Yesterday hearings on Bedford v. Canada, a case challenging the constitutionality of laws that ban “bawdy houses”, “communication for the purposes of prostitution”, and “living off the avails of prostitution”, began in Canada’s Supreme Court. Sex workers and their supporters took to the streets in several Canadian cities last Saturday to call for the decriminalization of prostitution in anticipation of the hearings. Viviane Namaste, a professor at Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute, spoke as an official intervenor, explaining that the current laws can actually result in an increase in violence against sex workers. Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young, leading the court challenge, urged the court to set aside moral considerations and stick to the core legal issues. Young is representing the three women at the center of the case: retired dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, former sex worker Valerie Scott and Vancouver sex worker Amy Lebovitch. Several groups spent the day rallying on the steps of the Supreme Court, where more than 100 people showed up to express their opinions. On one side, supporters of sex workers formed a small sea of red umbrellas as Bedford held court in a folding chair, in a leather jacket and carrying a riding crop, stating, “This is going to be the day of reckoning here in Ottawa.” Valerie Scott also addressed the crowd:“Sex work has always been a legal occupation in Canada. The bawdy house law prohibits us from working indoors. But the communicating law prevents us from working outdoors. This puts us in an impossible situation. We cannot respect the dictates of one law without violating the dictates of another.”
In honor of the occasion, several pro-sex work op eds appeared in Canadian papers this week: Huffington Post Canada offered one by Nikki Thomas of Sex Professionals of Canada detailing why the End Demand/Swedish model system of criminalizing clients is a bad idea. The Star published a piece by Catherine Healy of the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective lauding New Zealand’s decriminalization of sex work and one by feminist professor Angela Campbell supporting the case against Canada’s prostitution laws. The Tyee posted an excerpt of ex-street sex worker Amber Dawn’s autobiography, How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir, which tells the story of the beginning of the Canadian movement supporting decriminalization.
A Tulsa area street sex worker faces charges of resisting arrest, assault and battery on a police officer, and public intoxication complaints in addition to her prostitution charge, after she kicked one of her arresting officers in the groin. Can’t think of much to say in this case beyond offering our fond congratulations.
AB 67, Nevada’s Prop 35 anti-trafficking copycat bill, was signed into law this week. SWOP Las Vegas and other orgs such as ACLU Nevada voiced concerns about the potential for violating human rights and wasting limited resources ensnaring innocent people as sex traffickers given the bill’s overly broad definitions and removal of certain defenses for the accused.
In a federal class action lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel, a settlement with Louisiana was finalized that will remove from the sex offender registry approximately 700 individuals who had been required to register solely because of a Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) conviction, usually earned through a street sex work conviction. Deon Haywood, of Louisiana sex workers’ rights org Women with a Vision, is quoted in the article.
A piece in the Dallas Observer actually reports on how sex workers feel about Ezekiel Gilbert’s acquittal for murdering escort Lenora Ivie Frago. How novel. Audacia Ray of the Red Umbrella Project and our own Charlotte Shane, writing in Tits and Sass, are quoted. Elsewhere, a Vanity Fair op-ed’s headline says it all: “Why Ezekiel Gilbert’s Acquittal Proves the Lunacy of Texas’s Gun Laws”
Activists have launched a campaign for people to send police postcards supporting sex workers’ rights activist Ye Haiyan, who is still in detention after defending herself from police assault two weeks ago.
A British man called the police on his escort for not being as good looking as she represented herself to be over the phone, wishing to report her for breaching the Sale of Goods Act. The police responded by explaining that soliciting for sex was illegal and the woman had not committed any offenses, and warned the caller to stop wasting their time.
Just in case you haven’t heard enough about violence against sex workers and misogynist murder from the Ezekiel Gilbert case, a stripper from Brunswick club Maxine’s says that Australian Broadcast Corporation employee Jill Meagher’s killer, Adrian Bayley, used to stimulate strangling on her during his club visits, telling her that he fantasized about choking women. In 2000 and 2001, Bayley committed 16 rapes against five street sex workers in Melbourne’s St Kilda red light district. He was only sentenced to eight years’ jail for the rapes— less than half the maximum available. Stripper Sam told reporters: “I think about…how if it had been me the publicity wouldn’t have been the same. There wouldn’t have been 30,000 people walking down Sydney Road because of it. There wouldn’t have been this massive uproar about it…because there is that attitude that she’s just a stripper, she’s just a sex worker, she’s a slut, it doesn’t matter.”
