presence.
This, in essence, is what Ms. Bedford is interested in changing. "I just want them to know that indoors is much safer than outdoors, from my own experiences." From security guards to other safety measures, she feels that sex-workers would benefit from having the back-up to deal with potentially-difficult clients without fear of recrimination from the police or other authorities.
So bawdy houses might make sense but deciding in which neighborhood to place them is another kettle of fish. From Giorgio Mammoliti's suggestion of the Toronto Islands as an appropriate site to various controversies over the area surrounding "Hooker Harvey's most current situations or those half-heartedly put out as possibilities are met with widespread derision and understandable concern. After all, nobody wants to live next to a "house of ill-repute".
Even strip clubs are feeling the heat with Lakeshore residents up in arms over a potential strip club as mentioned in a previous Morning Brew.
Leaving aside considerations of property values and "the children" an area where residents and tourists alike could congregate to avail themselves of sexual services is a possibility worth considering in a world where many cities have chosen to cluster said services in an area that is easily policed and monitored.
Victoria lets agencies take incalls and simply checks in from time to time to ensure that every sex-worker is licensed and none of them are underaged.
Besides bawdy houses, the ability for sex-workers to freely communicate with their clients wouldn't do irreparable harm to the fabric of our society, at least far as I can see. It might even help them weed out potentially-dangerous individuals. As for illegality of someone besides the sex-worker living off of her income, I understand that the purpose of the law is to prevent pimps from taking advantage of women but it also prevents groups of sex-workers from banding together to profit safely from their work.
At this point, I feel sufficiently emboldened to offer my own experience when it comes to availing oneself of the sexual services available in our fine city. Many years ago, a friend and I, suitably liquored and rightly curious after a lengthy discussion on the subject, decided to walk around the downtown in search of massage parlours (which, for the purposes of our experiment, ran along Queen, up Yonge and along Bloor before heading down Spadina again) while trying the numbers in the back pages of our favorite weeklies for good measure.
While it may have been the time of morning (3 AM or so), we had no luck and I can't help thinking that many other fellows in my place might be similarly frustrated by the lack of clear and concise directions with regards to the possibilities open to them.
Do they deserve to satisfy their urges in an environment that affords every opportunity for the sex-worker to ensure their safety? Do you think the current laws do the job or would you like to see an area of the city opened up to regulated (and closely-monitored) sex-trade?
Hell, in an age where monsters such as Robert Pickton can operate with relative impunity, do we really have a choice?
Photo: Eleven Eight
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