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PHOTO: Sex workers in the NT are calling for the full decriminalisation of the industry. (Reuters)
Rising Waters, Rising Threats: The Human Trafficking of Indigenous Women in the Circumpolar Region of the United States and Canada
Yearbook of Polar Law, Volume VI, 2014
Rising Waters, Rising Threats: The Human Trafficking of Indigenous Women in theCircumpolar Region of the United States and Canada
Among indigenous people around the world, human trafficking is taking a tremendous toll. Whiletrafficking is not an exclusively indigenous issue, disproportionately large numbers of indigenous people, particularly women, are modern trafficking victims. In Canada, several groups concerned about humantrafficking have conducted studies primarily focused on the sex trade because many sex workers areactually trafficking victims under both domestic and international legal standards. These studies foundthat First Nations women and youth represent between 70 and 90% of the visible sex trade in areas wherethe Aboriginal population is less than 10%. Very few comparable studies have been conducted in theUnited States, but studies in both Minnesota and Alaska found similar statistics among U.S. indigenouswomen.
With the current interest in resource extraction, and other opportunities in the warming Arctic, people from outside regions are traveling north in growing numbers. This rise in outside interactionsincreases the risk that the indigenous women may be trafficked. Recent crime reports from areas that havehad an influx of outsiders such as Williston, North Dakota, U.S. and Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, both part of the new oil boom, demonstrate the potential risks that any group faces when people with nocommunity accountability enter an area. The combination of development in rural locations, thedemographic shift of outsiders moving to the north, and the lack of close monitoring in this circumpolararea is a potential recipe for disaster for indigenous women in the region. This paper suggests that in orderto protect indigenous women, countries and indigenous nations must acknowledge this risk and plan forways to mitigate risk factors.
Human Trafficking, Human Security, Extractive Industries, Arctic, Circumpolar Arctic, Climate Change,Indigenous Women, Violence against Women, Corporate Responsibility
A booming modern slave trade exists in the world today. An estimated 27 million peopleare trafficked – some for sex and some as laborers.2 Experts say that trafficking has surpassed the illegal arms trade, making it one of the top-grossing criminal industries in the world. 3
For indigenous peoples, human trafficking is just the new name of a historical problem. 4
They have experienced exploitation by outsiders in many different areas of the world for generations. 5 While trafficking is not an exclusively indigenous issue, according to collected data an alarmingly large number of indigenous people, particularly indigenous women, are modern day trafficking victims.
Recently, the attention of the world has turned to the Arctic region, an area where asignificant number of indigenous peoples reside. The Arctic is melting, and with the melting hascome changes: warming temperatures; rising waters; ecosystem changes; and altered animal, bird, and sea mammal migrations, to name a few. 7 Because of these changes, investors now findthe Arctic an attractive location for new business ventures, tourism, and other economicactivities. However, with an increase in outside influences comes a greater risk that humantrafficking may become a problem in the Arctic region unless the risks are mitigated.
The scope of this article will be limited to the sex trafficking of indigenous women in thecircumpolar region of Alaska and Canada, with the recognition that other forms of humantrafficking exist, other populations are also at risk, and that other areas within the Arctic mayface similar concerns. Section I reviews the legal definition of human trafficking and whymisunderstanding the nature of the crime has exacerbated the problem. Section II addresses thedisproportionate impact that trafficking is having on indigenous communities. Section III 3 explores the connection between some forms of economic development and human traffickingand how current regional development plans create human security risks for local indigenouscommunities. Section IV proposes a multi-system approach to mitigate these risks andeffectively fight the crime of human trafficking. This approach makes recommendations anddiscusses already existing frameworks on the local/tribal, state/provincial/national, corporate, NGO, and international levels.
The Legal Definition of Human Trafficking
When people think about human trafficking, they picture the scenario portrayed in popular entertainment. 8 A young girl is kidnapped, drugged, and held captive in a foreigncountry to be sold for sex. While this type of trafficking occurs and is as terrifying as portrayed,it is not the only or even the most common form. Unfortunately, community members,lawmakers, and law enforcement officers all risk underestimating the impact of trafficking oncommunities if their understanding remains limited to this one scenario. Human traffickingcomes in many forms. It does not require kidnapping, movement, or border crossings. At itsheart, it is a crime of exploitation and abuse.
Since 2000 international law has defined human trafficking as:
[t]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion , of abduction , of fraud , of
deception, of the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, theexploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forcedlabour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal oforgans. [emphasis added] 9
While the elements of transportation, transfer, and abduction are included in the definition, the majority of key elements refer to different forms of exploitation and coercion
When countries began passing domestic trafficking legislation, national laws also shiftedthe focus from physical methods of trafficking to the underlying emotional techniques. The United States’ human trafficking legislation defines the essential elements of trafficking as theuse of “ fraud, force, or coercion” in order to commercially benefit off of the victim. 10
Similarly, the Canadian national legislation emphasizes exploitation over transportation.The Department of Justice clarifies that “[t]rafficking in persons is about exploitation and does 4 not necessarily involve movement.” 11
The law then emphasizes that qualifying behavior “could reasonably . . . cause the other person to believe that their safety or the safety of a person knownto them would be threatened if they failed to provide . . . the labour or service.” 12
The term human trafficking itself misleads people about the nature of the crime since trafficking implies movement. However, as a term of art, human trafficking will continue to be written into legislation, treaties, and other legal documents. Therefore, awareness must be raised about the true nature of the crime and the various ways it impacts communities. Until law enforcement and service providers recognize trafficking indicators within their own communities, the crime will proliferate.
Getting this information to communities has been impeded by the fact that the crime ishighly underreported. Many trafficking victims do not identify themselves as victims. Somesuffer from fear, shame, and distrust of law enforcement. 13 It is also not unusual for traffickingvictims to develop traumatic bonds with their traffickers because of the manipulative nature of this crime. 14
The fact that almost no human trafficking data currently exists further amplifies these problems. Visualizing the full scope of the problem is difficult when almost no statistics or numbers demonstrate the reality of the situation. As stated in one report out of Canada
“[t]he criminal and marginalized nature of sexual exploitation makes it difficult to determine the total numbers of victims in Canada; there is no data collection/tracking method that provides a complete picture of commercial sexual exploitation or human trafficking.” 15
With so little formal data available, scholars must rely on less accepted sources of information such as press accounts and personal anecdotes. Unfortunately, until researchers conduct more formal studies, these sources provide the only available foundational data. Both the gravity of the crime as well as the need for reliable information should provide some inspiration to encourage more research on this topic. 16
Human Trafficking Impact on Indigenous Communities
The majority of sex trafficking data comes from studies about prostitution or commercial sexual exploitation. Although not every person involved in prostitution is legally a trafficking victim, according to the limited data gathered so far, many are. In one commercial sexual exploitation study, researchers discovered that over half of the women interviewed “met a conservative legal definition of human trafficking.” 17
The Canadian Standing Committee on the Status of Women has come to an even more forceful conclusion about the link between prostitution and human trafficking. According to the committee‟s formal statement “prostitution is closely linked to trafficking in persons . . . [because] prostitution is a form of violence and a violation of human rights . . . [and] consent is irrelevant because you can never consent to sexual exploitation.” 18
This statement is not without controversy. The Human Rights Caucus stated that “[o]bviously, by definition, no one consents to abduction or forced labour, but an adult woman is able to consent to engage in an illicit activity (such as prostitution). If no one is forcing her to engage in such activity, then trafficking does not exist.” 19 Keeping both perspectives in mind, researchers need to proceed cautiously when linking prostitution and human sex trafficking data. However, until more trafficking-specific data can be collected, the data derived from prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation studies provides the information necessary to start visualizing human trafficking activity and impact.
While little general human trafficking data exists, even less has been gathered about how prostitution, and by extension human trafficking, affects indigenous communities. However, thed ata that has been collected is alarming. A review of the community impact data taken from four formal studies demonstrates both the disproportionate impact and the strong similarities between indigenous communities in both the United States and Canada. To provide a varied perspective,two of the studies chosen were conducted in different states in the United States and the other two were conducted in different Canadian provinces.
Researchers conducted the first United States study in Minnesota. According to the data,roughly 25% of the women arrested for prostitution in Hennepin County identified as American Indian while American Indians comprise only 2.2% of the total population. 20 Alaska was the location for the second study. In Anchorage, 33% of the women arrested for prostitution were Alaska Native, but Alaska Natives make up only 7.9% of the population. 21
The Canadian studies showed similar results. In a study conducted in Winnipeg, 50% ofadult sex workers were defined as Aboriginal, while Aboriginal peoples comprise only 10% ofthe population. 22 Vancouver was the location for the second study. Fifty-two percent of thewomen involved in the commercial sex trade were identified as First Nations, while First Nations people comprise only 7% of the general population. 23
Data from only four studies does not provide a thorough picture of human trafficking’s impact on indigenous communities, but it does show a disturbing trend. In all four locations,indigenous women are disproportionately represented in the commercial sex trade. The data also demonstrates that this is not a localized problem. These studies were conducted in four geographically distinct locations in two different countries, proving that the commercial sexual exploitation of indigenous women crosses national borders and threatens the security of all indigenous communities.
While the data from these studies provides a strong argument that indigenous womenmay be more strongly impacted by human trafficking than other women, it is not the onlyevidence that leads to this conclusion. Data from studies about vulnerability and risk factors provides additional support for this argument.
Anywhere from 50 to 80% of identified victims are or were involved with child welfare services at some point in their lives. 24 Traffickers prey on children and youth with low self-esteem and minimal social support. 25 Some other risk factors specifically identified in a study done by the Alaska Trafficking Task Force include: poverty; limited education; lack of work opportunities; homeless/orphan/run away/thrown away youth; history of previous sexual abuse; physical, emotional, or mental health challenges; drug or alcohol addiction; PTSD; multiple arrests; history of truancy or being expelled. 26 Many indigenous communities struggle with the very problems that these studies have identified as vulnerability factors.
In addition, indigenous women already face high safety risks. Violence againstindigenous women rates in both the United States and Canada are extremely high. According tothe United States Department of Justice “American Indians are 2.5 times more likely toexperience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races.” 27 A 2013 report on forcible raperates found that Alaska has the highest rates in the United States, with South Dakota coming in aclose second. Sixty-one percent of rape victims in Alaska are Alaska Natives, and 40% ofvictims in South Dakota are American Indian. 28
In Canada, Aboriginal women aged fifteen and older reported almost three times higher rates of violent victimization than non-Aboriginal women. 29 Statistics also demonstrate thatAboriginal women are significantly overrepresented as homicide victims. 30 Related to this arethe high rates of missing and murdered indigenous women throughout Canada, most of whichremain unsolved crimes. 31 According to the Sisters In Spirit initiative, “Aboriginal women are the most at risk group in Canada for issues related to violence.” 32
Even internationalorganizations recognize the risks of violence that indigenous girls face. The UN Inter-AgencyTask Force on Adolescent Girls identified indigenous girls as one of the groups at a particularlyhigh risk of human rights abuses, which includes trafficking. 33
Without more data, making a concrete case that human trafficking disproportionately impacts indigenous communities is difficult. However, the data from the studies of commercial sexual exploitation and prostitution, combined with known vulnerability factors and known levels of violence against indigenous women in both the United States and Canada, provide sufficient evidence to conclude that indigenous communities currently are and will continue to be disproportionately impacted by human trafficking. Therefore, when risk factors for trafficking appear in areas heavily populated by indigenous communities, precautions must be taken to protect the people in those areas before they become statistics.
Part III The Threat of Trafficking in the Circumpolar Arctic
An estimated 4 million people inhabit the Arctic and about 13.1 million people live in thecircumpolar region. 34 While indigenous people are a minority in the region, they are a majorityin certain areas. For instance, around 85% of the inhabitants of Nunavut are indigenous. 35 Insome of the villages in northern Alaska, between 70% and 90% of the population is Alaska Native. 36 So, when activities occur that could impact human security issues in the Arctic,including the broader circumpolar region, the activities will impact indigenous communities.
With the human trafficking industry expanding world wide, individual traffickers and organized crime networks are looking for new, profitable markets. Areas with major economic development projects, particularly projects that will require the importation of large numbers of outside workers, are prime trafficking locations. The circumpolar region of the United States and Canada meets all of these criteria.
Criminals from outside of the region may try to expand into the area, but potential dangeralso comes from within communities. An increased demand for prostituted women and girls willcome with large numbers of outside workers. Traffickers fill this kind of demand through theexploitation of others. Overlooking these potential external and internal risks increases the possibility that regional development will lead to a serious human trafficking problem.
A. Economic Development in the Arctic
A recently released Lloy’s/Chatham House publication predicts over $100 billion ininvestments in the Arctic will be made over the next decade. 37 In the circumpolar region of theUnited States and Canada, companies have already announced numerous development projects.To demonstrate the enormity of the economic development plans, below are a few examples of some of the proposed projects:
The new port planned for Nome 38
Graphite One mine project in Nome 39
MMG Ltd.‟s plans to build two mines in Nunavut by 2018
Itzok Corridor Project that is expected to produce an annual 180,000 tonnes ofzinc and 50,000 tonnes of copper
A huge open pit iron ore mine that will be constructed above the Arctic Circle in Nunavu
The Mary River project on the Baffin Islands, expected to produce an annual 18million tonnes of iron ore 40
These projects alone will require an enormous workforce, and they are just a sampling of proposed projects. Radical changes in the nature of life are coming to this mostly rural circumpolar region. Some literature suggests that rural and remote communities are more vulnerable than urban communities to the negative impacts that come with large development projects. 41 Even without development projects, residing in rural locations negatively impacts women’s safety . In one report, a 19-year-old Alaska Native woman in a small village called police after being raped in her home. The police not only did not answer the phone, they did not even respond to the message she left. 42 The geographical isolation of many of these communities reduces economic opportunities for women, limits victim services, and increases community member vulnerabilities. 43 These factors all increase the risks for women living in the region.
This new wave of development does not represent the first time that outsiders have gone to this region hoping to make a profit. Historically, large numbers of outsiders have flooded into northern Alaska and Canada looking for economic benefits, sometimes at the expense of local communities. Stories go back to the days of the Hudson Bay Company. In one story, a company officer openly kept a Chippeweyan woman as a “slave woman” and during that same period brothels were filled with Aboriginal women to “service European men.” 44 During the gold rush in both Alaska and Canada, large numbers of outsiders entered the area looking for economic opportunities. While documents do not refer to the activities that occurred as trafficking, at a minimum, prostitution and other forms of exploitation occurred. 45
Later, from 1974-1977, the Alaska pipeline again brought tens of thousands of workers to the area. Boom towns formed in Valdez, Fairbanks, and Anchorage. Economic development again brought with it a spike in crime. As workers made large sums of money, crime and illicit activity rates rose. 4
Not every story of exploitation or abuse has been documented. In some villages,community members tell anecdotal stories about outsiders who entered the area while fishing orwhaling, and left behind pregnant women and young babies. 47 Simply impregnating women doesnot equate to human trafficking activity, but the stories are part of a regional history in which indigenous women and girls are strongly impacted by the entry of outsiders into the region.