Despite recent assurances from Brooklyn and Nassua County officials, New York state sex workers still worry that condoms will be used against them.
A U.N. Special Rapporteur recommended that provisions relating to sex work in Namibia be repealed, stating that the “stigma, discrimination and violence” suffered by sex workers in the country often discourages them from accessing public services, particularly health care, a situation that is hampering efforts to reduce the spread of HIV-AIDS in the country.
The incomparable Melissa Gira Grant strikes yet again in a piece in the New Statesman investigating a rogue chapter of Amnesty International’s endorsement of Scottish MP Rhoda Grant’s bill to criminalize clients of sex workers. Also check out her photo essay on whorephobia within protest movements and sex workers’ responses to it on her blog, and a short article of hers in the Nation utilizing infographics to show how the anti-prostitution loyalty pledge hinder HIV prevention globally.
Washington state officials agreed to scrap a controversial law targeting Backpage.com’s escort ads.
Foreign full service sex workers are demanding the right to work in Australia as “skilled workers” on 457 visas. Scarlet Alliance is urging the federal government to expand the visa to cover foreign escorts.
Talk show host James Lipton reveals his past as pimp in 50’s Paris.
The Vietnamese security ministry proposed fines of up to $476 for clients indulging in paid sex “of an obscene nature”(whatever that means). Migrant sex workers will be fined up to $47 and can be deported from Vietnam.
More than 500 sex workers urged the Laikipia county government in Kenya to recognize and fund them. The sex workers have formed a group, Laikipia Peer Educators, and say that they are willing to pay taxes if the local government would only give them licenses and allow them to do their work freely.
An Atlanta task force wrongheadedly considers offering people with prostitution convictions the non-choice between jail and forced treatment. At least they’re no longer discussing “banishing” convicted sex workers from the city. A Texas bill proposes a similar diversion program.
In response to concerns about lax licensing laws in Edinburgh, police descended en masse on saunas and massage parlors in an unprecedented raid.
A Nerve writer asks “Are Sugar Daddies Just A Myth?” Spoiler: YES. “I doubt it’s the actual loss of a sugar daddy or cougar mommy that might distress people…It’s more the loss of the idea–the knowledge that if the going gets really tough, there’s not even a fantasy to lean on. Whatever.”
Indian sex workers are instrumental once again in the fight against trafficking: The main tip-off on two sisters kidnapped from Dhaka and being brought to Pune came from a sex worker in Pune, who contacted one of her relatives in Kolkata, who in turn contacted the girls’ relatives in Bangladesh.
The Rumpus reviews “Public Sex, Private Lives”, “a moving depiction of three women who work in the adult film industry”: Princess Donna, Lorelei Lee, and Isis Love.
Two Tulsa women were arrested and charged with both use of a computer to violate state statute and soliciting an act of prostitution after undercover cops answered their Backpage.com escort ad.
Vice magazine interviews a self-employed web designer in South Carolina whose home was raided by the police. All of his computer equipment was seized, forcing him to close his business, because he had been hired to design a porn site for a man suspected of “paying guys to let him give them blowjobs and film it.”
Frankie Valenti/”Johnny Hazzard” ruminates over both the good and bad sides of his gay porn career in the Huffington Post. He describes how times have changed: “Today there are hundreds of boys flaunting the moniker ‘porn star’ but getting paid a fraction of what they were five years ago.”
Andrea Herrera, the former celebrity stripper/groupie better know as Kat Stacks, had some choice tweets to direct at strippers who file employee lawsuits against strip clubs. She was also featured in the Miami New Times‘ Best Of issue as “Best Local Girl Made Good.”
Senior State Department and Diplomatic Security officials may have covered up or stopped investigations of inappropriate or even criminal misconduct by staff, according to an internal memo from the department’s Office of the Inspector General. An active U.S. ambassador “routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” the memo says.