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News + Events: 2011 Archives

UN Will Conduct Inquiry into MIssing and Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada

Aboriginal women are overrepresented in prostitution and suffer the brunt of poverty and racsim. We at REED are delighted that the UN has finally decided to pay attention to our missing and murdered women and will inquire into this epidemic of violence.



Ottawa, ON (December 13, 2011)UN Will Conduct Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has decided to conduct an inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls across Canada. The Committee, composed of 23 independent experts from around the world, is the UN’s main authority on women’s human rights. The Committee’s decision was announced today by Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), and Sharon McIvor of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA).


The inquiry procedure is used to investigate what the Committee believes to be very serious violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In January and in September 2011, faced with the continuing failures of Canadian governments to take effective action in connection with the murders and disappearances, FAFIA and NWAC requested the Committee to launch an inquiry. Canada has signed on to the treaty, known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which authorizes the Committee to investigate allegations of “grave or systematic” violations of the Convention by means of an inquiry. Now that the Committee has formally initiated the inquiry, Canada will be expected to cooperate with the Committee’s investigation.


“FAFIA and NWAC requested this Inquiry because violence against Aboriginal women and girls is a national tragedy that demands immediate and concerted action,” said Jeannette Corbiere Lavell. “Aboriginal women in Canada experience rates of violence 3.5 times higher than non-Aboriginal women, and young Aboriginal women are five times more likely to die of violence. NWAC has documented the disappearances and murders of over 600 Aboriginal women and girls in Canada over about twenty years, and we believe that there may be many more. The response of law enforcement and other government officials has been slow, often dismissive of reports made by family members of missing women, uncoordinated and generally inadequate.”


“These murders and disappearances have their roots in systemic discrimination and in the denial of basic economic and social rights” said Sharon McIvor of FAFIA. “We believe that the CEDAW Committee can play a vital role not only in securing justice for the women and girls who have died or disappeared, but also in preventing future violations, by identifying the action that Canadian governments must take to address the root causes. Canada has not lived up to its obligations under international human rights law to prevent, investigate and remedy violence against Aboriginal women and girls.”


“The Committee carried out an inquiry into similar violations in Mexico five years ago and we expect the process will follow the same lines here in Canada,” said McIvor. “Mexico invited the Committee’s representatives to make an on-site visit and during the visit the representatives interviewed victim’s families, government officials at all levels, and NGOs. The Committee’s report on the inquiry spelled out the steps that Mexico should take regarding the individual cases and the systemic discrimination underlying the violations. Mexican women’s groups say that the Committee’s intervention helped to spur Government action and we hope to see the same result here in Canada, said McIvor.”



Vancouver Man Arrested for Trafficking Teenage Girls


October 28, 2011


Vancouver police have broken up a prostitution ring operating from a South Vancouver home in which four girls between the ages of 14 and 17 were allegedly intimidated into providing sexual services.


A total of 18 charges have been laid against Reza Moazami, 27, including four counts of human trafficking. This is only the second time such a charge has been laid in Vancouver and the first involving juveniles.


Sgt. Richard Akin of the VPD's vice squad said police believe other teenagers may have been involved in prostitution activities associated with Moazami, and asked them to contact police.


"Let's be clear these [teenagers] are victims. We believe there are others and we want these victims to talk to us," said Akin.


Akin said police began investigating Moazami in August when he was identified as being allegedly involved in prostitution activities.


"It quickly developed into an investigation into juvenile prostitution and suspected inter-provincial human trafficking," he said.


Moazami was arrested Oct. 7 and charged with two counts of living on the avails of juvenile prostitution and one count of keeping a common bawdy house. Two juvenile females were found in the residence at the time of Moazami's arrest and were taken into care.


The investigation continued and on Oct. 25 more charges were laid, amounting to a total of 18 offences alleged to have occurred between February 2009 and October 2011, involving four females below the age of 18 years.