Exacerbating these concerns in the United States’ circumpolar region are justice systems issues that differentiate Alaska from the rest of the country. The Indian Law and Order Commission recently released a report, which devoted an entire chapter to the justice system in Alaska, condemning it as the worst system for providing justice for Natives in the United States. 48 One tribal citizen testifying at a public hearing said to the commission,
Every woman you‟ve met today has been raped. All of us. I know they won‟t believe that in the lower 48, and the State will deny it, but it‟s true. We all know each other and we live here. We know what’s happened. Please tell Congress and President Obama before it‟s too late. 49
In order to protect women, particularly indigenous women, from the dangers that come with economic development, communities need to remember the historical stories, officials need to understand the risk factors that come with extractive developments in rural areas, and preparations must be made for the next wave of outsiders entering the region.
B. Trafficking as a Human Security Risk in the Arctic
Assessing security risks in the Arctic requires leaders to analyze more than just militaryor economic security. It requires an understanding of human security.
50 The definition of humansecurity has three parts, freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom to take action on one’s own behalf. 51 To protect human security means to protect people from “critical and pervasive threats and situations. ” 52 Within the definition of human security are seven categories of threats:
Economic Security (assured basic income)
Food Security (physical and economic access to food)
Health Security (relative freedom from disease and infection)
Environmental Security (access to sanitary water supply, clean air and non-degraded land system)
Personal Security (security from physical violence and threats)
Community Security (security of cultural integrity)
Political Security (protection of basic human rights and freedoms) 53
Human trafficking threatens at least three of these categories: personal, community, and political security. Therefore, Arctic security discussions are incomplete without a discussion of human trafficking. If the women and girls of the community are destroyed by this crime, the integrity of the whole culture is impacted, and basic human rights are not protected.
According to the Human Rights Council, “[e]scalating charges of corporate
-related human rights abuses are the canary in the coal mine, signaling that all is not well.” 54
Human rights violations have been alleged against numerous corporations, with large numbers of complaints being connected to extractive industry development in rural areas.
55 Mining projects cannot succeed without large numbers of workers. In rural areas, companies bring workers from outside the region to meet this need. When large numbers of outside workers with no connection to the community arrive in an area, violent crime rates rise. In discussing the link between extractive industry development and human trafficking, the US attorney for South Dakota said, 12 “[a]nytime you have large groups of men gathering, you‟re going to have the potential for sex trafficking problems.” 56
Another law enforcement officer serving in a developing area noted that the outside workers appear to have no respect for local laws. 57 Perhaps they are law-abiding citizens in the communities where they come from, but they have no allegiance to the communities where they only temporarily reside. 58
Williston, North Dakota provides a contemporary example of the fate that await sun prepared communities in the circumpolar Arctic region. The city sits on top of the Bakken oil formation.59 With the opening of the oil fields, hundreds of mostly male workers from outside ofthe state flocked to the town. The company houses workers in makeshift camps referred to as man camps. Within two years, the overall crime rates have increased 7.2 percent, which include large numbers of “forcible rape [s] . . . prostitution, and „other‟ sexual offenses .”60 Community members say that they know women and girls are being trafficked, but according to a law enforcement officer in the area, they do not keep trafficking statistics, so it is impossible to know the exact extent of this crime on the community. 61
A town in Canada has a similar story. In Fort McMurray, Alberta crime rates, specifically crimes against women, jumped in the same manner as the rates in North Dakota. 62
The mining boom brought an influx of crime to this town. In 2009 Fort McMurray had a crime rate of one crime for every five residents and was ranked “in the top five Canadian cities in terms of the crime severity index.” 63
Because business practices affect almost all human rights, government officials and community members must observe the impact these practices have within the community. The extractive industry is not the only industry that is prone to abuse.
64 For example, complaints about the tourism industry demonstrate that trafficking may occur in many settings. 65 However,the bulk of new development in this region is extractive in nature. Therefore, communities should focus immediate attention on extractive industry practices.
Private sector investment drives valuable economic growth for communities, but withoutadherence to human rights standards, development projects can lead to violence and conflict. Themost vulnerable or marginalized members of communities are often excluded from the economic benefits, and instead bear the brunt of negative social impacts. 66
Part IV Mitigating the Risks
The third aspect of human security listed in the previous section is freedom to take action
on one‟s own behalf. 67 For local people to protect themselves in this new era of economic development, new systems and procedures must be formed. No single system can successfully combat trafficking, but a multi-system approach can assist a community in protecting itself. A police officer experienced in fighting trafficking said it this way, “The fight against human trafficking will not be won by cops or caped crusaders. Human trafficking will only be destroyed when we come together as a society and agree it is a problem, agree it needs to be stopped and agree to work together to stop it.” 68
When local/tribal, state, federal, and international leaders implement anti-trafficking programs, communities will finally have effective protections against this threat. Complete programs include a wide variety of preventative measures, legal protections, and victim support. 69
A. Local/Tribal Community Actions
Local and tribal communities need to begin by raising awareness among community members about the legal definition of human trafficking, warning signs to watch for, and common ploys of traffickers. This process begins with educational programs in schools,community awareness meetings, and public service announcements. In addition, traffickers now 14 use the internet to access victims, particularly youth, necessitating special training to warn youth of these online dangers. 70
After raising awareness, communities need to focus on training workers who are mostlikely to encounter trafficking victims. Street outreach workers, social workers, law enforcementofficials, educators, and medical workers require appropriate training to recognize trafficking indicators. In a recent study done in Alaska, 70% of local and state law enforcement agents did not perceive signs of human trafficking in their communities, while at the same time, 70% said they had received no human trafficking training. 71
There seems to be a correlation between receiving trafficking training and recognizing its existence within communities. Related to training needs, these workers also need to create procedures to encourage greater coordination with one another. Collaboration increases the likelihood that trafficking cases will be identified.
Trafficking also cannot be effectively tackled without more data collection. This may include everything from formal studies to better intake forms at both shelters and jails. Without more reliable data, full awareness will never be raised. Legislators will not pass stronger legislation or set aside funding for trafficking problems unless evidence shows that a problem exists.7
The biggest challenge for local communities and tribes to implement these recommendations is a lack of funding. 73 Educational programs, training for law enforcement and social workers, new forms, new processes, along with all of the services victims will need once they have been identified are all expensive. 74 In the same Alaskan survey mentioned above, 82%of law enforcement officers perceive that there are not enough resources to provide the necessary training. 75 This is why local communities cannot shoulder the burden of fighting human trafficking alone.
B. National/State/Provincial Government Actions
i. Allocate Funding and Improve Access to Remedies
States have a responsibility to protect citizens from both external and internal threats.United States Secretary of State John Kerry has even said “[g]overnments bear primary responsibility for responding to this crime [human trafficking].” 76 As referenced in Part I of this paper, national human trafficking laws define the crime and create a legal cause of action for countries to be able to prosecute traffickers. However, many experts claim that these laws do not sufficiently protect victims. 77
Lawmakers in both the United States and Canada need to review current legislation to determine if adjustments need to be made. Among suggestions for human trafficking legislation in the United States includes safe harbor laws for minors involved in sex trafficking. 78 These laws would protect minor sex trafficking victims while placing the burden on purchasers and pimps. Another legal model currently being promoted is known as the “Nordic Model.” 79 This model penalizes demand for prostitution while decriminalizing individual prostitutes. According to data from the Swedish Ministry of Justice, Sweden is no longer a desirable sex trafficking destination since it implemented this model. 80
Neither of these options are without controversy, however, and lawmakers will need to educate themselves on the potential positive and negative impacts of these and other potential legislative fixes before passing new human trafficking provisions.
In addition to legislative reforms, governments allocate funding for important initiatives.Because traffickers operate both inside and outside of state borders, significant resources must beallocated to stop these criminals. Since most local communities do not have the resources necessary to effectively fight trafficking, national, state, and provincial governments must find ways to assist. 81 Resources spent on prevention and collection ultimately save money. Disrupting an already entrenched trafficking culture and assisting with victim recovery costs much more than prevention.When governments allocate funding, priority areas should include: training for law enforcement officers, social workers, street outreach workers, educators, and medical workers’ community awareness and education programs; task forces; updates for procedures to make it easier to collaborate between agencies and identify trafficking; 82 studies to get the data on the actual impact of the problem; and victim services for those already harmed by this crime. While government funding is not limitless, prioritizing prevention saves money in the long term.Funding all of these initiatives will help mitigate trafficking damage.
ii. No Contracting with Companies with Known or Alleged Human RightsViolations
Corporations will only take responsibility for human rights violations if market forces are used to encourage the change. 83 While corporate-related human rights violations are not as likely to occur in developed countries with strong legal systems as they would in some developing countries, the United States and Canada are not immune from human rights violations within their borders. Based on the statistics of crime rates surrounding existing extractive industry projects, development-based crimes can occur anywhere. Therefore, all governments, not just the governments of developing countries, have a responsibility to reduce the potential for crime by refusing to award contracts to companies that have not made sufficient efforts to shield communities from worker actions.
When governments are evaluating which companies should be awarded development contracts, one criteria needs to be whether or not these companies have known human rights violations claims against them. Companies with a history of human rights violations, particularly if the companies shielded workers from liability for those violations, pose a safety risk for the current population. Awarding contracts to companies with these violations does not uphold a government’s responsibility to its citizens. Companies are created for the purpose of making a profit. If companies can no longer be profitable without working to prevent human rights abuses that result from workers and business practices, then they will work harder to insure that their companies do not contribute either directly or indirectly to these abuses. If it is appropriate to penalize companies for violating environmental impact standards, it is just as appropriate to penalize human rights violations. In both the United States and Canada, procedures have been put into place to require Social Impact Assessments (SIAs), which would open up ways for more companies to be penalized for human rights violations. 84 SIAs are used to assess potential social consequences related to development projects. 85 SIA implementation in the United States has been unevenly applied
because of “theabsence of legal mandates specifically requiring a standalone SIA.” 86
SIA implementation inCanada faces similar challenges. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), the only “legal requirement to examine impacts on health and socioeconomic conditions if these impacts are a consequence of an impact in the natural environment.” 87 Until both countries require more regular and thorough SIAs in addition to EISs, human security concerns will not be appropriately addressed.
iii. Defining Corporate Human Rights Obligations as Fiduciary Duties
Governments also increase the pressure on corporations to take responsibility for human rights violations by defining these violations as legally enforceable fiduciary duties.
88 When companies are required to disclose to shareholders what they are doing to prevent human rights abuses and also what actions they have taken to repair harm, then shareholders will have an enforceable breach of fiduciary duty case if the company is not preventing and/or repairing human rights abuses. This way the government uses the formal corporate structure of responsibility to hold companies accountable. 89 As one scholar stated When as a society we grant a company the license to operate, it is not simply alicense to create as much wealth for its shareholders as possible. It can alsoinvolve the requirement that the company actively promote the fundamental rights and well-being of individuals. . . . 90
iv. Altering the Legal Definition of Complicity for Criminal Liability
In order to hold a company legally liable for crimes committed by employees, the laws of most countries require proof that the company has been complicit. Complicity standards vary by country. In order to hold a company liable for the actions of workers, the government must prove the company knowingly “provid[ed] practical assistance or encouragement that ha[d] a substantial effect on the commission of a crime. 91
However, standards vary regarding the definition of „knowingly‟
. The reasonable knowledge standard, as developed in International Tribunals, requires that a company “knew or had reason to know” that its actions contributed tothe crime. 92 However, no consistency exists in the way courts interprets the mens rea requirement for this standard, leaving it up to legislators in individual countries to determine if legislation should be passed to clarify, and potentially lower, corporate complicity standards.States must also clarify how broad a corporation‟s sphere of influence expands. 93
If the sphere of influence is too narrow, more liberal definitions will still not allow community members to claim damages for crimes connected to development projects unless corporate leaders actually physical committed the crimes. Lowering the
mens rea requirement and broadening the sphere of influence definition will make it easier for states to hold companies liable for actions that contribute to the spread of human trafficking.
In addition, a company‟s refusal to take steps to prevent abuses could be listed in the lawas another form of complicity. Discussing this omission standard, the Human Rights Commission observed..
Mere presence in a country, paying taxes, or silence in the face of abuses is unlikely toamount to the practical assistance required for legal liability. However, acts of omissionin narrow contexts have led to legal liability of individuals when the omission legitimizedor encouraged the abuse. 94
v. Recognizing Tribal Governments as Legitimate Partners
Because of the impact that trafficking has on indigenous communities, national, state, and provincial governments need to involve tribal governments as partners in the formation of anti-trafficking task forces or other initiatives. In addition, when creating anti-trafficking legislation,the legislation will only be effective when all concerns, including tribal concerns, are adequately addressed.
Tribal communities will also not be able to effectively protect their citizens if states donot legally recognize their right to do so. While studying justice issues in Alaska, the Indian Lawand Order Commission formally recognized this fact. The Commission repeatedly recommendedstate acknowledgment of the validity of tribal law enforcement and tribal justice systems in order 19 for tribal communities to have adequate access to justice. 95
This includes respecting the role tribal leaders should play in this fight against human trafficking. Chief Isadore Day, a First Nation leader, reminded Canadians of this same truth. 96 He stated publicly that prosperity will spread through the region only with the inclusion and full participation of First Nations in all matters that affect them. While Chief Day‟s words primarily referred to economic development projects, the principle of inclusion applies to all issues that impact the well-being of indigenous communities. In addition, other scholars and leaders are recognizing that respect for tribal self-government, particularly in areas with increased development projects, creates more security for those communities. 97
C. Private Sector Actions
While states have a duty to protect citizens against human rights abuses, corporations have a responsibility to respect human rights. 98 As policymakers debate corporate responsibility,and governments consider tightening requirements on companies, companies have the ability to take actions that will help them demonstrate their commitment to human rights protections.
