In one of my online classes the question was asked simply put “What do you think of the recent challenge to the charter in the Bedford case?” Well in terms following up from my recent post “Whorephobia”, I thought I would share my answer. It is a complex subject but by the end of it, sex workers are persons to and deserved to be viewed/treated as such.
In order to approach this topic, I believe we must acknowledge the fact there exists much diversity among sex workers. To strictly view sex workers as corner prostitutes addicted to drugs is ignoring the issue at hand and that is the safety (or lack thereof) that sex workers face. Also we are ignoring the issue of stigmatization and discrimination simply because they are a “sex worker.” The stigmatization and criminalization that the sex worker faces can potentially lead to further isolation from society (Mensah and Bruckert 2011). This isolation perpetuates the violence that many sex workers experience.
There are many different types of sex work, indoor, outdoor, exotic dancers, massage parlors, escorts, etc. Each type of sex worker faces his/her own dangers, just like any other occupation. In particular a lack of access to justice because of the criminal laws that prevent them from participating in the profession with dignity foster the violence around such occupation. Sex workers may not go to the police when they are raped or beaten for fear of being further victimized or being blamed for the incident. This is a reality that many people face when they are attacked, in particular women who are not even sex workers and especially when their clothing or outward appearance is taken into account. Read this article here on “blaming the victim” in rape. This is slut shaming or the whore stigma.
Justice Himel’s decision highlighted that prostitution laws violated the Charter of Rights and Freedom because it “[deprived] sex workers of their right to liberty and security in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” It also puts the sex workers’ families and friends at risk because section 212 of the Criminal Code states that others can be charged for “living on the avails of prostitution” which according to Prof. M. Nengeh Mensah and Prof. C. Bruckert (2011) “criminalizes personal relationships and undermines the social integration of sex workers” (10 Reasons to Fight for the Decriminlization of Sex Work). The idea that prostitution is illegal and that all sex workers must be saved removes agency from individuals who choose to do it and those who participate in consensual, sexual acts.
Anti-prostitution laws are a prime example of the dominant ideology. During European colonization, its main goal was to spread Christianity. Much of our laws today can be traced back to religious ideals/ideologies. Prostitutes were once the subject of famous paintings like Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Now, prostitutes are shunned and belittled all because of one little goal that is now lost in translation as the battle of moral values against immoral values to which many of us have adopted.
Oh and online courses rock. They are like writing little blog posts every week but being graded for it. Ha!