Those charges include four counts of living on the avails of a juvenile, four counts of living on the avails of a juvenile while using or threatening to use violence intimidation or coercion, four counts of trafficking in persons under the age of 18, two counts of sexual interference and four counts of sexual exploitation.


Moazami remains in custody. His next court appearance is Nov. 21 at Vancouver Provincial Court.



City Plan Does Little to Support Those Put At Risk by Prostitution


Daphne Bramham

Vancouver Sun


If nine out of 10 fishermen got hurt at work, policymakers would likely question whether the job isn't so inherently dangerous that even regulating the industry might never keep them safe. If four of every 10 nurses were violently attacked every year, regulation alone might not be the solution either.


Yet those are the statistics for street and indoor prostitution respectively, and still most policy-makers simply shrug.



In 2005, 90 per cent of street prostitutes in Vancouver had been physically assaulted, 78 per cent had been raped and 72 per cent met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a report in the peer-reviewed journal Transcultural Psychiatry.


Those working from home, in massage parlours or escort agencies fare better. Still, 37 per cent of them experienced some sort of violence, according to research done in 2007 by a graduate student at Simon Fraser University.


Citing municipalities' limited powers over the Criminal Code, education, health and social services, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and all of the city's councillors are the latest to shrug.


They passed a plan based on a 30-page staff report, which gave only a cursory nod to the 12-year-old Nordic model pioneered in Sweden, which outlaws all aspects of the sex trade but provides generous social supports

to at-risk youth and women exiting prostitution.


They didn't ask for more information about that model or anything else, even though the Aboriginal Women's Action Network and others among the 50 speakers at a public hearing urged them to at least consider that prostitution is a form of violence against women that ought to be stopped, not regulated.


In the end, Robertson and the others (including Suzanne Anton, the NPA's mayoral candidate in the November election) bought into the excuse given in the staff report. Municipalities can do nothing about criminal law and little about education, health and social services, it said.


Of course, council didn't use that excuse when it came to endorsing safe-injection sites for illegal drugs.

They didn't balk last year from endorsing Will to Intervene, an international report that recommended Canada and the United States take leadership roles in preventing mass atrocities.


Which is odd since some people consider that 720 missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada or that more than 100 women missing and murdered from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside are slow-moving forms of genocide.


This council approved the report's sanitized language (sex work, not prostitution) and never asked why the report neglected to describe just what such work entails.


They didn't want to hear it. When 19-year-old Rachelle Rovner tried to read a graphic and disturbing description of the services that a Vancouver man bragged online about having purchased, she was told to stop.


Children might be watching the proceedings on TV, Coun. Andrea Reimer told her.


Rovner shot back. "If it's not appropriate for our city council, then maybe it's not appropriate for our city."


Nothing in the city's plan even hints at trying to lessen demand for prostitution in any of its guises.

Educational programs aren't aimed at the men who harm prostituted persons. The only recommended educational programs would be aimed at teaching children, vulnerable youth and women how to better identify pimps and predators.


"Stop putting the responsibility on us to survive," Trisha Baptie, a former prostitute, urged council. "Instead of abandoning us in the name of safety, health and verbal nonsense, you need to identify the problem: Men can pay for access to women's and children's bodies."


Council paid no attention.


Child prostitution was deliberately omitted from the report and recommendations. It's "strictly prohibited," the report's author Mary Clare Zak said at the meeting.


Yet, she also referenced a report that found 37 per cent of youth living on Vancouver's streets say they have exchanged sex for food or shelter.


Regulating where sexual services are delivered is part of the plan. The city's licensing department is urged to contact other cities to see how their bylaws differentiate registered massage therapists from massage and health-enhancement businesses that front for prostitution


Renfrew-Collingwood will get improved street lighting under council's plan. But whether it's in a car or alley, brothel or home, prostitution will never be safe.


There are hopes for housing, detox and rehab for at-risk youth, prostitutes and those exiting prostitution. But there's no money.


There's also no direction to end the long-standing practice of concentrating those services in the Downtown Eastside.