Companies need to implement a due diligence process that includes procedures to protect human rights. Companies already create plans to meet environmental standards, building codes,and other regulations. To include in this process a plan to protect communities from possible human rights violations is a good faith attempt to mitigate harm. Implementing these procedures will also protect companies from charges of complicity in crimes committed by workers or complicity based on the omission of duties, and should be a best practice when bringing large development projects into communities. 99
In addition to setting up procedures, companies can also find ways to give back to the community that ultimately protect human rights. Giving money to build schools or fund other local community initiatives is not an uncommon practice for companies, particularly those involved in bidding wars to get the most lucrative contracts. These donations could include special initiatives. For instance, if a company agrees to fund a new school, an educational awareness-raising program for local youth may be included in the funding plan. Or perhaps giving local law enforcement a donation to fund human trafficking awareness training or to 20 strengthen their numbers in order to deal with the increased load that the influx of outside workers will inevitably bring is in order. 100
Companies will not pay more than is required of them, so using a little forethought in negotiations can put both communities and companies in a more positive position. Creativity in nurturing corporate-community relationships will develop good will between the groups and leave all parties in a more positive position in relation to the contractual relationship.
D. NGO Actions
Governments and local communities need to build strong relationships with NGOs, particularly those with missions to eradicate human trafficking and protect human rights. 101 NGOs act as watchdogs and often have the data, resources, and enthusiasm to pursue actions thatlocal communities and governments may not have. NGOs are able to mobilize workers as well as both national and international attention to troubling situations as they arise.
In return, NGOs need to work with community leaders to understand the nature of problems as well as local concerns. This is particularly important when dealing with indigenous communities. Over the years, many indigenous communities have found themselves surrounded by people who genuinely mean to assist, but come with no cultural understanding. Indigenous peoples do not need more paternalistic individuals. Instead, they are looking for partners who respect local standards and traditions, and acknowledge the partnership nature of their role.Successful relationships between communities and NGOs allow the NGOs to meet their overarching goals while respecting the contribution that indigenous communities can make to their own well being. NGOs bring resources, publications, and new perspectives, and are invaluable partners to assist communities in protecting themselves from crimes like human trafficking.
E. International Actions
Ultimately, human trafficking is a transnational problem. Traffickers operate across national boundaries, victims are transported across borders, and transnational actors such as multinational companies and individual buyers play key roles in the spread of this crime.Because of the transnational nature of human trafficking, the crime will never be eradicated without international action. Human trafficking complaints can be filed with international human rights tribunals. 102 However, in order for groups or individuals to effectively use international remedies, two major actions must be taken.
First, awareness of human trafficking as a human security issue must be raised internationally. Misinformation regarding the nature of the crime is still rampant, as is the lack of discussion regarding the risks associated with bringing large groups of outside workers into an area. Both historical and current situations demonstrate that risks do exist, and not addressing them will only lead to more problems that will need to be solved in the future. International awareness will then increase the pressure on governments and companies to mitigate these risks.In addition, if more attention is raised, more data will be collected and it will be easier to demonstrate the true impact that this crime is having on both indigenous and non-indigenous communities
To assist with these concerns, the United Nations created The United Nations GlobalInitiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) in 2007. 103 n According to the official site, “UN.GIFT works with all stakeholders – governments, business, academia, civil society and the media – to support each other‟s work, create new partnerships and develop effective tools to fight human trafficking.” 104 This Initiative promotes efforts to reduce victim vulnerability and the demand for exploitation while respecting fundamental human rights. 105
This Initiative creates a forum for interested parties to share best practices, contribute to the international body of knowledge, but it will only be truly effective if more parties join and contribute to the Initiative’s efforts.
Second, the international community needs to ensure that indigenous groups, particularly those that do not have a lot of resources or knowledge of international mechanisms, have access to those mechanisms. This is especially important for indigenous communities or nations that ar enot familiar with the procedures for filing grievances with international tribunals. If international organizations will put a stronger effort into getting information to these communities about international options, more groups will have the ability to start filing claims. Then, if they are not feeling supported by their national governments, they have another option for having complaints heard.
The International Bill of Human Rights, which consists of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is the international human rights rubric. 106 Because human trafficking has been deemed as not just a crime but a human rights violation by various organizations, the human rights principles espoused in these documents ought to apply to human trafficking activity. 107 However, while the criminal provisions created under the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons are obligatory, human rights protections remain discretionary. 108 Perhaps it is time for the international community to focus on the human rights aspects of these crimes.
Human trafficking is a major crime. The suggestions listed above demonstrate the reality that no single group can effectively fight trafficking alone. Risk factors exist on every level from individual community member actions to choices made by international bodies. However, if a multi-front strategy can be created, bringing together the efforts of local communities,government bodies, private companies, NGOs, and international bodies, a strong shield will be formed against crimes like human trafficking.
Economic development in a region does not need to equal the exploitation of loca lcommunities, but based on both historical and current data, it often does unless proper attentionis paid to potential human rights violations. In the circumpolar Arctic region, the circumstances that exist need to be carefully monitored. Major economic projects are being planned in an areawhere large numbers of indigenous peoples reside, often in rural and remote villages. These communities will bear the brunt of the negative impacts associated with development projects,including the rising risk of crimes like human trafficking. The majority of projects planned are extractive ones, and they will require large groups of outside transient workers to be brought into the area. With the connection between human trafficking and these types of development projects as well as the disproportionate impact that trafficking is having on
indigenous communities, these communities have reason to be concerned. In addition, the lack of accurate information and data regarding trafficking has left the communities more vulnerable because local officials are not prepared to recognize and fight trafficking activity.
While huan trafficking has become a global epidemic, climate and accessibility issues have likely prevented it from taking as strong of a hold in the circumpolar region as it has in other areas. Therefore, allocating resources to trafficking prevention programs lessens the potential that trafficking as well as other crimes will take hold in this region. These actions also empower local people to fight crime more effectively.
Data demonstrating the potential vulnerability of indigenous women and communities tohuman trafficking should be used to inspire change not minimize community strength. An indigenous woman from Australia shared these sentiments when speaking about human rightsviolations connected to mining in her territory:
[W] e are a strong, proud and intellectual people. We are survivors and we will survive.Indigenous women must be the ones to make their own decisions. Nobody can help them. They don‟t want handouts or pity. They want what is rightfully theirs. They need JUSTICE and their RIGHTS. We can deal with our problems if there is an open, honest,respectful process of doing business. 109
All three aspects of human security, freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom to take action on one‟s own behalf, need to be considered when dealing with changing Arctic conditions. The Arctic is warming, the waters are rising, and so are certain threats. With warming temperatures and melting ice comes greater accessibility to the region, leading to more outside influences and more potential human security threats. Indigenous communities in the circumpolar region of the United States and Canada are facing the next wave of economic development in the region. What is needed now is assistance to fight a human security threat that is too enormous to handle alone.Type your paragraph here.
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Violence in Off-Street Sex Industry Work
Violence Against Women, 2011
http://vaw.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/06/03/1077801211412917The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/1077801211412917 published online 10 June 2011
Violence Against Women
Victimization in Off-Street Sex Industry Work
Can be found at:
Violence Against Women
Additional services and information for
at SIMON FRASER LIBRARY on June 11, 2011vaw.sagepub.com
Victimization in Off-Street Sex Industry Work
Violence Against Women
published online 10 June 2011
Violence Against Women
http://vaw.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/06/03/1077801211412917The online version of this article can be found at
Violence Against Women
can be found at:
Violence Against Women
Additional services and information for
SIMON FRASER LIBRARY
on June 11, 2011
Victimization in Off-StreetSex Industry Work
The victimization experienced by street-based sex workers has led many observers to argue that prostitution is inherently dangerous. However, street-based workers form the minority of sex workers in Canada. Can their experiences validly be generalized to other types of prostitution? The research presented in this article examines whether female off-street sex workers face the same degree of victimization as female street-based sex workers in Vancouver, British Columbia. The results of a victimization survey examining interpersonal violence and other forms of victimization indicate that although violence and exploitation do occur in the off-street industry, some women sell sex without experiencing violence
off-street, prostitution, sex work, victimization, violence
Research reveals that up to 98% of women who work on the streets of Vancouver’s poorestregion, the Downtown East side, experience violence from clients, pimps, and other sexworkers (Cler-Cunningham & Christensen, 2001; Currie, Laliberte, Bird, Rosa, & Sprung,1995; Lowman & Fraser, 1996). The high levels of violence reported by street workers arenot unique to Canada; researchers from other countries, including the United States,England, The Netherlands, and Sweden, have similarly concluded that street-based sexworkers are exposed to inordinately high levels of violence (e.g., Brewis & Linstead, 2000;Kinnell, 2001; Kuo, 2002; Sanders, 2005; Working Group on the Legal Regulation of the Purchase of Sexual Services, 2004).Although the victimization experienced by street-based sex workers around the world has ed some researchers to argue that prostitution is inherently dangerous (e.g., Dworkin, 1993;Farley, 2004; Raphael & Shapiro, 2004; Raymond, 2003), others assert that prostitution is not always violent and that criminalization produces working conditions that facilitate violence against sex workers (e.g., Betteridge, 2005; Bindman & Doezema, 1997; Kempadoo &Doezeman, 1998; Lewis, Maticka-Tyndale, Shaver, & Gillies, 2005; Lowman, 2005; Network of Sex Work Projects, n.d.; Pivot Legal Society, 2003; Rekart, 2005).
The criminal law and its enforcement encourage violence against sex workers, con-tribute to the continued low income of sex workers who have few options but towork on the street because of their poverty and other issues such as addictions, and increase those sex workers’ risk of being exposed to HIV. (Betteridge, 2005, p. 44)
Many people and organizations around the world have called for the decriminalization of the sex industry to ameliorate working conditions and improve safety for all sex workers. 1
Two Canadian legal organizations have recently undertaken in-depth analyses of theeffects of prostitution laws on the health and safety of sex workers (Betteridge, 2005; PivotLegal Society, 2003, 2006). Both concluded that decriminalization is necessary to reducethe violence experienced by sex workers.In opposition to decriminalization, some prohibitionist feminists argue that the act of prostitution itself constitutes violence against women and should be abolished. To this end,they seek to criminalize the sale of sex on the grounds that “prostituted women” are victims and they support criminally prohibiting both procuring and the purchase of sexual services (Dworkin, 1993; Farley, 2004; Raymond, 2003). The claim that prostitution is violence against women is partly political in that prohibitionist feminists deny that women ever“consent” to prostitute and partly empirical in that they assert that all prostitutes are victims of violence. It is this latter claim that my research set out to investigate.Given that researchers consistently report high violence rates in street-based prostitution, the act of selling sex via Vancouver’s streets is clearly dangerous. However, are rates of violence in other parts of the industry the same?In order to assess the validity of the feminist argument that prostitution is dangerous,we must establish the extent to which these hazards exist and the extent to which they are linked to the commoditization of sex. Only then can we assess whether or not they can be used to justify the position that prostitution should be eliminated and prostitutes rehabilitated for their own good. (Shaver, 1988, p. 84)We do not have a comprehensive understanding of sex work in the off-street sex industry. Approximately, 80% of the sex industry in British Columbia occurs off-street
(Benoit& Millar, 2001; Lowman, 2005, Pivot Legal Society, 2006). In his thoroughgoing critiqueof prohibition feminist research, Weitzer (2000) cautions that “when it comes to prostitution, the most serious blunder is that of equating all prostitution with street prostitution,ignoring entirely the indoor side of the market” (p. 4). Data from research conducted with street-based sex workers may not be generalizable across the industry. We need to deter-mine whether women who work off-street experience the same degree of victimization as street-based workers and whether in-call and out-call off-street workers experience the same risk of victimization. Only then will we be able to ascertain whether the experience of prostitution is always an experience of violence. If women can sell sex without experiencing violence, we need to know how and under what conditions they are able to work safely.
