I want to take a moment to address an older podcast that I just found: McGill Law Journal. The particular episode is from 2014 I believe and centers around prostitution laws in Canada and the Canada (AG) v Bedford case before it had been decided. I loved listening to this podcast today but I take issue with basically everything one of their guests said. I want to address that here and now even though it’s from three years ago.Let me clear things up for you in terms of what kind of feminist I am. Sex work is work. Sex workers are people. All people deserve respect, life, and liberty. All people should be able to do with their body as they see fit as long as it doesn’t affect the rights of other people. And guess what, sex work doesn’t harm anyone. What does harm people is forcing them to take their profession to dark allies. What does hurt people is police and societal injustice, stigmatization, and rejection based on how someone obtains their livelihood. Pickton wouldn’t have been able to kill as many women as he did if we (society, policy) viewed sex workers are people worth our time and resources. He wouldn’t have been able to kill as many women as he had if we viewed aboriginal women as worth our time and resources.
Let’s dive in. In this episode they discuss the various reasons why prostitution *should* be decriminalized, why this particular case must stand, the “harms” associated with prostitution, and the ways in which we might be able to regulate it in theory. The episode features a man named Russel Brown who was the head of the Christian Legal Fellowship at the time of this podcast (no idea if he still is). He said some problematic things. 1) That we must protect vulnerable groups in society; 2) The lack of arrests of sex works shows that the law is working to deter prostitution; 3) something something “morals of society”; 4) Something about how the SCC doesn’t have the experience to decide on what is (or on) national issues; 5) this case (if successful) will cause a rise in drugs and human trafficking.
I want to do this in order: when you suggest that all women are vulnerable and in need of protection you forget that women have autonomy. When you argue that sex workers are a vulnerable group you fail to recognize why they’re a vulnerable group and how best to address this issue. The reason why assault rates among sex workers is so high is because of the stigma attached to their profession, their inability to obtain justice for (at that time) fear of prosecution or fear of judgement, and the secretive nature of their work. Which is only secretive because of Canadian law. If you truly want to protect the women (and men) who choose to engage in sex work you should listen to them. They kind of tend to know how to make their lives safer since they live them.
On the lack of arrests: causation and correlation, buddy. Just because there is a lack of arrests doesn’t mean prostitution is declining. In 2008 it was estimated that prostitution brought in about 3.4 million dollars. That’s a rough estimate since it’s hard to get data on work that’s under the table. Anyone who has ever been on East Hastings street in Vancouver can tell you that it’s not in decline. And that’s okay. What isn’t okay is that 87% of sex workers have been physically and/or sexually assaulted. The law is meant to protect people. The old law wasn’t working. I’m not sure if the PC’s version of it is much better.
Morals of society: who’s morals, exactly? They’re sure as hell not mine. I support people to make decisions about their lives and their bodies, because what they do with them is none of my business. We can’t subject all of society to abide by the morals of a religious group, even if that religious group represents more people than any other. Rather, we all form society based on a similar code of ethics brought forth by universal norms and human rights. They’re pretty basic: don’t kill people, don’t steal things, don’t be a dick, etc. The act of prostitution is only a moral harm from the point of religion. You cannot argue that sex for money has a moral harm to society if you have a liberal and non-religious view of sex and body rights. Because there isn’t one. Tell me who prostitution harms. You’ll say sex works and I’ll say that’s only because we force them to conduct their work in the shadows. You’ll tell me that women are exploited. While, I recognize that human trafficking is a thing and is very much terrible, when people choose to be sex workers that isn’t exploitation. At least no more than a coal miner selling his body, or a woman selling her mind to do mathematical equations for money. You’ll tell me it hurts society as a whole. I’ll ask you how. You’ll probably say STIs and I’ll say sex workers account for a low percentage of STI’s (3-4%), which is less than the STI prevalence among teens. A lot less. And there would be even fewer instances if you mandated that condoms had to be used during paid sex work. You’ll probably try to tell me that it hurts the children somehow, and again, I’ll ask you how. This would go on for a while. I firmly support the separation of church and stat. I find it problematic for a multicultural society made up of people from all over the world who have different experiences and different religious beliefs to base its laws in any religion. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is dangerous for that to be the foundation of law as it becomes susceptible to change as the majority religion shifts. Rather, I’d argue that it’s important that our laws reflect a commitment to the common good, embracing universal harms, limiting actual harm, and focus on making society a better place for everyone. I don’t think you need religion to do that and I don’t believe falling into moral arguments is helpful since morals are subjective. I belie e the majority of the population would agree that murder is wrong as it deprives someone of their life and liberty, harms society as you remove someone from it. But I don’t think you can draw distinct harms resulting from prostitution when they argument is “it doesn’t fit my sexually conservative mores”. Abortion is counter to a lot of social conservatives “morals”, yet a woman’s right to control her body is far more important than the feelings of the Christian right. I believe the same is true of sex work.
SCC Doesn’t have the ability/ experience to decide on national issues: uhm, pretty sure it’s the duty of the SCC to determine whether or not laws enacted by the government violate the constitution since we’re a constitutional democracy and the Bedford case concerned the Charter, which as it so happens, is part of the Constitution. What even? Pretty sure the SCC is appointed to do just that. Maybe you should go back to law school?
Rise in drugs and human trafficking: hit the books, brah, because studies show the opposite is true. If we were to properly regulate and monitor the industry, we would cut their ties to the criminal network (i.e drugs and human trafficking) because there wouldn’t be back ally dealings nor would women fall into abusive prostitution rings. If we brought sex work out of the shadows it would operate within the law because of oversite. Because there would be ways in which sex workers caught in bad situations would be able to come forward and ask for help. Sex work doesn’t have to be something we see as nefarious and if we don’t view it that way or treat it that way then it won’t be. In terms of human trafficking, I believe regulating sex work would decrease the amount of human trafficking victims in Canada who are abducted or brought here for sex work.