Bureaucratic not brave, it's hard to see how this plan will prevent anyone from entering prostitution or make it safer for anyone regardless of whether they're providing sexual services by choice, coercion, or out of desperation.



Ride for Refuge



Help raise funds to support our work to end sex trafficking by sponsoring us in the Ride For Refuge.  It's really simple, just click HERE and you're off to the races!



"It’s a multibillion-dollar industry; it makes more money than the NFL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball combined.”

"The John Next Door" by Leslie Bennetts

Newsweek Magazine (July 2011)


The men who buy sex are your neighbors and colleagues. A new study reveals how the burgeoning demand for porn and prostitutes is warping personal relationships and endangering women and girls.


Men of all ages, races, religions, and backgrounds do it. Rich men do it, and poor men do it, in forms so varied and ubiquitous that they can be summoned at a moment’s notice.



And yet surprisingly little is known about the age-old practice of buying sex, long assumed to be inevitable. No one even knows what proportion of the male population does it; estimates range from 16 percent to 80 percent. “Ninety-nine percent of the research in this field has been done on prostitutes, and 1 percent has been done on johns,” says Melissa Farley, director of Prostitution Research and Education, a nonprofit organization that is a project of San Francisco Women’s Centers.


A clinical psychologist, Farley studies prostitution, trafficking, and sexual violence, but even she wasn’t sure how representative her results were. “The question has always remained: are all our findings true of just sex buyers, or are they true of men in general?” she says.


In a new study released exclusively to NEWSWEEK, “Comparing Sex Buyers With Men Who Don’t Buy Sex,” Farley provides some startling answers. Although the two groups share many attitudes about women and sex, they differ in significant ways illustrated by two quotes that serve as the report’s subtitle.


One man in the study explained why he likes to buy prostitutes: “You can have a good time with the servitude,” he said. A contrasting view was expressed by another man as the reason he doesn’t buy sex: “You’re supporting a system of degradation,” he said.


And yet buying sex is so pervasive that Farley’s team had a shockingly difficult time locating men who really don’t do it. The use of pornography, phone sex, lap dances, and other services has become so widespread that the researchers were forced to loosen their definition in order to assemble a 100-person control group.


“We had big, big trouble finding nonusers,” Farley says. “We finally had to settle on a definition of non-sex-buyers as men who have not been to a strip club more than two times in the past year, have not purchased a lap dance, have not used pornography more than one time in the last month, and have not purchased phone sex or the services of a sex worker, escort, erotic masseuse, or prostitute.”


Many experts believe the digital age has spawned an enormous increase in sexual exploitation; today anyone with access to the Internet can easily make a “date” through online postings, escort agencies, and other suppliers who cater to virtually any sexual predilection. The burgeoning demand has led to a dizzying proliferation of services so commonplace that many men don’t see erotic massages, strip clubs, or lap dances as forms of prostitution. “The more the commercial sex industry normalizes this behavior, the more of this behavior you get,” says Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW).


The ordinariness of sex buyers is suggested by their traditional designation as “johns,” the most generic of male names. “They’re the cops, the schoolteacher—the dignified, respected individuals. They’re everybody,” says a young woman who was trafficked into prostitution at the age of 10 and asked to be identified as T.O.M.


Equally typical were the men in Farley’s study, who lived in the Boston area and ranged from 20 to 75, with an average age of 41. Most were married or partnered, like the majority of men who patronize prostitutes


Overall, the attitudes and habits of sex buyers reveal them as men who dehumanize and commodify women, view them with anger and contempt, lack empathy for their suffering, and relish their own ability to inflict pain and degradation.


Farley found that sex buyers were more likely to view sex as divorced from personal relationships than nonbuyers, and they enjoyed the absence of emotional involvement with prostitutes, whom they saw as commodities. “Prostitution treats women as objects and not ... humans,” said one john interviewed for the study.


In their interviews, the sex buyers often voiced aggression toward women, and were nearly eight times as likely as nonbuyers to say they would rape a woman if they could get away with it. Asked why he bought sex, one man said he liked “to beat women up.” Sex buyers in the study committed more crimes of every kind than nonbuyers, and all the crimes associated with violence against women were committed by the johns.