Existing Knowledge About Off-Street Sex Work and Victimization
Although there are numerous academic studies of the sex industry, the off-street sector has only recently been the specific target of research. Historically, in Canada and elsewhere, prostitution research has focused on the experiences of street-based sex workers. 2
In recent years, researchers have begun to explore off-street sex work.3
In Canada, Lowman and Fraser (1996) conducted a project in which street-based workers were asked about their experiences working in off-street venues of prostitution in Vancouver, British Columbia.Lowman and Fraser found that their respondents faced lower levels of violence, and less serious violence, while working in the off-street sector compared with work on the streets of Vancouver.Benoit and Millar (2001) conducted a study of 200 British Columbia sex workers,examining unsafe working conditions in a variety of venues in Victoria and surrounding municipalities. They found that off-street workers involved with a third party (typically an agency) reported financial exploitation in the form of systems of fines (for such things as lateness), the requirement to pay between 40% and 60% of earnings to the agency, and the need to “tip” management, phone operators, and drivers. The participants reported varying levels of control over whether they would accept a client and over what type of service they would provide. People who worked indoors for an agency reported lower rates of control over the number of clients seen in a shift than did those who worked independently,whether via the street or in any other venue. Benoit and Millar did not report specific rates of violence but noted that “almost all those interviewed for this study said that they had been exposed to dangerous working conditions on at least one occasion” (p. 50). The participants reported feeling much safer when working in off-street venues. Benoit and Millar found that clients were the most likely source of violence against sex workers and that sex workers were not likely to report violence to the police; “virtually all those interviewed expressed alienation from the protective services of the police and expressed a reluctance to report violent incidences or turn to the police for help” (p. 54).In 2006, Pivot Legal Society released a report echoing the findings from the Benoit andMillar (2001) project. Pivot included the experiences of both street-based and off-street sexworkers from Vancouver in the analysis and highlighted the specific concerns of workers in different venues. Violence was the greatest concern for street-based workers. Pivotfound that the fear of violence was one of the biggest reasons that people turned to agencies for work; they felt better protected working for an agency than when working alone.However, escorts reported that attending a client at an unknown location, as they often do, was a safety issue. For this reason, some individuals chose to work in massage parlors.Massage parlor workers, however, were shown to have a lower degree of control over their clients and the services performed.Bruckert, Parent, and Robitaille (2003) conducted interviews with 14 women working in in-call (massage or brothel-type environments) venues in Toronto and Montreal. Their respondents indicated that they had chosen in-call work due to its relative safety compared with out-call (escort) work, the privacy and anonymity it granted, and, for some respondents, the ability to provide services that did not involve sexual intercourse with clients.Like most other researchers, Bruckert et al. reported that their participants were generally misinformed about the laws relating to prostitution and that this misinformation contributes to their reluctance to use the services of the local police. Physical safety was one of the participants’ main concerns, and the women reported being hypervigilant about condom
use to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases (STD). The participants reported using several personal safety strategies, such as ensuring they do not take alcohol or drugs while working, using their intuition, and relying on the presence of others to protect them.Lewis, Maticka-Tyndale, Shaver & Schramm (2005 Lewis, Maticka–Tyndale, Shaver& Schramm) used a purposive sampling method to create a diverse sample of male and female sex workers from a variety of venues within the Canadian sex industry. Based on interviews with 61 participants, they found that off-street work was less risky than street- based work, that in-call work for an agency was safer than out-call work, and that the
degree of independence of the sex worker influences her ability to mitigate risk. Lewis etal. conclude that “independent off-street workers had the freedom to develop their own descriptions and parameters for their work and to establish their own ways of dealing with safety and risk” (p. 154).Lowman, Atchison, and Fraser (1997) completed an Internet-based study of 130 clients.Their research is unique in Canada as it focused on the perspectives of clients rather than sex providers. Clients reported perpetrating low rates of violence against sex workers. The self-reported rates included 3% robbery, 6% assault, 3% sexual assault, and 8% forcible confinement of a sex worker. Less than 11% of respondents stated that they had verbally abused sex workers. In comparing the sex buyers with those who were not purchasers of sexual services, Lowman et al. found that those who bought sex had more positive views of sex workers. They concluded that the majority of sex buyers do not commit violence against sex workers and that a minority of clients commits most of the violence.The conclusions reached by Canadian researchers are echoed in the research emerging from other jurisdictions. For example, Sanders and Campbell (2007) published data on the off-street working situation for women in England. Sanders interviewed 55 women who worked in a variety of off-street venues in Birmingham, and Campbell surveyed 90 indoor workers from Sefton and Liverpool. The two projects reported very similar levels of violence in off-street sex work: 76% (Sanders) and 79% (Campbell) of the participants reported that they had never experienced violence.Jeal and Salisbury (2007) compared the health needs of women working in massage parlors with those of street-based sex workers in Bristol, the United Kingdom. They found strikingly different rates of drug use and violence between the two groups. Indoor workers were more likely to be educated, more likely to report stable social lives, and more likely to engage in preventive health care activities. Indeed, the researchers suggest that “it is not selling sex alone that is responsible for the very poor health seen in street sex workers but the combination of outcomes of risk-taking seen in all areas of their lives including sex work, drug dependency, health neglect and poor service use” (p. 880).The aforementioned research indicates that sex workers face higher levels of violence in street-based sex work than in off-street sex work; however, where research is under taken from a framework that views prostitution as violence against women, researchers report little difference between the sectors. For example, Farley (2004), after reviewing five research projects and her own work, concluded that “sexual violence and physical assault are the norm for women in all types of prostitution” (p. 1094). Similarly, Raphael and Shapiro (2004) explored the experiences of more than 200 sex workers in Chicago and concluded that “women indoors were frequent victims of violence, and in some instances,the type of violence was more serious and the levels higher than those experienced out-doors” (p. 136). Raphael and Shapiro, however, identify the bias of working within the“prostitution as violence” framework as a potential limitation that likely impacted both the construction of the survey instrument and the administration of the research (p. 132).The emerging portrait of off-street sex industry work confirms that there is a diverse range of experiences for sex workers; this diversity of experience is one of the few generalizations that can be made. Off-street sex workers are not immune from exploitation or violence; however, the levels of victimization appear to vary greatly in different venues, by individual working conditions and by the political ideology of the researcher. 4
This article reports the data produced from a victimization survey examining the experiences of women working in massage parlors, escort agencies, or independently out of their own homes in Vancouver, British Columbia. The project was concerned only with the exchange of sexual services for remuneration by consenting adults. I focus on victimization rather than the more restrictive term, violence, because victimization includes activities that are not traditionally brought into discussions of violence, such as theft, condom refusal, and disagreements over prices.As with all of the aforementioned research projects related to victimization in sex industry work, the methodology does not feature random sampling techniques. Therefore, the data cannot be taken as representative of the off-street sex-worker population in Vancouver.The methodology was purposive to the extent that I selectively chose escort agencies, mas-sage parlors, and independent escort directories that were known as “high-end” establishments or individuals. This represents an attempt to find women with very little, if any,experience working on the street and the fact that I wanted to focus on women who worked in the relatively more exclusive end of the sex industry. To create an appropriately worded,respectful, concise, and relevant instrument, I sought out four women who had worked in the sex industry in different venues to be members of a research design team.
Over the course of 7 months (December 2005-June 2006), I distributed paper copies of the survey and business cards with the website information to two establishments in Vancouver. Then, I emailed escorts who advertised their services on a few online escort directories and included the website address in the text of the email. All of the participants were invited to participate in interviews; 10 individuals ultimately shared their experiences this way. Three workers elected to participate solely by interview; the other seven interviewees participated in both components of the research. The interviews provided rich contextual information about sex industry work in Vancouver; however, this article focuses on the survey responses specifically addressing victimization. 5
The data reflect only the particular experiences of the women involved in the project and the data set is small. Nevertheless, the 39 survey responses obtained are sufficient to provide insight into the world of this particular group of off-street sex workers. Their experiences do not match those of street-based sex workers.
In developing this project, I was keenly aware of the fact that I would be asking women to share information about ostensibly illegal activities. 6
Because of the potential harm to research participants that a violation of confidentiality could create, I did not place any limitations on the guarantee of confidentiality given to potential research participants. I did not ask participants to sign consent forms; instead, I read through a consent form with each interview participant and structured the online survey so that participants were required to navigate through the consent form before they could enter the survey. To help maintain confidentiality, I requested that each participant remain anonymous. In the case of those women with whom I had a prior relationship, I am the only person who knows their identities; I guaranteed them confidentiality as far as professional ethics allow, that is, strict confidentiality. 7
The anonymity built into the structure of the online survey proved to bekey to the project’s success.
Off-street Sex Work in Vancouver, British Columbia
In the first section of the survey, respondents were asked to separate their experiences working in each of the three venues: massage parlors, escort agencies, and independent businesses. The venues were evenly represented with 64% ( n = 25) of respondents indicating that they had worked in a massage parlor, 67% (N = 26) having worked as an escort,and 72% ( n = 28) having worked independently out of their own homes. Of the total 39responses, 14 respondents (38%) had experience working in all three venues.Respondents were asked to identify how concerned they were about safety while working in a specific venue. Massage parlors were perceived to be the safest environments.Whereas the majority of masseuses were not at all concerned about safety when working in a massage parlor, approximately half of both the escorts and independent workers responded that they were very concerned about safety. Every one of the escorts was at least a little concerned about safety. The results suggest that these perceptions accurately reflect the women’s experiences; escorts report experiencing more violence than individuals working in massage or independent venues.
Rates of Victimization
Respondents were asked to indicate how often they experienced eight forms of victimization: uttering threats, threatening with a weapon, physical assault, sexual assault, kidnap- ping/confinement, theft, client refusal to pay for services, and client refusal to use codoms. In the case of the first six options, respondents were asked to classify the offender. The masseuses and the escorts were given five options: clients, police, significant others, bosses/managers, and coworkers. The independents were given three options:clients, police, and significant others.Respondents were asked how many times they had experienced each of the types of victimization; the options were never, once, twice, 3 times, 4 times, or 5 times or more. In general, little victimization was reported. Indeed, the rates were so low that I collapsed the categories to report if respondents had ever experienced any form of victimization from each of the perpetrator groups, rather than its frequency. 8
The definition given for “uttering threats” was “threatening to cause you physical harm if you don’t do what is asked.” Threatening was the most commonly experiencedf orm of interpersonal violence against the sex workers who participated in this project: 13of the 39 respondents had experienced this offense at least once (33%). For the masseuses,coworkers were the most frequent perpetrators of threats. Clients were the most frequent perpetrators for escorts. Independent sex workers were less likely to experience threatening, with only four respondents indicating that they had ever been threatened by a client.
Threatening with a weapon. I distinguished between “uttering threats” and “threatening with a weapon” to capture the more aggravated nature of the latter offense. Threatening with a weapon was less likely to occur than threatening: only 6 of the 39 respondents indicated that they had been threatened with a weapon (16%). Clients were the most likely source of weapons threats for escorts. However, significant others were the most likely perpetrators for masseuses. The two independent workers who reported that they had beenthreatened with a weapon had been victimized by both clients and police officers.
To define “physical assault,” I provided the examples of being hit,kicked, or pushed down. Nine of the respondents reported that they had been physicallyassaulted at least once (24%). Clients were again the most likely perpetrators of such vio-lence. Significant others and police officers were also identified as perpetrators of some ofthe violence. Escorts experienced twice as much physical assault than masseuses or inde- pendent workers, and they indicated that bosses can also be responsible for physical assault.
Sexual assault. Sexual assault (being physically forced to do something sexually that youwere not prepared to do) was one of the least likely forms of violence that participants hadexperienced. Seven respondents (18%) indicated that they had been sexually assaulted.This was the one category for which the violence was evenly distributed across venues.
I defined kidnapping as being physically restrained and not allowed to leave when you wanted to. Escorts were more than twice as likely to experience kidnapping than either independents or masseuses; 21% of the escorts reported that a client had held them against their will at least once.
Theft. Theft, or having money, jewelry, or other items stolen from you, occurred at least once to 13 of the 39 respondents (33%). Masseuses were the most likely to experience theft, and their coworkers were the most likely perpetrators. Six of the 24 escorts reported that a client had stolen from them on at least one occasion (25%).
Client refusal to wear a condom.
Respondents were asked whether they had ever had a client refuse to wear a condom. Thirteen respondents (33%) indicated that they had been in a situation where a client had refused to use a condom. However, the survey did not ask the participants about their action in response to a refusal. Many of the participants wrote in comments indicating that although they had faced the aforementioned situation, that did not necessarily mean that they had engaged in unsafe sexual acts with the client. Women indicated they would refuse to service clients who refused to wear condoms.
Client refusal to pay predetermined amount.
Negotiating the specific monetary amount to be exchanged for the services proved to be one of the most frequent conflicts for all participants in this survey. Fourteen respondents indicated that they had experienced a conflict with a client over the price of the exchange. Again, the survey did not ask respondents to share their responses to clients in these situations. Some of the women indicated that they would offer different services if price was an issue for the client.
Workers’ grounds for refusing to provide services.
I posed an open-ended question asking respondents to identify their grounds for refusing to service a client. Nearly all of the participants provided detailed grounds including health concerns, such as visible STDs;drugs or alcohol use; insufficient funds; disrespectful behavior or attitude; no condom;safety or comfort concerns; aggression; hygiene concerns; or a discomfort with the act requested.
Other forms of victimization
. There were two open-ended questions relating directly to experiences of victimization. First, respondents were asked if they had experienced any form of violence that was not included in my questions. Four women entered additional responses, such as “cattiness from other workers,” the emotional impact of sex work,harassment by neighbors, and having clothing or items damaged by clients.The second open-ended question relating to experiences of victimization asked women to describe briefly the most serious incident of violence that they experienced while working in the sex industry. One woman expressed her frustration with the assumption that the sex industry is rife with violence:I have not experienced
Any incidences of violence, serious or otherwise, while working in the sex industry, and I believe that this question should be reworded to exclude the assumption that a sex-trade worker must have experienced violence at some point. (Participant No. 9)Another woman explained that the only victimization to which she had ever been exposed was perpetrated by coworkers. Five women indicated that their most serious incident was a verbal disagreement or a non serious incident. Two of the five women reported that men had tried to have sex without condoms. The other three women dis-missed their most serious incidents as “not serious” and explained that clients had given them a hickey, pushed them down, or “got a bit rough.”One client, who seemed particularly “excited,” pushed me up into a corner. I’m not sure if he was being “violent” or just “enthusiastic.” In any event, it made me a bit uncomfortable so I just pushed him away. End of story. (Participant No. 16) Nine women (29%) described other incidents of violence, which ranged from being threatened to being held against their will, to being physically and sexually assaulted.Eleven respondents did not answer this question. One woman wrote, “I can’t . . . I mostly try not to think about it” (Participant No. 1).Clients were the main perpetrators of the victimization described in this question; theywere mentioned in 12 of the 16 descriptions of victimization. Three women reported that their worst experiences were at the hands of coworkers, and one woman said that her pimp was the source of the most serious industry-related violence she had experienced. All of the altercations described between workers and clients in this question were related either to condom use or rates for services provided.
. The respondents reported that women often face high levels of financial exploitation in certain segments of the off-street sex industry. They attribute much of the exploitation to the quasi criminal status of prostitution in Canada, which enables agencies, landlords, and advertisers to operate in a mostly unregulated way.Respondents allege that landlords and advertisers charge high rates for adult entertainment ads because escort agencies are reluctant to draw attention to themselves by complaining to the authorities. The cost of paying for ads is passed on to workers who are often required to pay the agency up to 60% of their hourly earnings.
Perceptions of dangerousnes.
To conclude this section of the questionnaire, respondents were asked to indicate in which off-street venue they felt that women risked the most violence. Seventy-two percent of the respondents indicated that they felt women who worked independently faced the most violence; 19% perceived escorting to be the most dangerous venue. Concern about women working alone was the most frequent reason given to explain why respondents felt that independents were the most likely to face violence. One woman offered the following insight:Well, I think when you do out calls to private homes, as an independent or working for an escort agency, you are very vulnerable to any and all forms of violence. You don’t know what is waiting for you there, and you cannot control the environment or situation as well as you can in your own place despite having someone [the Agency] knowing where you are going and a driver waiting outside. . . . I think it’s not a case so much of whether you are independent or not, it’s where you go to see a client. (Participant No. 8)
The self-reported victimization data from the survey do not support the perception of independent work as the most risky form of off-street sex work; among survey respondents, independent workers reported the least victimization.
This section of the survey was designed to find out how often women reported incidents of violence to a third party, to whom they reported it, and whether they were satisfied with the response to their report. Only 18% of the participants reported incidents of violence to a third party. The respondents who indicated that they had not reported incidents of violence explained variously that they believed it was not serious enough, they did not believe anyone cared, they were afraid to lose their jobs, or that they were embarrassed.Of the seven women who reported incidents of violence, four had reported one or two incidents, whereas the other three indicated that they had reported violence more than twice. Friends were the most likely people to whom respondents would turn. Three women,one from each type of venue, indicated that they had reported violence to the police.The respondents who reported incidents to their managers were generally satisfied with the managers’ responses. There was much less satisfaction with police responses.Two of the three women were very unsatisfied, whereas one of the respondents had mixed responses to her reports to police. On one occasion, she was completely unsatisfied with the response from police. However, the second time she reported violence, she received full support from the officers involved. She was much more satisfied with the response from police when she was working off-street as an escort than when she worked from the street.Women who had never experienced violence said that they would turn to the police without hesitation. There appears to be a significant difference between hypothetically contacting police in the event of victimization and the consequences of self-identification as a sex provider if a woman does actually contact the police.
