Sex workers fear new prostitution laws will compromise safety

Sex workers fear new prostitution laws will compromise safety

Bhumika Bhatia_Alone_Creative Commons

"Alone"_Bhumika Bhatia_Creative Commons

Valerie Scott is concerned that Peter MacKay's assurances (which lean toward the Nordic Model) will further perpetuate violence against prostitutes. Being one of the three women pressuring Ontario's court of law to strike down all laws surrounding already legalized prostitution, she is fearful that the PC government is listening to Nordic Model advocates… and that these advocates are winning.


Proponents of the Nordic Model are fearful of a PC government who will refuse to do anything at all, leaving things as the status quo, also creating more sexually and physically violent environments for women.

I have never denied my stance as an abolitionist, and my support for the Nordic Model. However, this does not mean that women with differing perspectives lack desire for safety, support and growth for women in Canada. Reading through the article, if I were to hide the political side of Ms.Scott momentarily, I could easily have mistaken her for a Nordic Model proponent.

  • Both sides want the best for Canadian women and children.
  • Both sides want economic opportunities for women, especially women at-risk.
  • Both sides want a freedom of sexuality/gender/expression where there is no fear of being raped, beaten, burned, neglected, maligned or otherwise abused and exploited.
  • Both sides are trying to prove the other side's research as incorrect.
  • Both sides are claiming our preferred forms of legislation will increase/decrease human trafficking (Scott claims this has happened in Norway, Sweden and Iceland).

For example, Ms.Scott refers to New Zealand's prostitution climate as the ideal example for Canada to follow. Reading some of the research, one could feasibly argue that she is correct. However, as a matter of honesty about my own bias, as soon as a read the word "colonization", I bristled. Canada, too, is a colonized country and we see how First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and children are targeted, along with those who are new to Canada.

In terms of full legalization from the Nordic Model perspective, Not For Sale Netherlands' research estimates that 70% of prostitutes aren't from The Netherlands at all, excluding them from receiving income, health and welfare benefits, or other needed supports.

Ms.Scott doesn't want prostitutes to be driven further underground.

Neither do Nordic Model supporters.

Ms.Scott believes prostitutes won't be able to trust law enforcement if pimps and johns are prosecuted.

Nordic Model supporters believe that, with a few (wonderful) exceptions, this is happening already.

Ms.Scott wants the freedom to choose her own path and be free from stigma.

So do Nordic Model supporters. We believe, however, that the hyper-sexualized female body is an expression of patriarchal, colonial structures that simply continue to benefit the demand for paid sexual services.

The oft-repeated comment "Prostitution is never going to go away" helps neither side. We've made that ridiculous claim over other issues (segregation, anyone?) and, while we are far from perfect, we have made great strides to get rid of social injustice, creating socially equitable justice.

But just whose justice is correct?

I don't see young boys being recruited into strip clubs and escort agencies nearly as much as girls. I don't see families becoming ready in the near future to teach their sons that sex work is a great way to put themselves through school (to be fair, I don't see the majority of families expressly teaching this to their daughters either, but a fundamental assumption of harm reduction is that women most of all will be recruited and expected to choose sex work to pay for bills, schooling and other expenses). I don't see the racial aspect of prostitution being addressed in deep, meaningful ways. I don't see sex work being marketed to female consumers nearly as vigorously as to men. Where is the equality here, I ask you?

Are both sides relying too heavily on 2014's future legislation to break cycles of stigma and violence? 

How can community members become involved to love at all costs, regardless of outcome?

I hear Ms.Scott's voice and I understand that she is speaking out on behalf of people she knows and loves.

So are Nordic Model supporters.

I have chosen to stand in solidarity and support with those Nordic Model proponents, knowing it is a flawed answer to a deeply flawed system (as is the harm reduction model). But I agree with Ms. Scott: people shouldn't have to live in fear, be driven underground, experience more exploitation than they already have, or in any way fear for their lives.

We disagree on how to enact these similar beliefs, but… Ms.Scott: I hear your voice. And I thank you for it. 

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