Prostitution has always been risky for women; the average age of death is 34, and the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that prostitutes suffer a “workplace homicide rate” 51 times higher than that of the next most dangerous occupation, working in a liquor store.


Farley’s findings suggest that the use of prostitution and pornography may cause men to become more aggressive. Sex buyers in the study used significantly more pornography than nonbuyers, and three quarters of them said they received their sex education from pornography, compared with slightly more than half of the nonbuyers. “Over time, as a result of their prostitution and pornography use, sex buyers reported that their sexual preferences changed and they sought more sadomasochistic and anal sex,” the study reported.


“Prostitution can get you to think that things you may have done with a prostitute you should expect in a mutual loving relationship,” said one john who was interviewed. Such beliefs inspire anger toward other women if they don’t comply, impairing men’s ability to sustain relationships with nonprostitutes.


Sex buyers often prefer the license they have with prostitutes. “You’re the boss, the total boss,” said another john. “Even us normal guys want to say something and have it done no questions asked. No ‘I don’t feel like it.’ No ‘I’m tired.’ Unquestionable obedience. I mean that’s powerful. Power is like a drug.”


Many johns view their payment as giving them unfettered permission to degrade and assault women. “You get to treat a ho like a ho,” one john said. “You can find a ho for any type of need—slapping, choking, aggressive sex beyond what your girlfriend will do.”


Although sex buyers saw prostitution as consensual, other men acknowledged that more complex economic and emotional factors influence the “choice” to prostitute oneself. “You can see that life circumstances have kind of forced her into that,” said one nonbuyer in the study. “It’s like someone jumping from a burning building—you could say they made their choice to jump, but you could also say they had no choice.”


T.O.M.’s story is a case in point. Her father went to prison when she was 2 years old, and she was 4 the first time her body was exchanged for drugs by her mother, an addict. Growing up in foster-care families, she was abused in every one. When she was 10, a 31-year-old pimp promised he would take care of her. “He was my savior at first—I was stealing food to survive. He said, ‘I’ll be your mom, your dad, your boyfriend—but you have to do this thing for me.’ And then he sold me.”


For the next five years, until he went to jail, her pimp trafficked her all over the Western United States. “I looked very much like a child for the first three years, and that made it more profitable for him,” T.O.M. reports, still diminutive and fine-boned at 21. In Farley’s study, one thing that johns and men who don’t buy sex agreed on was the ease of access to such children: nearly 100 percent of men interviewed in the study said that minors were virtually always available for purchase in Boston.


Trafficked children often have histories similar to that of T.O.M. Research indicates that most prostitutes were sexually abused as girls, and they typically enter “the life” between the ages of 12 and 14. The majority have drug dependencies or mental illnesses, and one third have been threatened with death by pimps, who often use violence to keep them in line.


But the sex buyers in Farley’s study overlooked such coercion and showed little empathy for prostitutes’ experiences or their cumulative toll. Researchers and service providers consistently find high levels of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, and other psychological problems among prostitutes. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s in a back alley or on silk sheets, legal or illegal—all kinds of prostitution cause extreme emotional stress for the women involved,” Farley says.


And yet johns prefer to view prostitutes as loving sex and enjoying their customers. “The sex buyers were way off in their estimates of the women’s feelings,” Farley reports. “In reality, the bottom line is that prostituted women are not enjoying sex, and the longer she’s in it, the less she enjoys sex acts—even in her real life, because she has to shut down in order to perform sex acts with 10 strangers a day, and she can’t turn it back on. What happens is called somatic dissociation; this also happens to incest survivors and people who are tortured.”


Farley is a leading proponent of the “abolitionist” view that prostitution is inherently harmful and should be eradicated, and her findings are likely to inflame an already contentious issue. “Modern-day prostitution is modern-day slavery,” says former ambassador Swanee Hunt, founding director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and cofounder of the Hunt Alternatives Fund, a sponsor of Farley’s study.