Respondents were asked a combination of open and pre-coded questions in this section ofthe survey. First, I posed a broad, open-ended question asking participants what strategies they used to ensure their own safety while working; 74% of respondents reported using specific safety strategies. The most frequent safety strategies were (a) screening clients,(b) using intuition, and (c) planning ahead (ensuring that an emergency plan was in place with an agency or a friend). In addition to these, I identified several other strategies,including using public locations, employing specific security measures, direct communication, references, advertising and rates, control and professionalism, and interpersonal communication skills.
Screening is a conscious and proactive strategy employed prior to meeting clients. It is a strategy employed by some agencies and many independent workers
I generally screen my clients quite well. I do not see anybody without having a verifiable name, address and phone number prior to meeting. The majority of my clients are business travelers staying in upscale hotels, which means they would be easy to track down if anything did happen [a big deterrent]. If I have any sort of odd feeling prior to an appointment, I contact a fellow escort and tell her exactly where I’m going and when I will “check in” with her for safety. (Participant No. 3)Screening techniques include verifying names and addresses of clients. Participants reported using online directories to confirm the contact information for a potential client or verifying the client’s employment. One woman reported asking for identification on meeting new clients. Several women mentioned that they did not accept calls from unlisted phone numbers.
Use of intuition, the ability to be able to assess clients throughout the date, was identified by nine survey respondents as a key violence prevention strategy.I am very careful to note the tone and attitude of anyone who emails or calls me. If something bothers me, even if I don’t know exactly what it is, I will not book with them. (Participant No. 6)Four of the interviewees spoke directly about intuition, or “trusting your gut.” In two situations, women denied employing violence prevention strategies. However, they asserted that although they used their intuition to screen out unwanted dates, they did not think of this as a prevention of violence strategy until I identified it as such. Interview participants reported using intuition to continuously monitor the situation to avoid potentially dangerous encounters.
Some women meet clients at upscale hotels because they can easily confirm the client’s hotel reservation. Clients from upscale hotels would be “easy to track down” should a problem arise. Many of the women prefer public meetings with clients,meeting them in bars, coffee shops, or other public venues.Participants often reported structuring their work to avoid isolation. For some, this includes working in a place, such as an apartment, where an usher or security guard is employed. Other women choose to work in brothels or massage parlors. Drivers are ofte nemployed by escorts to serve multiple functions, including transport and security.My fiancé is my driver, and he waits outside for me at all my jobs. I do out calls toeither a client’s home or hotel room, and my fiancé drives me there, waits outside,and has the client’s information written down with him. I have a cell phone, and so does he. When I am done an appointment, the arrangement is for me to call him within 15 minutes of the time the appointment is supposed to be done. I’ll then tell him I’m done and leaving the client. Usually I phone him within 5 minutes, but we agree on 15, and if he hasn’t heard from me after 15 minutes, his instructions are to phone the police. Also, we have a code word that sounds perfectly normal, that I could say in front of a client, and if I ever say that word on the cell phone to him,he will call the police, and attempt to come get me. We follow this procedure every single time, even with regulars. (Participant No. 4)This system of “checking in” by phone is the standard practice of many escort agencies.Independent women reported using similar systems of ensuring that a friend knows how long they will be and whom to call in the event that they do not contact the friend in the prearranged time.
This self-report victimization survey indicates that it is important to ensure that different groups of sex workers, not just street-based sex workers, are included in research prior to engaging in law reform as these results show a very different picture of victimization than the one usually associated with prostitution. The average age of the respondents in this project was 30 years. The youngest respondent was 20 and the oldest was 45. Only two respondents started working prior to the age of 18. The majority of the respondents (57%, n = 17) started between the ages of 19 and 24, whereas 17% ( n = 5) started working in the industry at age 30 or older. In terms of the type of venue in which they first worked, 42%( n = 13) of the respondents began in massage parlors; only five respondents indicated that they started on the street (21%).This self-selected sample differs drastically from the reported self-selected samples in other Canadian studies—most of which focus on the street sex worker population—in terms of the respondents’ income, race, and education. Over half the respondents reported earning more than Can$5,000 per month and more than Can $60,000 annually. Those working as independents were most likely to earn more than Can$10,000 monthly (21% of independent workers).Of the 23 women who reported their “race,” the majority were White (79%). The majority of the respondents were Canadian (72%), most of whom were born in British Columbia.Ten percent of the sample identified as South East Asian. Aboriginal women were unrepresented in this study.Regarding levels of education, this sample of sex workers had much higher levels of educational attainment than that reported by other study samples: 90% ( N = 31) indicated that they had some post secondary training, whereas 36% had completed either a bachelor’s degree ( n = 4), master’s degree ( n = 2), or PhD ( n = 5).In sum, my self-selected sample comprised mainly well-educated, financially comfort-able, local, White women near the age of 30. They appear to be distinguishable from the general population of women only by their higher-than-average earnings. These are some of the women who work in the high-end, off-street sex work industry in Greater Vancouver.
In contrast to street-based sex workers (Cler-Cunningham & Christensen, 2001; Currieet al., 1995; Lowman & Fraser, 1996), the majority (63%) of the women who participated
Comparison by Venue
Type of victimization O’Doherty (2007), N = 39 Cler-Cunningham & Christensen (2001), N = 183
Venue Massage Escort Independent Street
Threats 20% 29% 15% 71%
Threats with Weapons 13% 17% 8% 45%
Physical assault 17% 25% 15% 51%
Sexual Assault 13% 12% 12% 46%
Kidnapping/confinement 8% 21% 8% 41%
Refuse condom 28% 37% 26% 83%
in this project had not experienced any victimization while working in the sex industry, a finding that contradicts the prohibitionist assertion that violence is inherent to prostitution.If they were victimized, my respondents were most likely to experience theft by co-workers or clients refusing to use condoms or pay for services. These findings do not suggest that no violence occurs in the off-street sector of the industry; however, the findings challenge the view that violence is a necessary part of sex work. Although certain sectors of street- based sex industry work are dangerous, other prostitution venues are very different.Table 1 compares the victimization rates produced in this study with the Cler-Cunningham and Christensen (2001) study on street-based prostitution. The Cler-Cunningham and Christensen report used very similar language for the types of victimization, so it is easily comparable. The rates are reported in percentages to make the comparisons more directly.The table demonstrates that the participants in my study reported one half to a one third ofthe victimization than the participants in the Cler-Cunningham and Christensen sample reported .Jeal and Salisbury’s (2007) comparison between women working in massage parlors and street-based sex workers in the United Kingdom yielded similar results to my research.Specifically, they found that only 4/71 massage workers experienced violence, whereas15/71 street-based sex workers had experienced violence.Victimization occurs at different rates for off-street workers and street-based sex workers. Within off-street sex work, the type of venue, structure of work, a sex worker’s degree of independence, and control over the services she provides all influence her susceptibility to violence. However, these data demonstrate that it is entirely possible for women to work in the sex industry without ever experiencing violence.It is difficult to generalize about violence in the sex industry because of methodological differences between projects, such as different sampling methods, differing definitions or language used to describe forms of violence, and differences related to geographic regions.Furthermore, methodologies are often grounded in particular theoretical frameworks; the political ideology of the researcher will influence the language of the study, the access point for sampling, and the interpretation of data. 10
I have tried to mitigate bias by using empirically sound methods and by ensuring that I do not overgeneralize the results of this study. Nevertheless, I have identified two clear trends that are emerging in recent related research. First, the overall rates of violence in studies involving off-street workers are remarkably consistent in certain respects. Specifically, 67% (O’Doherty), 60% (Lowman& Fraser), 76% (Sanders), 79% (Campbell), and 79% (Jeal & Salisbury) of the respective participants had never experienced violence
while working in off-street sex work. The similarity in the statistics is striking considering the differences in sampling practices, geographic differences, and definitional differences. These five studies question the assertion that selling sex necessarily involves violence.Second, my finding that independent sex workers may face the least amount of violence and escorts may face the most replicates the findings of Benoit and Millar (2001), Lewiset al. (2005b), and Kuo (2002). The assertion that women must work for an agency to stay safe in sex work is not supported by the relatively limited data at our disposal.
Women may be safer when they are able to structure their working environments and deal directly with potential clients.
The Negative Impact of Canada’s Prostitution Laws
Researchers and sex workers have been publishing data on the impact of Canada’s prosti-tution laws on the safety and health of sex workers for decades.
One conclusion of this work is that sex workers must contravene the Criminal Code to stay safe while working.For example, the provisions relating to “bawdy houses” criminalize one of the safest venues for sex workers (Lewis et al., 2005b; Lowman, 2005). Lewis et al. (2005b) argue that specific strategies that serve to increase safety for sex workers, such as the use of driversor working with a partner, are prohibited by the “living on the avails” law. Furthermore,many reports have concluded that criminalizing “communication” per § 213 of the Criminal Code (Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General, 1990) has contributed to violence against street sex workers as the workers cannot openly negotiate the terms of an exchange with potential clients prior to entering vehicles (Betteridge, 2005; Lewis et al.,2005b; Lowman, 2005; Pivot Legal Society, 2003).
The criminalization of prostitution has contributed to exploitative working conditions in the off-street sex industry, too. Workers are unclear about which specific activities are illegal and which are allowed (Benoit & Millar, 2001; Pivot Legal Society, 2006). Many work-ers believe that they will face criminal consequences for their work in the sex industry, so they remain silent in the event violence does occur. Similarly, workers accept unsafe working conditions due to their lack of knowledge about their legal rights (Bruckert et al., 2003).Disagreements between sex workers and clients arise due to mis-communication about prices and services. This finding is corroborated by Pivot Legal Society (2006), which found that prices and services to be performed (including the use of condoms) were the main sources of disagreements between sex workers and clients across venues (street based, escort, massage parlor, and independent). Respondents report that some agencies mislead clients about the activities that a sex worker is willing to provide. Similarly, clients may be led to believe that the initial agency fee includes sexual activities when it is only an“introduction” fee. In these situations, sex workers are left in the vulnerable position of having to correct the misinformation about the prices and services offered. Sex workers may be forced to walk a precarious line urging the client to purchase additional services and agree to “tip” the sex worker in addition to paying the agency fee. If women and agencies could communicate the details of a transaction prior to the meeting, both the sex worker and the client would have a clear understanding of the services to be provided and the rate to be paid. In this regard, the safety of sex workers is directly compromised by criminal laws that prevent women from openly communicating their boundaries and expectations prior to an exchange of sex for money.
The purpose of this study was to examine victimization of women who work in the off-street sex industry. The sample is self-selected and purposive; it was specifically geared to high-end workers and included 39 survey respondents and 10 interview participants.There will undoubtedly be an element of volunteer bias as those who feel strongly about such things as decriminalization or dispelling myths would have been more likely to participate.The survey was self-administered and the data are self-reported. Self-report data rely on individual memories and can be inaccurate. The primary limitation of this project is that I use a non probabilistic sampling method; we have no idea how representative the data are of the general population of sex workers in Canada. However, for the purpose of showing that sex work is not a homogenous experience, these limitations do not detract from the main findings of the survey.
In this research, I sought to find out how much violence and other kinds of victimization occur in various kinds of off-street sex work. The findings indicate that although violence does occur in the off-street sector, it is possible for women to work safely in the sex industry. If women are able to sell sex off-street without experiencing violence, then we must look to conditions unique to the street to determine why street-based sex workers face such high levels of violence. Perhaps, as Lowman (2005b) suggests in his discussion of the“discourse of disposal,” society’s treatment of street-based sex workers as disposable nuisances has contributed to the high rates of violence.The act of selling sex does not in itself cause sex workers to experience violence, in which case public policy should not be based on the assumption that prostitution is inherently violent. Generalizations about victimization in the industry misrepresent the diversity of the industry and only serve to mask the seriousness of individual experiences of violence. Violence against women, whether in the context of a commercial sex exchange or any other context, is a serious issue that warrants more careful attention than blanket assertions allow. This article has provided further evidence of the diversity of experiences for female sex workers; ultimately, much more research is required (particularly research that includes male and trans gendered workers) to ensure that all workers have an opportunity to voice their experiences prior to public policy reform.
I am indebted to John Lowman, Chris Atchison, and Michael Goodyear for their ongoing assistance and support in my work. To the women who generously shared their experiences over thecourse of this research: I continue to be honored by your involvement in my life.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,and/or publication of this article.
The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of thisarticle.
1. International organizations that have indicated support for decriminalization include theWorld Health Organization (WHO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), AmnestyInternational, Human Rights Watch, Anti-Slavery International, and the Global AllianceAgainst Trafficking in Women (GAATW). 2. See Cler-Cunningham and Christensen (2001), Currie, Laliberte, Bird, Rosa, and Sprung(1995), and Lowman and Fraser (1996). 3. See Albert (2001), Boyle et al. (1997), Brock (1998), Chapkis (2000), Harcourt, Egger, andDonovan (2005), Jeffrey and MacDonald (2006), Kuo (2002), Lever and Dolnick (2000),Potter, Martin, and Romans (1999), Sanders (2005), Weitzer (2000), Whittaker and Hart(1996), Working Group on the Legal Regulation of the Purchase of Sexual Services (2004). 4. For more discussion on the impact of ideology on prostitution-related research, see Weitzer(2005). 5. The original thesis reports both the survey results and the interview results. See O’Doherty(2007) for more information. 6. The project received approval from Simon Fraser University’s Research Ethics Board inJuly of 2005. 7. I am adhering to the ethics code of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences available at http://www.acjs.org/pubs/167_671_2922.cfm 8. See the appendix for a detailed table of statistical data. 9. I have chosen to place the demographics section at the end of the findings because sex industry workers are too often discussed as a set of demographic characteristics. It is my intention to highlight their experiences in this article.10. See the 2005 debate between Weitzer, Farley, and Raphael and Shapiro (Farley, 2005;Raphael & Shapiro, 2005; Weitzer, 2005).11. Federal government-funded reports include
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. Retrieved from http://www.pivotlegal.org/sites/default/files/voicesfordignity.pdf Pivot Legal Society. (2006).
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4 (1), 82-89.Fraser Committee. (1985).
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. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Department ofJustice. Retrieved from http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/Committee/391/JUST/Reports/RP2599932/justrp06/sslrrp06-e.pdf Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General. (1990).
