On Monday, December 15, British Columbia's Supreme Court rejected a request to have stricken from Canada's Criminal Code all articles related to prostitution, which would have in effect given free rein to pimps, brothel owners, traffickers and buyers of "sexual services", currently targetted by the law.
Vancouver's Trisha Baptie has covered as a citizen correspondent the first trial of serial murderer Robert Pickton for
the www.orato.com Citizen News website.
Trisha was granted in March the "Courage to Come Back
Award" for overcoming social adversity, as she once worked alongside some of
the missing women and counted some of Pickton's victims among her friends.
This was in recognition for her bravery in overcoming the cycle of abuse and
addiction and for giving the murdered women of Vancouver, Canada's Downtown
Eastside a voice.
She recently was a vocal participant of the "Flesh
Mapping vancouver markets pacific women" event:
essay below about the B.C. Supreme Court decision can also be
found, along with other experiential reports on prostitution issues, on the
Orato website: http://www.orato.com/node/7816, and
has been distributed on the CATW-L list.***
Pivot Challenge To Prostitution Law's
Will Not Be Heard
By Trisha Baptie
Created 12/16/2008 - 20:48
I was at a coffee shop in a meeting with an Abolition group I am a part of
on December 15th 2008, when I received a call from the Department of Justice to
let me know that minutes earlier Pivot's Charter Challenge had been thrown out
In October Pivot Legal Society went before The Honourable Mr. Justice Ehrcke
to argue on behalf of Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence
Society ("SWUAV") and ex-prostitute Sheryl Kiselbach that Canada's
current prostitution laws in varying degrees needed to be struck down as
they put women working the streets of the Eastside at risk for harm.
I find myself in a most unusual position of being happy that laws I do not
necessarily agree with were not changed.
While I understand the heart of this case was to keep the most vulnerable of
society safe I find this court challenge to be short sighted and fundamentally flawed.
If we know the women are suffering from many different issues, why are we not
taking the government to court to provide those basics and essentials of life?
Why are we not demanding what we all know they need, detox - which currently
has a minimum of a 24 hour wait to get in and you need a phone number for them
to call you back at. Most of these women do not have a phone.
Why are we not demanding that we have LONG term recovery beds - we know
these women's lives will not be repaired in a 3 month program. Why are we not looking
at when most women do decide to change their lives they suffer devastating
mental, emotional, spiritual and sometimes physical effects from prostitution?
Why are we not taking BC's abysmal welfare rates to court and fighting for an
amount that is liveable?
Instead of looking at the reasons the women were working the dangerous
streets of the Downtown Eastside - like poverty, addiction, mental health
issues, pasts filled with
deep hurts that need to be dealt with and a myriad of other issues - Pivot, who
for the most part is on the right side of issues affecting the marginalized in
our society, was instead making sure we keep the demand for paid sex available
and not look at the heart of this issue
which is, it is the very act of prostitution that is the violence that is
harming the women - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is astronomical amongst
former prostituted women. Why are we not looking to stop the causes of that in
their lives which is the very act of prostitution?
I have had that privilege of spending the past 16 days at the table of an
International panel that was put on by Vancouver Rape Relief to discuss
prostitution and human trafficking and included the amazing women of AWAN
Aboriginal Women Action Network). What I heard them argue was, with the
overrepresentation of Aboriginal women in Vancouver's survival sex trade,
perhaps we should look at the systemic issues that got them there - large
issues that need not paralyze us with their enormity like colonialism, racism
and residential schools to
name a few, but give us a better framework for which to look at prostitution through.
My heart is to keep the women out on the streets - right now as I write this
- safe. This is a deeply personal issue as my friends are out there right now,
and I can vividly remember being out there on cold winter nights. The way to
keep them safe however is to arrest men before they pay to rape the most
vulnerable of our society.
Canada's laws are they stand right now can be used for good. Let's all agree
to not victimize the most marginalized anymore by using the laws we have to
arrest the prostituted women; I believe wholeheartedly that the women should
not be criminalized. Let's use our laws to punish the perpetrators of this
violence against women and predators who think of women as a sub-class of human
beings that can be bought and sold.
Instead let's look at our laws and punish those that deserved to be punished
by them. We could be arresting the owners of the brothels that run right now
under the guise of "escort agencies". We could look at the
"massage parlours" that we all know are fronts for paid sex. We could
look at some of local agencies that profit of the prostitution of women. We can
put in jail that people who prey on our young and offer this up as an amazing
opportunity. Let's take our laws and use them against those who profit en masse
from the selling of women's bodies. For it is not the actual women being raped
for money that profit, not monetarily nor in the sum total of her life