But other feminists defend pornography on First Amendment or “sex-positive” grounds, and support women’s freedom to “choose” prostitution. Tracy Quan, who became a prostitute as a 14-year-old runaway, says that many women do it for lack of better economic opportunities. “When I was 16, it’s not like there were great high-paying jobs out there for me,” says Quan, the author of Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl and a spokeswoman for a sex workers’ advocacy group.


“My view of the sex industry is that if we treat it as work and address some of its dangers, it would be less dangerous,” says Melissa Ditmore, an author and research consultant to the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center in New York.


And yet even Quan admits she had one customer who tied her up and scared her so badly she thought he was going to kill her. Noting that such men often escalate their violence over time, she starts to cry; there is a long silence as she struggles to regain control. “I always wondered if he went on to kill somebody else,” she says finally.


In response to such dangers, a growing antitrafficking movement is now targeting sexual exploitation both here and abroad. “Before this time, we heard from ‘happy hookers,’ we saw Pretty Woman, the whole country was being fed a pack of lies about prostitution, and sex trafficking was invisible,” says Dorchen Leidholdt, cofounder of CATW. “There is a growing recognition that this is pervasive, that it’s enslavement, and that we’ve got to do something about it.”


No one really knows how many women and children are trafficked for sex in the United States, often through the use of force, fraud, or coercion; the scope of the problem is hotly debated, but many believe it is growing. An array of organizations are now working to combat trafficking by building coalitions to reshape policies and change attitudes in the criminal-justice and social-welfare systems. “I think there has been an amazing evolution in thinking, and the movement is growing by the day,” says Norma Ramos of CATW.


Such efforts have led to the passage of tougher enforcement laws and the growing use of “john schools” that offer educational programs and counseling as an alternative to sentencing for first offenders. Their effectiveness is under debate, however; Farley’s study found that johns themselves viewed jail as a far more powerful deterrent to recidivism, and the strongest deterrent of all was the threat of being registered as a sex offender.


Estimates suggest that “for every john arrested for attempting to buy sex, there are up to 50 women in prostitution arrested,” Farley reports.


But the traditional double standard that punished women and forgave men is also being reevaluated. “It’s been accepted that this is something men will do, without any real thought about the victims,” says New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, whose department recently started an antitrafficking unit and increased its sting operations against johns. “It was considered a victimless crime. But it certainly isn’t; we realize that young women are being victimized.”


During her years in prostitution, T.O.M. reports that the police often violated her and always treated her “as a criminal, not a victim. This is the only form of child abuse where the child is put behind bars,” says T.O.M., who has escaped prostitution and is now working as a youth advocate in California.


Many law-enforcement officials say such longstanding practices are changing and credit the efforts of the antitrafficking movement. “I’ve seen a huge shift,” says Inspector Brian Bray, commander of the Narcotics and Special Investigations Division of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. “When I first started, I didn’t really understand how many of these girls have been trafficked. Now our mindset has changed from assuming the girls are criminals to trying to rescue the victims, provide them the services they need, and get information to lock up their traffickers. Most of our arrests used to be female prostitutes, but now we arrest more johns than we do prostitutes.”


Striking developments abroad are also influencing policies in the United States. In 1999 Sweden decided that prostitution was a form of violence against women and made it a crime to buy sex, although not to sell it. This approach dramatically reduced trafficking, whereas the legalization of prostitution in the Netherlands, Germany, and much of Australia led to an explosive growth in demand that generated an increase in trafficking and other crimes. Sweden’s success in dealing with the problem has persuaded other countries to follow suit. “The Swedish model passed in South Korea, Norway, and Iceland, and has been introduced in Israel and Mexico,” says Ramos.


Despite the struggle to control it, human trafficking is often described as the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world, and as second only to drug trafficking in its profitability. With billions of dollars at stake, the campaign against sexual exploitation has also provoked a predictable backlash. Last year Craigslist shut down its “adult” classified-ads section in response to the antitrafficking campaign led by Malika Saada Saar, founder of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights. The Craigslist crackdown increased revenue at, where The Village Voice runs its own adult ads.