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(MA, LLB) is a PhD student at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby,British Columbia, Canada. She is a sessional instructor in the criminology departments atSimon Fraser University and the University of the Fraser Valley. She has been involved withnonprofit sex industry workers’ organizations in Vancouver for the past 10 years; she is cur-rently chairperson for an action group addressing safety in the sex industry. Her advocacyinterests include ensuring that experiential workers play leading roles in all aspects of lawreform related to their work. Her current research examines the impact of the Canadian criminallaws on marginalized groups in society.
PHOTO: Advocates are calling for full decriminalisation of sex work in the Northern Territory. (ABC News: Malcolm Sutton)
Challenging Trafficking in Canada
Challenging Trafficking in Canada presents information about human trafficking interventions as they impact sex workers, Indigenous women, migrants, youth, and other marginalized groups. Drawing from established research and consultations with organizations around the country, the policy brief analyses how...
Canada • Sex Work • Public Policy • Labor Migration • Anti-trafficking Policy
Challenging What We Think We Know About Human Trafficking
Many of us are concerned about the issue of Human trafficking and want to take action to stop the harm, violence and exploitation that we hear about. Yet to challenge human trafficking in Canada today requires a lot more than changes to criminal laws or a passion to change economic and social inequalities and gender injustices. It requires acknowledging sex work as labour as well as a critical assessment of both the everyday impact of anti-trafficking interventions and the uptake of the issue by the media, government and the public. Something often overlooked in wider discussions in that much of what is called “human trafficking” involves little more than a struggle by people around the world and in Canada to gain access to social, political and economic security when regular migration channels are restricted and decent-paying jobs are limited. As well, when trafficking is made synonymous with prostitution, sexual labour and sexual violence are conflated. Consequently, what we hear about trafficking via the media or on public debates is often confused, contradictory or simply wrong, while statistics fluctuate wildly and claims about the problems may have little or no supporting evidence. The result? Anti-trafficking policies, laws and actions based on poor definitions and inaccuracies that all too often end up harming those they were intended to help - sex workers, and particularly, Indigenous peoples, racialized and migrant workers.
To go beyond sensationalism, and heart-rendering accounts of violence and try to prevent more hard, we put together this policy brief, based on evidence and experiences. We draw on recent research undertaken in Canada by recognized (feminist) scholars as well as the expertise of community workers and organizations that are engaged with anti-trafficking around the country. We speak to the complexity of the issue, attempt to correct some of the common mistakes that circulate some of the common mistakes that circulate, and offer what we think are sound recommendations. We hope it offers an antidote to misinformation, exaggeration, and unfounded reports and that it can serve as a guide for people who are genuinely interested in creating a safe, just, and gender-equal world where human rights and dignity are respected for all.
Kamala Kempadoo and Nicole McFadyen (coordinators), Phillip Pilon, Andrea Sterlingand Alex Mackenzie.
Organizations that were consulted
Maggie’s Toronto Sex Worker Action Project
No One Is Illegal (Toronto)
PIVOT Legal Society (Vancouver)
Stella, l’amie de Maimie (Montréal)
Documents and other resources from the Canadian Council of Refugees, Butterfly: Asian andMigrant Sex Workers Network (Toronto), the Migrant Sex Worker’s Project (Toronto), the MigrantWorkers Alliance for Change, No More Silence (Ontario), and the Stepping Stone Association(Nova Scotia) were also consulted, with permission.
Researchers and Contributors:
Laura Brightwell Natalia Hicks Eleni Lentz-Marino Alex Mackenzie Nicole McFadyen Kelly Pflug-Back Phillip Pilon Jessica Rumboldt Ryan Singh Andrea SterlingTaylor Thompson-HarryDesign and layout: Nicole MatteImages courtesy of Danielle Matte Contact for information about this document:email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org 2017.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons 4.0International License.
THE CONFLATION OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING WITH SEX WORK
The conflation of sex work and trafficking is prominent in anti-trafficking discourses,policies, and law enforcement practices,1 And relies heavily on the representation of all sex workers as “victims”.2
When sex workers are seen as victims, the demands of sex workers who seek to improve the conditions of their work are inconsequential as all sex work is considered to be inherently problematic.3
Also, critiques of structural inequalities related to gender, race, and/or class are ignored.4
If all commercial sex is considered exploitative and violent, actual instances of violence and coercion no longer stand out. As Chris Bruckert and Colette Parent suggest:
If we link the two concepts by stating that‘prostitution’ is violence, then all of the female sex worker’s activities—her relations with both customers and managers—are categorized as violence. We can thus no longer distinguish specific situations as violent or search for solutions; everything is violence. 5
Stella, l’amie de Maimie elaborates further:
We explain to people that consensual sex work can still involve situations in which sex workers experience exploitative working conditions and/or violence… It is important for us to be able to speak about and fight against the exploitation we may experience at work. 6
Although anti-trafficking efforts are founded on the desire to “rescue” victims, they often exacerbate the very harms they seek to eradicate, as Leslie Jeffrey explains:[T]he trafficking mythology… justifies paternalist and criminalizing approaches to the sex-trade, which fail to provides ex-workers with the decent working conditions that they have been demanding. Indeed, such an approach contributes to worsening the conditions for women in the trade because it strengthens the hand of officials without empowering the women themselves. This puts sex-workers at greater risk, for example, by strengthening the powers of police to raid sex-work establishments, thus pushing the industry further underground and into less and less safe areas. 7
As well, denying the agency of sex workers by making it impossible to consent to sex work silences the voices of sex workers who challenge the conflation of sex work and trafficking. 8
Pivot Legal Society adds that the conflation of sex work and trafficking not only ignores the realities of sex workers and the coercive labour practices in other industries, but also diverts funds away from much needed social programs. 9
One issue of importance for POWER has been how this conflation has had tremendously negative consequences on sex workers and migrant workers in our city and worldwide…The conflation of sex work and human trafficking has been given much weight by political and community leaders… and has been enthusiastically endorsed by police services who then raid sex workers in the name of finding victims of human trafficking when sex workers continually share that police violence and being criminalized is one of their main challenges.10
7 Leslie Anne Jeffrey. “Canada and Migrant Sex-Work:Challenging the ‘Foreign’ in Foreign Policy.”
Canadian Foreign Policy Journal , 12. 4 (2005): 34.
8 Leslie Anne Jeffrey and Gayle MacDonald.
Sex Workers in the Maritimes Talk Back.
(Vancouver, BC:UBC Press 2006).
9 Pivot Legal Society, email message to Kempadoo May25, 2016.
10 POWER, email message to Hicks, Dec 13, 2015.
9 Pivot Legal Society, email message to Kempadoo May25, 2016.
10 POWER, email message to Hicks, Dec 13, 2015. 4
1 For recent analyses of the conflation in Canadiangovernment laws, policies and debates, see forexample: Brenda Balek and Darcie Bennett.
EvaluatingCanada’s Sex Work Laws: The Case for Repeal
. (PIVOTLegal Society, 2016) and the cluster of essays, “CriticalPerspectives on Canadian Anti-Trafficking Discourseand Policy,” eds. Ann De Shalit and Emily van derMeulen. Atlantis 37.2.1 (2015).
2 Joy Smith. “Turning Outrage into Action to AddressTrafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation inCanada.” Standing Committee on Status of Women,Parliament of Canada, 2007: 5
3 Chris Bruckert and Stacey Hannem, “To Serve andProtect? Structural Stigma, Social Profiling, and theAbuse of Police Power in Ottawa,” in Selling Sex:Experience, Advocacy, and Research in Canada,eds.Emily van der Meulen, Elya M. Durisin and VictoriaLove.(Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 2013): 297-313.
4 Susan Strega et al., "Never Innocent Victims: StreetSex Workers in Canadian Print Media”
Violence Against Women
20.1 (2014): 6-25
5 Colette Parent and Chris Bruckert, “The CurrentDebate on Sex Work” in
Sex Work: Rethinking the Job,Respecting the Workers, eds. Colette Parent et al.,(Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 2013): 22.
6 Stella, l’amie de Maimie, email message to Hicks,Nov 2015.
7 Leslie Anne Jeffrey. “Canada and Migrant Sex-Work:Challenging the ‘Foreign’ in Foreign Policy.”
CanadianForeign Policy Journal , 12. 4 (2005): 34.
8 Leslie Anne Jeffrey and Gayle MacDonald. Sex Workers in the Maritimes Talk Back. (Vancouver, BC:UBC Press 2006).
9 Pivot Legal Society, email message to Kempadoo May25, 2016.
10 POWER, email message to Hicks, Dec 13, 2015.
9 Pivot Legal Society, email message to Kempadoo May25, 2016.
10 POWER, email message to Hicks, Dec 13, 2015
RESTRICTIONS ON MOBILITY
Predictably, most resources spent on ending trafficking have been put into border control measures aimed at uncovering clandestine movements of people and prosecuting smugglers and/or traffickers. The main results of such practices are to make illegalized migrations much more dangerous. Migrants are increasingly being funneled through more precarious routes leading to an unprecedented number of deaths.
Despite public support for several of these measures, those on the receiving end of these prevention strategies often experience them as coercive forms of state violence. Rather than protect, these measures significantly in fringe upon a person’s human rights, denying them not just physical mobility, which violates Article 13 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also economic, class, and social mobility.
The argument for this denial is that it is for protection and prevention. However, this top-down approach is informed by incorrect assumptions and a lack of evidence, and has led to the creation of inaccurate and discriminatory “red flag lists” that some organizations use to assess cases of“trafficking.”
The approach flattens the experiences of those targeted and is not informed by the needs and motivations of the individuals who are on the move.
Research that focuses on the experiences of international migrants shows that there is frequently a strong need to migrate to find work and support families, but anti-trafficking protection efforts have significantly limited legal migration routes.This results in international migrants needing to use alternative migration strategies, which increases their vulnerability to exploitation.Rather than ‘protect’ migrants, these kinds of anti-trafficking efforts make migration more dangerous by severely limiting safe migration routes.
The world we want is one in which people can move freely without criminalization, without having to pay someone for their passage,without dangerous journeys,without forged papers. THIS and not increased legislation and policing would make people’s lives,particularly migrant women’s and youth’s, safer.
A significant facet of Canada’s anti-trafficking efforts focuses on “domestic trafficking,” or trafficking
Within Canada’s borders. 16
These efforts frequently focus on and police the movement of Indigenous women and girls across state sanctioned reserve boundaries, most commonly in the form of rural-to-urban migration, and the involvement of Indigenous women in the sex trades.
Ending violence against sex workers is also about ending the violence of colonialism from state systems such as child welfare, social services and the criminal (in)justice system that many of our communities face.
These efforts build on the state constructed link between Indigenous women and sex work that goes back to the 1876 Indian Act ,
which defined Indigenous women in interracial relationships as prostitutes to maintain racial segregation and prevent relationships between Indigenous peoples and the white population. 17
The Indian Act Also dehumanized Indigenous peoples through constructing a stereotype of them as sexually immoral, criminal, and habitually drunk,which has supported increased police surveillance. 18
As part of the criminal justice system, anti-trafficking legislation furthers the violence of colonialism and gives more funding and power to the police and other state agencies, allowing for further criminalization of Indigenous peoples,especially women, due to these negative stereotypes.
Media depictions of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls have painted Indigenous women as vulnerable and promiscuous. 19
Indigenous women are seen as naturally susceptible to violence as Indigenous society is portrayed as inherently savage and thus, inherently violent. 20
The supposed deviance of Indigenous women has led the criminal justice system to criminalize them rather than meaningfully work towards solutions; to effectively absolve the Canadian state of any responsibility for the generational violence of colonialism or towards those who are Indigenous and sex workers. At the same time, trafficking narratives portray Indigenous women and girls as helpless victims needing to be saved, not knowing any better, or unable to help themselves. 21
Anti-trafficking efforts further the police power that brings violence to Indigenous women rather than offer them protections or meaningful support services.
Painting all Aboriginal sex workers as victims does nothing to empower their situation, and has the damaging effect of stripping them of their agency. Instead, arights' based framework which focuses on Aboriginal women's rights to adequate housing, protection from violence, safe transportation, health care, and an acceptable standard of living would go along way in giving women an actual choice as to whether or not to engage in sex work. While the conditions which lead women to sex work may be exploitative...trying to 'save' adult women from their own lives only continues a legacy of paternalism first introduced by colonial institutions.
Anti-trafficking policies attempt to control the presence of Indigenous peoples in the city and further the practice of displacing Indigenous peoples through the policy of returning Indigenous sex workers to the reserve. 24
The practice of displacement of Indigenous peoples, both from the reserve and from the city, also has its roots in the Indian Act
Where attempts were made to define the legal category of “Indian” as a way of controlling the population. 25
In order to move forward in away that supports the right of Indigenous peoples to move freely and safely across the country, specialized services must be introduced that speak to the historical and present-day forms of violence that specifically affect Indigenous peoples.
Throughout trafficking narratives, it is evident that racial stereotypes largely inform
Who is considered a “victim”:
“ Women coming from Asian countries are often characterised [sic] as being very passive, very innocent, sweet village girls who don't know any better.” 27
Media reporting on human trafficking and law enforcement efforts have created an implicit link between racialized women and trafficking, resulting in the pervasive and harmful stereotype that racialized migrant women are frequently smuggled across borders and forced to perform horrific sex acts to repay their debts.This narrative is supported by racist and moralizing ideas about Asian women and sex work.
When the public or the media hear the words, “Asian sex worker” or, “Asian prostitutes” or“Asian massage parlors” it’s very uncritically linked to trafficking,exploitation, and victimization.Very quickly they’re just connected and it’s like they just couldn’t fathom the idea of an Asian woman choosing to do sex work.
The harm of this is demonstrated by the anti-trafficking investigations and raids conducted by the RCMP, municipal police forces, and the CBSA. These actions overwhelmingly target racialized and migrant sex workers,subjecting them to surveillance, harassment,arrest, detainment, and deportation, even when there is no evidence that the women have experienced abuse and coercion.
Crime against sex workers ‘almost doubles’ since law change
According to the report, crime has increased 90% whereas violent crime specifically has increased 92%.
Campaigners warned of an increase in attacks on sex workers (Yui Mok/PA)
March 27 2019 4:36 PM
Crime against sex workers has almost doubled in the two years since new laws were implemented, campaigners have said.
Ireland adopted the “Nordic Model” on March 27 2017, criminalising the purchase of sex, not the selling of sex, which the Government says is aimed at tackling trafficking and protecting vulnerable people in prostitution.
Sex worker organisations have railed against the change since it was implemented, saying the new laws make workers more vulnerable.
