What a triumphant end to this week of International Day to End Violence Against Sex Work: today, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down the country’s prostitution related laws in a unanimous decision on Bedford vs. Canada, calling all three statutes—prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution, and communicating in public with clients—over-broad and “grossly disproportionate.” A resounding, grateful shout out is due to the eponymous Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott, the three sex workers who began this court challenge in the Ontario court system. However, this victory is not unmitigated—the court gave Parliament a one-year grace period to redraft a legislative scheme on full service sex work that could be judged constitutional. In the meantime, Canada’s anti-prostitution laws are still in effect. But, if twelve months from today, the federal government has not redrawn the laws to address the Supreme Court’s concern that they are too arbitrary, vague, and excessive, full service sex workers will be free to legally practice their trade; hire drivers, bodyguards, and accountants; and screen their clients as they see fit.
Here’s more on the story from the Business Insider; the Toronto Star; BBC News; a Globe and Mail op-ed expressing worry about the fact that the court’s decision, is in a way, “an open invitation to Parliament to write new criminal laws”; another Globe and Mail editorial on the ruling’s implications re: the right to self-defense; an Ottawa Sun piece on local sex workers’ reactions to the decision, quoting a representative of Canadian sex workers’ rights organization POWER; a Herald News article on the comments of staff at Stepping Stone, a Halifax support and outreach organization for sex workers, after they heard the news while celebrating their Christmas party; a CBC News blog round up of twitter reactions to the ruling; a Vancouver Sun profile of how Pivot Legal Society, an organization which was instrumental in this landmark victory, is taking the good tidings; and an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen on how the decision represents Canada’s movement towards more progressive politics.
Oh, wow, so much coverage this week 0n movement actions around the world for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th: here’s a video and an article on the protest in Kenya, in which sex workers marched along with members of the GLBT community, demanding an end to violence against both groups; the L.A. Times on vigils in Los Angeles and New York, along with a summary of violence against sex workers throughout the year; Best of New Orleans on SWOP-NOLA’s December 17th second line parade through the French Quarter; SWOP-LV’s press release on their event in the Las Vegas Sun; a radio interview with SWOP-Denver members (about three quarters through the audio file); the Times Colonist on Victoria, BC sex workers’ rights organization PEERS’ march (though they call it “Red Umbrella Day”); HuffPo on SWOP events throughout the U.S., with a slide show of photos of some of this year’s sex worker murder victims; a piece in the Bristol Post on Avon and Somerset’s Police and Crime Commissioner marking the occasion by publicly supporting the Ugly Mugs scheme, Naharnet on a protest in Skopke, Macedonia; Turkey’s Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Organization’s statement for the day; Rabble with statements from sex workers’ rights organizations Zi Teng, EMPOWER, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, and Maggie’s on the issue, plus a lament for non gender normative Indonesian migrant sex worker murder victim Rosa Ribut; a speech by sex worker activist Gina de Vries at the San Francisco event, urging the movement to center the voices of trans sex workers of color; and finally, an Australia Broadcasting Company radio interview with sex worker activists Jane Green and Ryan Cole at the Melbourne protest: “Don’t call me darling. That’s patronizing.”
Whew. We’re overwhelmed. And oh-so-delighted.
IT HAPPENED TO ME: I read this stupid essay in XOJane about a “coed lady pimp” and realized that I would never get that ten minutes of my life back. In it, Elle West tells the story of how she went from a madam’s so-called intern to running her own escort agency. But, ooooh, her hookers are different! They’re subversive and edgy! In the end, she flees to Paris to be with her boyfriend like some alternate dimension version of Sex and the City. This whole story is garbage; does anyone actually believe it? Seriously, Ms.West, or someone from XOJane, or anyone that’s worked for this self-described coed lady pimp, CONTACT US. We want to talk to you.
Chinese sex workers have to pay for the privilege of being brutally oppressed in jail.
Silly rabbit, the Migrant Workers in the UK Industry Project demonstrates that only a small minority of foreign sex workers in Britain have been trafficked, so stop it with the moral panic, the restrictive migration policies, and the abolitionist campaigns which directly endanger us.
A veteran University of Colorado Denver administrator, Resa Cooper-Morning, is under investigation and has been placed on paid administrative leave for operating a phone sex and softcore amateur internet porn business at the same time she has been getting paid by the university. God, can’t a girl moonlight? After all, “[i]t does not appear operating the website violates any university or state policies.”
The Providence Phoenix profiles Project Weber, the only harm reduction organization in the U.S. by and for male sex workers, founded by sex worker activists Richard Holcomb and James Waterman in honor of street sex worker murder victim Roy Weber.
Anti-trafficking groups are up in arms about a recent settlement between the City of Houston and sixteen of the city’s largest topless clubs that relaxes enforcement of rules governing sexually oriented businesses in exchange for money to form a special police unit. Let’s do a reality check, okay? Sure, strip clubs are not known for their expertise in self-regulation, but they are not, in fact, “trafficking hubs.” And whether or not a dancer is inches away from a man’s lap or crawling all over him has nothing to do with helping sex workers in coercive situations.
The West End Extra has a story on Rupert Everett’s involvement in the English Collective of Prostitute’s protests against police closure of Soho brothels. The really interesting thing here isn’t the Hollywood element, though: “Police have sought the closure orders because they believe an unknown ringmaster is behind each flat and that they break laws by ‘causing or inciting prostitution for gain.’ They also say that by agreeing on working hours and rates, the women are being “controlled” by a third party, which is also illegal.” Really? “An unknown ringmaster”? Is this real life or a really bad noir paperback? And gee, how sinister, sex workers set industry standards just like every other profession. One just has to smile, though, at this testimony by a migrant Albanian sex worker at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, providing evidence that she is self-determining as a business woman: “Nobody can control me. I work and pay the bills, just like you do…If he [the client] looks poor, I can’t charge him a lot, but if he looks like you [like the prosecutor] I will charge him more, I’m sorry.” We feel you, sister.