Clearly worried about growing social pressure, the Voice attacked the antitrafficking campaign last month, charging that it has exaggerated the extent of the problem. The most common estimates, oft-repeated by major media, suggest that 100,000 to 300,000 children are trafficked in the United States every year. The Voice reported that this statistic identifies children at risk and claimed that the number of those who are actually trafficked is only a fraction of those figures. But the Voice’s calculations were promptly dismissed as unreliable; Seattle’s mayor and police chief pointed out that their city alone is estimated to have hundreds of minors exploited for commercial sex, and they accused of acting as an “accelerant” of underage sex trafficking.


The Voice also ridiculed Real Men Don’t Buy Girls, the antitrafficking video campaign launched earlier this year by Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher with a series of public-service ads featuring Justin Timberlake, Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper, and Jamie Foxx. The ads reflect a growing recognition that men are the key to addressing this problem.


Sex buyers are overwhelmingly male, and they purchase males as well as females. Whatever its form, the underlying question posed by prostitution remains the same: should people be entitled to buy other human beings for sexual gratification? If such ancient practices are to be curtailed, both johns and men who don’t buy sex will have to rethink their complicity, according to Ted Bunch, cofounder of A Call to Men, a national organization working to end violence against women and girls.


“This is the first generation of men that’s being held accountable for something men have always gotten away with, and that’s why you have such a backlash,” Bunch says. “Our social conditioning is to see women as objects, as property—that’s what commercial sexual exploitation is all about. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry; it makes more money than the NFL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball combined.”


Fighting that behemoth will require the participation of both sexes. “The system has been set up to blame women for the violence men perpetrate, and this has been seen as a women’s issue, so it’s easy for men not to get involved. But men’s silence about the violence men perpetrate is as much of a problem as the violence itself,” Bunch says. “Men feed the demand, and men have to eradicate the demand.”



A Third Way Forward in the Prostitution Case

Globe and Mail

June 28, 2011

by Norma Ramos


While the Ontario Court of Appeal reviews a lower court decision striking down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws, Canadians are seemingly faced with two extreme positions. On one hand, the three defendants are trying to portray prostitution as an occupation that can be made safer. On the other, the federal government is arguing that it’s under no obligation to protect those who make the “economic choice” to engage in what might be perilous behaviour.


But instead of siding with either of these positions – certain to put even more women at risk for sex trafficking – the Court of Appeal has the opportunity to move Canada in the direction of embracing a legal process based on human rights and women’s rights known as the Nordic model, which originated in Sweden and has spread to countries such as Norway, Iceland, the Philippines and South Korea.


Supporting a legal model that discourages the demand for commercial sex would be consistent with Canada’s internationally respected human-rights record.


First, countries that either decriminalize or legalize prostitution send an unmistakable signal to human traffickers that they are welcome to conduct “business” in their country. These policies create legal conditions that are hospitable to human trafficking, and countries that have legalized or decriminalized prostitution are witnessing a dramatic increase in both the demand for prostitution and the incidence of sex trafficking it fuels.

Studies also point to the inherent violence that is prostitution. Melissa Farley of Prostitution Research and Education has found that prostitution is built on a foundation of abuse, most often beginning in the childhood of the prostituted. The prostituted are then purchased and subjected to further abuse through sex. Dr. Farley has concluded that those subjected to prostitution suffer enormously from the repeated acts of violence done through commercial sex.


Second, prostitution is most often a practice of sex discrimination, in which girls and women are targeted for sexual violence. It’s a social injustice stemming from and perpetuating the world’s oldest inequality, the one between men and women. Women who are further marginalized through racial and ethnic discrimination rank among the most vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. Prostitution is also inextricably linked to sex trafficking. Decriminalizing prostitution ignores the underlying social inequalities that give rise to sexual exploitation and is fundamentally at odds with achieving gender equality.