Brothel-keeping laws have proved especially contentious as many workers (the majority of whom are women) would prefer to work in a shared property with a friend for safety reasons, however this practice would amount to a brothel under law, and see those involved arrested.
Statistics from UglyMugs.ie, an app where sex workers can confidentially report incidents of abuse and crime, state that since the law came into force, the number of incidents of abuse and crime being reported in the Republic of Ireland has greatly increased.
The number of sex workers using UglyMugs.ie has remained steady at between 6,000 and 7,000 per year.
The number of incidents reported from 2015-2017 was 4,278. Since the law change, from 2017-2019, incidents rose to 10,076.
According to the report, crime has increased 90% whereas violent crime specifically has increased 92%.
Kate McGrew, sex worker and director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) says the new laws have created a buyer’s market, putting workers at risk.
“The purchasers of sex hold the power, this is in direct opposition to what we were told was the intention of the law,” she said.
“Sex workers are not decriminalised.
“The penalties of sex workers sharing premises together, also known as brothel keeping, has doubled since the introduction of the new Sexual Offences Bill in 2017.
“Sex workers are now forced to work in isolation, which puts them at further risk of violence and exploitation.
“Since the law has been introduced many more sex workers have been arrested than clients.
“We want sex work decriminalised so that the power gets put back in the hands of the worker.”
A Department of Justice spokesman: “The purpose of these offences is to target the demand for prostitution.
“At the same time, the Act changed the law in relation to the sale of sexual services so that it is not an offence to engage in sexual activity for payment.
“There was a broad coalition of different groups in favour of the legislative change, many of which were involved in advocacy for women’s rights.
“Any person who has been the subject of a violent crime is encouraged to report it to An Garda Siochana. Any group with evidence of such crimes should make its information available to An Garda Siochana.”
A Gardai spokeswoman said: “An Garda Siochana do not comment on stats done by ‘apps’.”
Promotional Video Three of the film- The Great American Novel
PHOTO: Independent MLA Gerry Wood wanted to be able to appear at the closed committee meeting (ABC News: Jacqueline Breen)
Larry Norman - Right Here In America - [Live + Lyrics]
Backlash against sex work laws led by 'boycotting' Northern Territory independent politician
By Jacqueline Breen
29th October 2019
"It's really important to enable sex workers to come to the table and to speak."
A politician opposed to the decriminalisation of sex work in the Northern Territory has claimed he has been "censored" by a parliamentary scrutiny committee which agreed to accept evidence from sex workers behind closed doors because of concerns about stigma and discrimination.
The committee voted to close parts of the hearing to the public and all non-committee members at the request of sex workers wanting to give evidence.
Independent Gerry Wood, who opposes the Government's proposed changes and is not on the committee, sat outside Parliament in protest on Tuesday instead of attending open sections of the hearing.
Inside Parliament, the scrutiny committee heard impassioned arguments against the reforms from two former sex workers appearing alongside faith-based groups including the Australian Christian Lobby.
But the proposed changes have the strong support of the Northern Territory's sex work community and local legal groups, who say decriminalising and regulating the industry will help make sex workers' work safer and create access to employment rights and protections.
The closed sessions were requested for sex workers to share their experience of problems with the current regulatory framework, according to spokeswoman for the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council's Sex Worker Outreach Program Leanne Melling.
"We requested closed sessions for sex workers to have a space to provide evidence privately so that people didn't feel intimidated by stigma and discrimination and the committee responded respectfully," she said.
"It's really important to enable sex workers to come to the table and to speak."
'Extreme barriers' for sex workers
Labor said decriminalisation would allow the industry to operate in line with laws applying to all other individuals and businesses.
Scarlett Alliance spokeswoman Jules Kim told the scrutiny committee that the removal of criminal sanctions made sex workers free to report mistreatment or abuse to workplace regulators or police.
"To decriminalise sex work, to remove the criminality of sex workers' status and to be able to access different mechanisms — which, currently, there is an extreme barrier for sex workers to do that — will be a significant step forward," she said.
She raised questions about the suitability certificates that will be required by operators of sex services businesses under the new laws and argued against restrictions on sex work advertising that go beyond general advertising standards.
She also called on Labor to include a mechanism in the bill to wipe convictions that become void when the conduct they relate to is no longer a criminal offence.
The Australian Christian Lobby's Northern Territory director Wendy Francis urged the committee to call for a longer inquiry into the bill and warned it would have "unintended consequences" for vulnerable groups and for town planning and zoning.
"I think any legislative change in the area of prostitution should actually address the reasons that drive women into the industry, and it is largely women, and also the culture that normalises women's bodies being for sale," she said.
A former sex worker from New Zealand, Alison Peaufa, gave evidence of traumatic experience in the industry.
She said sex workers advocating for decriminalisation did not represent the most vulnerable women in sex work.
'Complete contempt for the democratic process'
Outside Parliament, Gerry Wood called on the Government to withdraw the bill and hold a full-scale inquiry into regulatory alternatives such as the Nordic model, which criminalises sex work customers.
"Here we have an opportunity to look at alternatives that don't encourage prostitution, that actually reduce prostitution," he said.
Opposition leader and scrutiny committee member Gary Higgins of the Country Liberals issued a media release saying Labor was showing "complete contempt for the democratic process" and denying Mr Wood the right to represent his electorate in parliament.
"If a Member of Parliament is denied access to a Parliamentary process, the question must be asked — is this a dictatorship, or a democracy?" Mr Higgins said.
Committee chair Tony Sievers said closed sessions were a standard option to receive sensitive testimony and said Mr Woods could have asked questions in the four hours of open hearings.
Ms Melling said the Sex Worker Outreach Program appreciated the sensitivity shown by the committee in allowing sex workers to appear in closed hearings and anonymously.
"This is due to stigma and discrimination and the current criminal status for the majority of sex workers in the NT.
"For these reasons, sex workers must be able to testify confidentially and be able to present with confidence the actual picture of sex work in the NT, without fear of negative consequences," she said.
Sex workers have long been campaigning for the full decriminalisation of sex work in the NT to enable access to rights, health and safety at work."
The current legislation in the NT provides no protections for sex workers and advocates have raised concerns that this has put sex workers at risk.
Criminalisation of sex work normalises violence, review finds
Sex workers three times more likely to experience violence from client where trade is criminalised, data shows
Badges promoting the decriminalisation of sex work from the Scarlet Alliance, the organisation for sex workers in Australia. Photograph: Michael Wickham/The Guardian
Sex workers are more likely to suffer poor health, violence and abuse in countries where their trade is criminalised, a major review has found.
The review, by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found that sex workers suffering repressive policing – including arrest, imprisonment and extortion by officers – were three times more likely to experience sexual or physical violence from a client and were twice as likely to have HIV or another sexually transmitted infection as those who lived in countries where sex work was tolerated.
Sex workers who fear that they, or their clients, may be picked up by the police are more likely to engage in risky encounters, unable to take the time to talk to a client before getting into a car or negotiate terms in advance, the researchers found.
Their health and safety were at risk not only in countries where sex work was criminalised, but also in Canada, which has introduced the “Nordic model” pioneered by Sweden, under which the client can be arrested for a criminal offence, but not the sex worker.
Published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the paper by Lucy Platt, associate professor in public health epidemiology, and Pippa Grenfell, assistant professor of public health sociology, is a review of data from 33 countries. They included comments from sex workers who took part in some of the studies.
Canada passed a law in 2014 to make it illegal to pay for sex, but some sex workers say that has made their lives more risky.
“They couldn’t have designed a law better to make it less safe,” said one sex worker. “It’s like you have to hide out, you can’t talk to a guy, and there’s no discussion about what you’re willing to do and for how much. The negotiation has to take place afterwards, which is always so much scarier. It’s designed to set it up to be dangerous. I don’t think it was the original intention, but that’s what it does.”
Another woman working on the streets in Canada said she was no longer able to talk through the car window to ensure they felt safe. “Because of being so cold and being harassed, I got into a car where I normally wouldn’t have. The guy didn’t look at my face right away. And I just hopped in cause I was cold and tired of standing out there. And you know, he put something to my throat. And I had to do it for nothing.”
France, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Norway, the Republic of Ireland and Sweden also criminalise the client. Guatemala, Mexico, Turkey and the US state of Nevada have regulated sex work, which allows better conditions for some, but worse for the many who operate outside the regulated arrangements.
A man in the UK said the ideal situation was working from shared premises, where everybody had companionship and greater security. But, although buying and selling sexual services is legal, that can fall foul of the law. “Because of the legal situation, you have to be very, very careful. Because obviously it’s running a brothel, which has … really dangerous consequences these days,” he said.
New Zealand is the only country to have decriminalised sex work, in 2003, although it is not legal for migrants. Sex workers said they were more able to refuse clients and insist on condom use, while relationships with police were better. “We always have police coming up and down the street every night,” said one woman. “We’d even have them coming over to make sure that we were all right and making sure … that we’ve got minders and that they were taking registration plates and the identity of the clients. So … it changed the whole street, it’s changed everything.”
Grenfell said: “It is clear from our review that criminalisation of sex work normalises violence and reinforces gender, racial, economic and other inequalities. Decriminalisation of sex work is urgently needed, but other areas must also be addressed.
“Wider political action is required to tackle the inequalities, stigma and exclusion that sex workers face, not only within criminal justice systems but also in health, domestic violence, housing, welfare, employment, education and immigration sectors.”
Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act: Safety Implications and the Stigmatization of Sex Workers
Honours Thesis written in requirement for a Legal Studies Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act:
Safety Implications and the Stigmatization of Sex Workers!
Prepared for: Dr. Rachel ArissPrepared by: Shelby Aggiss-Norton 10042
Date: April 24" 201!
Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances" but not at the cost of the health" safety and lives of prostitutes.-
Chief Justice Beverly in Canada v. Bedford
Conflicting views of how best to understand and legislate sex work in Canada has led to disagreements between differing feminist groups. The debate between pro and anti-prostitution approaches have created a binary choice on how best to deal with prostitution" and have left sex workers, voices almost non-existent within legislative reform. This binary vision of sex work ignores a plurality of important and valuable ideas, as well as vast individual experiences within prostitution. Putting women’s safety and lives at the center of legislative reform is needed to institute positive legal change as both pro and anti-prostitution groups collectively agree that safety is often compromised in prostitution.
Canada/s most recent legislation governing prostitution focuses on criminalizing the buyers of sexual services and decriminalizing the sellers. This new legislation arose in 2014" and was a response to the unsafe working conditions sex workers experienced while abiding by the previous law. The previous law was found to violate sex workers’ rights to life" liberty and security of the person. Unfortunately, Canada/s newest legislation also fails to address these safety concerns. The need to centralize women’s safety will be explored within this paper through several lenses including violence, stigma" nuisance" and patriarchal views of women’s sexuality. These explorations will be used to argue that current Canadian law fails to address the violation of sex workers’ rights found in the previous law.
Violence is often found in prostitution within its current forms. It is found in both street- based and indoor work. Although this is the case" assuming violence is an inherent factor of prostitution has damaging consequences. The current Canadian legislation regarding prostitution aims at abolishing prostitution, but in turn ignores the safety concerns of sex workers. The current legislation also entitles certain groups" these groups being the “community” and the “exploited”, to safety and protection while leaving out individuals who do not fit within these categories. Because prostitution is a long standing profession" as well as dependent on social and economic factors surrounding sex workers lives, it is highly unlikely that it will ever cease to exist. Accordingly, this paper will argue that centralizing a safety approach to sex work is needed in order to protect sex workers within the profession. As well, resources that can allow individuals who wish to lea&e the se, trade should be supported.
This paper will first provide a historical and legal context of prostitution law in Canada to understand the issues and inability of the law to protect sex workers. Violence in prostitution will be discussed using statistics of violence located in both street-based and off-street sex work to determine that while violence is undeniably a part of sex work, it is not always present. Violence statistics and information from sex workers themselves will be used to conclude that sex workers’ experiences vary remarkably, resulting in the inability to generalize all sex workers into one category. The pro and anti-prostitution debate will be discussed using ideological ideas from both abolition and decriminalization arguments. Safety arguments and the right to choice for sex workers from the decriminalization perspective will be used to highlight the importance of sex workers’ decisional antonomy, along with the need to protect vulnerable groups from an abolitionist approach. An analysis of these ideas will be used to conclude that both provide valuable ideas" and should be synthesized in order to create beneficial legislation regarding the safety of sex workers.
This paper will use Anderson’s expressive theory of rational choice to understand that every sex workers’ experience is different, and their choices to enter into prostitution are as such.
Ultimately,expressive theory recognizes that there is no “right” choice regarding sex work. Expressive theory highlights the inadequate social norms surrounding prostitution. If these social norms can be improved, sex workers will then be able to express their needs through proper vehicles of expression. In the end, this paper understands that safety can be a new social norm of sex work. Currently, sex workers’ expression is limited by stigma. In order to create new social norms, the stigma surrounding sex work must be diminished.
The stigmatization of sex workers is an important concern.
The stigmatic assumptions about sex workers as either a “risky” or “at risk” population are deeply embedded within society and legal institutions. Sex workers are positioned as either victims in need of saving" or a dangerous population that engages in risky behavior by choosing to enter into prostitution. Viewing sex work as a nuisance also has drastic implications on the stigmatization of sex workers as it positions sex workers outside of community involvement and protection. This paper understands that viewing sex workers as both a nuisance and a risk to themselves and the community has drastic implications on the stigma they experience. This stigma renders sex workers’ community involvement, political involvement, and safety non-existent.
The connection between sex workers’ safety, legalization approaches and stigma will be explored through studying the stigmatization of sex workers in countries such as Germany. New Zealand, Sweden, Netherlands, and America. Legislation governing prostitution in these countries includes legalization, partial criminalization" and decriminalization. While this essay will be focusing on Canadian law, considering different legal prostitution regimes within these countries will help discover whether the stigma around sex work can be lessened through various legalization approaches. This paper will also be looking at the stigma implications of Vancouver’s prostitution policy, which criminalized the buyers of sexual services before Canada’s newest prostitution legislation was implemented. Although decriminalization may be the legal framework most capable of reducing stigma related to sex work, stigma may still be present within a decriminalized sphere. This paper will also explore how women’s safety may be compromised within a world where their sexuality is defined through a male perspective, such as that in prostitution. Therefore, the patriarchal undertones of society cannot be ignored.
The idea of prostitution as a nuisance problematizes sex workers’ safety. This paper will analyze Canada’s latest prostitution legislation, Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (referred to throughout this paper as the
Protection Act, in order to understand how prostitution is conceived as a nuisance within society and through legal framework. Accordingly,this paper will also explore the implications of viewing sex workers’ as either “risky” or “at risk” within the Protection Act. While the Protection Act’s purpose is to help “exploited” individuals out of the trade, this paper will argue that this cannot be done through the criminalization of prostitution. Ultimately, this paper understands that positioning prostitution as a nuisance is a main obstacle in improving sex workers’ safety. It also disallows sex workers who do not see themselves as exploited to protection.
Sex workers involved in prostitution are involved due to social and economic factors that cannot be legislated away. Accordingly" policies that promote programs involved in aiding sex workers who wish to leave the trade through financial and emotional support are needed. These policies support a safety-based approach to sex work. In the end" limiting the ability of women to choose sex work is also a harm. An understanding that sex workers must be able to participate in research and the formation of legislation surrounding prostitution will be used to conclude this paper" as they are the ones genuinely affected by it. Sex workers understand the safety implications surrounding legislation. Therefore, they need to be able to make knowledgeable decisions about their lives and their work.
Canadian Historical and Legal Context of Prostitution
Historically,prostitution has been characterized as a “nuisance”, something that is unwanted and ignored by governments and society alike.
Canada’s first prostitution laws followed British common law into Canada and viewed sex work as a form of public immorality and vagrancy.
These laws dealt with nuisances brought by “night walkers” and bawdy houses" and criminalized “suspected prostitutes” if they did not provide adequate information about themselves when asked.
In the latter part of the 10th century,the view of women “came to be seen as moral guardians of the family deserving protection from licentious men”.
These views were full of moral issues related to prostitution, and viewed prostitution as a particular “social evil” !
These negative understandings of prostitution were part of the so-called “social purity” movement, which viewed prostitution as both morally wrong and exploitative to women and children.Accordingly,the involvement effectively lobbied for a collection of criminal laws, which “prohibited procuring, living on the avails of prostitution of another person, and the expansion of the bawdy house laws.”
The requirement of prostitutes to provide information about themselves when asked has found to pressure prostitutes into self-incrimination, which in turn questioned the provision’s credibility. Thus, in 1960, the provision was found to be in violation of the
Canadian Bill of Rights as set out in s.2 (d) concerning the protection against self-incrimination.
The provision concerned with requiring suspected prostitutes to provide information about themselves $as replaced by the offence of soliciting in a public place for the purpose of prostitution.
This provision was seen as ineffective as the persistent communication between sex workers and their clients imposed too high of a burden on the court system and polic eofficers.
The provision also positioned the focus of police on sex workers and ignored buyers within transactions.
In 1983, the Special Committee on Prostitution and Pornography (The Fraser Committee) recommended a “legislative approach to sex work focusing on the social and economic factors conductive to the practice”.
The Fraser Report encouraged the licensing and regulation of sex establishments" as well as promoted heavier penalties for solicitation offences.
After the Fraser Report was issued the Criminal Code
was amended, making it an offence to offer, provide and obtain sexual services for consideration within a public place or place open to public view by stopping or attempting to stop any motor vehicle" by impeding the free flow of pedestrians or traffic, and communicating in a public place for the purpose of prostitution. The 1985 amendments (known as Bill C-4?) were apparently intended to “protect ordinary law abiding citizens” and remove the opportunity for sex workers to “carry out their business in public”. These justifications reflect the continuing ambition to regulate the “nuisance” of sex work away from the public sphere.
In light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982), Bill C-49 was subject to criticism and held unconstitutional on two occasions. One of those occasions was the Prostitution Reference (1990).
In the Prostitution Reference, the Criminal Code
provisions prohibiting communication in a public place for the purpose of prostitution (ss. 193.1 (1) ( c ), and the keeping keeping of a common bawdy-house (ss. 195.1 (1) ( c ) were challenged as a violation of the right to freedom of expression found under s.2 (b), and a violation of lif, liberty and security of the person under s.7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Supreme Court concluded that the bawdy-house provision did violate freedom of expression and the life, liberty and security of the person, but was justified under s. 1 of the Charter .
Accordingly" the Supreme Court also upheld the constitutionality of the prohibition of communication provision, with the majority concluding that it did not even violate s.7.
The prohibition of communication was justified under s. 1 because the offence $ws aimed at maintaining community order and safety by eliminating the sale of sexual services from public view, while also “eradicating the dangerous and dehumanizing act of prostitution”.
The prohibition of communication is most relevant to this paper as it exemplifies the legal syste’s view of prostitution as a “social nuisance” arising from the public display of the sale of sex.
The Supreme Court’s decision within the Prostitution Reference clearly illustrates the importance of community interest over the safety of sex workers.
On December 13th, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled in Canada v Bedford that multiple sections of the Criminal Code regulating aspects of prostitution infringed individuals’ s. Charter rights.
These sections included s. 210, which made it an offence to keep or facilitate in a bawdy house; s. 212 (1)(j) which prohibited living on the anails of prostitution; and s.213(1)© which prohibited communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution.
Before the ruling" prostitution itself (the selling and buying of sexual services) was not illegal in Canada, however" the criminal restrictions surrounding prostitution made it difficult for sex workers to “do their workin a lawful, safe and business-like way”.
The three applicants, all sex workers" argued that the Criminal Code engaged the s.7right to security of the person because of the dangers the provisions created for sex workers attempting to comply with the law.
The court agreed with the applicants and stated the provisions “prevent people engaged in a risky - but legal - activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks.”
The court concluded that the bawdy-house provision confined sex workers to street prostitution and out calls" prohibiting sex workers from working indoors in safer environments.
The offence of living on the anails of prostitution of another disallowed sex workers from paying for services that could provide safety, such as bodyguards, drivers" and receptionists.
Lastly, the offence of communicating for the purpose of prostitution forced street negotiations with clients to be conducted hastily and in hidden places in order to avoid arrest. This presented sex workers from screening their clients, from informing co-workers where they were going, and from having the option to refuse a transaction.
Furthermore, the court confirmed that the provisions were “primarily concerned with preventing public nuisance” and did not protect sex workers’ dignity and safety.
The 'court was unable to find justification under s. 1 of the Charter for any of these S.7 violations, and held all three provisions unconstitutional.
The court also suspended the declaration of invalidity for all three provisions for one year, giving Parliament time to reconfigure the Criminal Code’s provisions regarding sex work in Canada.
A little less than six months after the Supreme Court ruling, the new bill Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (Protection Act) was introduced into parliament as an answer to the unconstitutionality of the previous legislation governing sex work.
Parliamentary debates about the proposed law continued and on November 6, 2014, the Protection Act received royal assent.
The Protection Act was created after the Nordic Model" a piece of legislation passed in Sweden in 1999, which ultimately aims at abolishing sex work through questionable partial criminalization framework that this paper will argue jeopardizes sex workers’ safety.
For the first time ever in Canadian history" the Protection Act criminalized the purchase and advertising of sexual services, while also stating that living on the anails of prostitution is only disposed to prosecution if exploitation is present.
Additionally, the Protection Act modifies the communication laws by prohibiting “communication for the sale of sex near school grounds" playgrounds or daycare centers”.
Sex workers, then, would not be prosecuted for communication in other public areas" nor for the sale of sexual services.
The Department of Justice argued that its proposed law, the Protection Act, was a “significant paradigm shift away from the treatment of prostitution as a ‘nuisance’, as found in the Supreme Court of Canada in Bedford, towards treatment of prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation that disproportionately and negatively impacts women and girls”.
The Protection Act relied on research that explained that the majority of individuals who sell sexual services are women and girls, and that the demand for prostitution was the cause for their exploitation.
Therefore" the new Protection Act targets only the buyers of sexual services" and not the sellers"as it sees them as victims of the sex trade.
Despite arguments to the contrary" the Protection Act perpetuates sex work as a nuisance through positioning ‘community safety’ above the safety of sex workers" as well as perpetuating unsafe working conditions. The Protection Act also wishes to create a safer approach to sex work. but in turn promotes unsafe working conditions through the criminalization of buyers. The implications of the
Protection Act on sex workers’ safety and stigmatization will be discussed later in this paper. For now, this paper will explore why the safety of sex workers is such an important matter.
The Relationship Between Violence and Prostitution
A safety-based approach to prostitution is necessary. Sex workers run the risk of experiencing both physical and emotional violence and are more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections in sex work than any other form of labor .
Violence can be found in all forms of prostitution such as massage parlors" escort agencies" and street prostitution.
As well", violence can be graphically seen within Canadian case law such as in
R v Pickton. Pickkton was a British Columbian pig farmer charged with the muirder of over 20 prostitutes" and found guilty on six counts of second-degree murder .
An understanding that violence may often be present within the sex industry demands that sex workers be protected from possible violence. Research related to violence in prostitution has however gathered questionable evidence that may not encompass all experiences of sex workers. There is no denying that violence transpires within prostitution, however using the experiences of some sex workers to stand in for all sex workers can lead to inadequate policy solutions regarding the safety of sex workers.
Studies and academic writing vary remarkably when stating victimization rates of sex workers" and this begs the question of which best represent the varied experiences of sex workers?
An authoritative 9-country study conducted by Farley, a clinical psychologist, interviewed 854 women currently and recently in prostitution.
Of the Canadian women participants, 75% reported being injured during prostitution.
The Canadian part of Farley’s study was conducted in and around Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a well-known and very dangerous area for street-based workers.
While Barley/s study does not verify if the Canadian sex workers interviewed were street-based or indoor workers, those sex workers interviewed in other countries were street-based, which suggests that the sex workers from Vancouver were street-based as well.
On the contrary, a study published in 2007 by O’Doherty, which included a …. “ three-year exploratory project on women’s experiences in the off-street or indoor sex industry in Vancouver, British Columbia" found that of the 39 indoor workers surveyed, 67% had never experienced any violence related to their sex work .
Research conducted on street-based prostitution stands in great contrast to indoor prostitution with rates of street-based violence reported as high as 98%.
Continually, Canadian and American studies have reported high rates of underage entry into prostitution and histories of child abuse among sex workers.
A study on sex workers by Bagley and Young in Canada found 73% of 45 women interviewed had been sexually abused as a child.
Lowman, however, states that these high levels of abuse stand in contrast to his own findings within the Netherlands, where out of the 130 sex workers interviewed" a little over 15% reported sexual abuse by a family member or acquaintance before the age of 16.
These cases of abuse were generally severe, however, Lowman specified that this “picture is by far not as grim as the one sketched by Bagley and Young”.
In 2014 during the debate surrounding the proposal of Canada/’s Protection Act,
Timea Nagy, a former sex slave and victim of human trafficking who supported the
Protection Act made the assertion that the average age into prostitution is 14.
Within a criminalized sphere, sex workers will never receive the protection and safety they urgently need. Criminalizing sex work has drastic implications on workers/ safety and health. Such implications include psychological, physical and social consequences that render sex workers stigmatized and excluded from community involvement.Accordingly, Canada’s new Protection Act perpetuates these dangers through criminalizing the buyers of sexual services. Decriminalizing prostitution in Canada may put legislation on the right track to improving the health and safety of sex workers. Once prostitution is decriminalized, it is important to remember there will still be exploited individuals within the sex industry who may wish to leave. Decriminalization can protect individuals/ choices to choose prostitution. It may also allow legislation to move towards a safety-based approach. Remembering the protection of sex workers/ choices is important in preserving their decisional autonomy and credibility. A safety-based approach to prostitution understands that there is no “right choice” regarding prostitution.Accordingly, all sex workers deserve protection no matter the reason for entering into prostitution.
A safety-based approach to prostitution involves decriminalizing prostitution and implementing many more social programs and policies than the amount currently operating in Canada. It is clear sex workers who are exploited, trafficked and impoverish do exist. Therefore, the sex workers who need to be helped out of the sex trade must be helped without lessening the credibility of those sex workers who genuinely choose to enter into prostitution. Transitional housing programs can offer exit strategies to sex workers wishing to leave the industry. The Covenant House in Toronto has recently created a specific transitional program tailored to helping young women out of prostitution.
This is the first long-term program in Toronto designated to helping sexually exploited sex workers rebuild their lives outside of the sex industry.
Unfortunately" the program will only hold up to seven residents, ages 16 to 24" at a time.
In Vancouver, transitional sex work programs are beginning to develop. In 2014, six community organizations with experience in working with a variety of sex workers created a report regarding the development of future transitional programs.
Transitional programs are an important factor in a safety-based approach to prostitution.Thus, more programs like these need to be implemented throughout Canada. These programs target the economic and social reasons individuals enter into prostitution that criminalizing fails to take into consideration.
They target housing issues, substance addiction, and living expense issues that are at the heart of why some individuals choose to enter into prostitution.
Because decriminalizing sex work cannot alone fully destigmatize the practice, focusing legal responses to prostitution as a safety concern and not as a nuisance may further destigmatize the practice. Structural stigma historically perpetuated through Canadian legal framework is addressed by the decriminalization of sex work. Protecting the safety of sex workers over viewing them as second class citizens further destigmatizes the practice. Once stigma has been lessened, moving towards a safety-based approach could provide a new expressive vehicle in which sex workers could use to fully express themselves. Safety as an expressive vehicle can ultimately be a new non-damaging social norm through which sex workers can express the plurality of reasons for why they engage in prostitution. Within this framework, sex workers will no longer be categorized as an “at risk” or “risky” population that needs to either be saved from exploitation or erased from communities. A safety-based approach to prostitution allows for a wide range of different experiences. Providing safety to all sex workers is the main goal of this approach.
When safety becomes a new social norm, it can be followed by a new vehicle of expression. This new expressive vehicle may encourage sex workers to report violence due to knowing their safety is the interest of law enforcement and the community. They will begin to enter back into the community as true members of society, and make use of social services provided to them. In turn, the physical and psychological health of sex workers may drastically improve. Protecting the safety of all sex workers can only be done by understanding the widely different experiences within the sex industry. A safety-based approach to prostitution means understanding these differences by working with sex workers to develop effective safety-based policies. Sex workers are the ones who truly understand their safety requirements and, therefore, should be involved in future legislation and policy creation. The destigmatization and acceptance of sex workers within communities can contribute greatly to their contributive ability in f%t%re policies and legislation. Thus, a safety-based approach to sex work will ultimately provide sex workers with the protection, inclusion, and credibility they have always needed.
Badges promoting the decriminalisation of sex work from the Scarlet Alliance, the organisation for sex workers in Australia. Photograph: Michael Wickham/The Guardian
Martyn Joseph - Working Mother
perecordsltd: The original music video for Martyn Joseph`s Working Mother from 1993.
Category: Music - Song: Working Mother
Artist: Martyn Joseph: Album: Thunder and Rainbows (The Best We Could Find)
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