The way to address an injustice is not to make it more tolerable but to eradicate it completely. The most effective way to address this oldest oppression is to create the legal, political and social conditions that give women an alternative to prostitution rather than working to keep them in the sex industry. In other words, social policy should reflect the right not to be prostituted.


Let’s not act to make the cages more comfortable – let’s eliminate the cages entirely. Canada should decriminalize the prostituted and address demand by penalizing the buyers.


This approach, the Nordic model, is based on the recognition that prostitution is violence against women, and that women are human beings who can’t be bought or sold for commercial sexual exploitation. It criminalizes the sex industry and their customers while decriminalizing those exploited in the sex trade. By criminalizing the purchase of a sexual act, the law identifies and penalizes the agents of the harm inherent in prostitution. It’s the only approach that will reduce sex trafficking.


Norma Ramos is executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.


Statement from the Women's Coaltion for the Abolition of Prostitution










Toronto, June 16, 2011 – The Women's Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution, composed of seven national and regional women's groups from across Canada, told the Ontario Court of Appeal today that:

• The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, interpreted in accordance with Canada’s international obligations, requires the adoption of an asymmetrical approach to the criminalization of prostitution;


• Criminalizing prostituted persons punishes them for their own exploitation by buyers and pimps and is therefore unconstitutional;


• When the focus of criminalization is the activities of pimps, brothel owners, customers and everyone who lives off the fruits and exploits the prostitution of others, it does not infringe the constitutional rights of prostituted individuals. On the contrary, it reinforces their constitutional rights to equality and security, because its purpose is to prevent anyone from profiting from their sexual exploitation.


For the Coalition and the women we represent (Aboriginal women, racialized women, women in prison, women who have been or are still being prostituted, women who have been sexually assaulted, battered women, women living in poverty, etc.), it is both illogical and counter to the principles of fundamental justice to decriminalize the men who exploit the prostitution of others under the pretext of protecting prostituted women from these same men.


There are profound commonalities in the lived inequality of women in prostitution, chief among them, sexual inequality. The Coalition comprises groups that have been seeking women's equality throughout Canada for many years and we affirm that the lower court erred when it neglected to take into account the violence that is inherent to prostitution, the over-representation of Aboriginal women in prostitution and the links between domestic prostitution and sex trafficking, both national and international. Further, nothing in the submissions presented to the trial court justifies the representation of brothels as safe places for women as compared with street prostitution.


The women we represent, some of whom have been in the sex industry, say that it is impossible to separate child prostitution from adult prostitution, just as it is impossible to clearly distinguish between the men who exploit and the men who supposedly protect women in prostitution.


The Coalition is therefore demanding that the Court acknowledge that, given the systematic inequality between women and men, no one has the constitutional right to buy and sell women's bodies for the purpose of sexual exploitation. We reject the status quo and we reject the total decriminalization of prostitution and its legalization.The government is responsible for ensuring the safety of women in prostitution by decriminalizing them and ensuring the safety of all women and girls by addressing the demand for prostitution.

Coalition members:

1. CASAC - Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres
2. CAEFS - Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
3. AOcVF – Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
4. CLES - Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle
5. NWAC - Native Women's Association of Canada
6. RQCALACS - Regroupement québécois des centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel
7. VRRWS – Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter




May the Voices of Prostituted Women Be Heard

This week the Ontario Court of Appeals will hear 5 days of legal arguments on whether or not prostitution should be fully decriminalized. A decision will be made 3-4 months afterwards.

At REED we honour the voices of prostituted women, and our friends consistently tell us that it's not the conditions around prostitution that make it dangerous, but prostitution itself. One woman has said that decriminalizing prostitution "would be like taking women like me, placing us on a silver platter, and serving us over to death." Enough said.

Below are excerpts from a Toronto Star article.  A friend of REED has submitted an affidavit and will be heard in court.

Toronto Star article
Ontario's Top Court to Hear Prostitution Challenge
by Tracey Tyler

The terms street worker and courtesan have had their day.


How about “experiential affiant?” That’s the name that has surfaced in documents for a case that begins Monday in the Ontario Court of Appeal.


In plain English it means a woman who’s worked as a prostitute and given a sworn statement about what the work is really like.


“It is violating to be reduced to body parts,” the “experiential affiant” known as J.S. says in an affidavit filed with the court.


“Not only are you reduced to a commodity,” she continues, “but you have to pretend that you like it, time after time.”


Lawyers for the federal government have gathered her evidence — one of seven affidavits from women who have worked as prostitutes — as support for their case that what harms women in the sex trade is the selling of sex itself, not laws aimed at curbing prostitution.


Read full article here.


Sex Buying Has Nothing to Do With Sexuality or Love

A new report from the Swedish Institute, "Targeting The Sex Buyer. The Swedish Example: Stopping Trafficking and Prostitution Where It All Begins," offers an excellent introduction to prostitution as male violence against women and how Sweden chose to create a society that doesn't accept the buying of women's bodies.



Check out this excerpt:



"Sex buying and human trafficking are cynical acts that have nothing to do with sexuality and love. Rather, they are bizarre, appalling forms of male domination over, primarily, women and young girls - also men's oppression of other males, primarily boys. He could be your neighbour, even your best friend. Or perhaps he is a colleague at work, or someone you talked to at a party last weekend. He appears to live a normal life - he's married, has children, a good job - in other words he's a regular guy. But he also buys sexual services and thereby supports the market for sexual exploitation, prostitution and trafficking. And under Swedish law he is a criminal. Swedish law focuses on these men rather than on the young girls and women they exploit. Why? The thinking behind the law is that it i the demand for sexual services that maintains prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes. The legal approach to this problem is often referred to as "the Swedish example."



New Article on Nordic Model

Gunilla Ekberg has just published a new article on the Nordic Model of law and social policy around prostitution. We very much agree with her that prostitution is a form of male violence against women and that the demand for sexual acccess to the bodies of women and children must be penalized.  Let's imagine more for women than normalized sexual exploitation!


Have a read here and get involved!






You Are Invited!

In Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day

REED and EVE present

Prostitution and Women's Equality: Imagining More for Women


The sexual exploitation of girls and women in the commercial sex trade is a human rights crisis and a direct hindrance to women's equality. Some argue that prostitution is a harmless commercial transaction between consenting adults. We refute this. Prostitution is violence against women. It is driven by the male demand for sexual access to the bodies of women and children and must be treated as a form of gendered and often racialized violence. Prostitution cannot be made safe through full decriminalization and regulation.


Join us as we host Gunilla Ekberg, Swedish-Canadian lawyer and expert on the human rights of women and girls, presenting on the Nordic model of law and social policy - an alternative to complete decriminalization that enshrines the diginty of women and addresses the male demand for paid sex. We will also be hosting guest panellists from our community.


March 8: Victoria Public LIbrary (Central Branch), 6-8pm


Gunilla Ekberg - International Women's Human Rights Consultant

Trisha Baptie - formerly Exploited Voices now Educating (EVE)

Lee Lakeman - Canadian Association of Sexaul Assault Centres (CASAC)


March 10: Vancouver Public Library (Downtown), Alice MacKay Room, 7-9pm


Gunilla Ekberg - International Women's Human Rights Consultant

Collective Memvber - Aboriginal Women's Action Network (AWAN)

Trisha Baptie - formerly Exploited Voices now Educating (EVE)


In collaboration with Aboriginal Women's Action Network (AWAN), Women's Faith Groups, University Women's Club, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter, Vancouver Council of Women, and Emancipation Now.


For more information contact Michelle Miller at 604.725.3838.





Sex Expense Deduction

"Canadian policy makers may already feel that they will have their hands full regulating the sex trade if decriminalization ever becomes a reality but there is an additional consideration to add to their list. They will need to determine if sex trade related expenses should be tax deductible for Canadian companies."


To read the rest of Marina Adshade's article on one possible repercussion to complete decriminalization click here.




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