130 Canadian Social Justice Organizations Demand Sex Work Decriminalization this Election

Monday, September 30, 2019 – Over 130 organizations across Canada are asking the next government of Canada to support sex workers’ rights, including the full decriminalization of sex work as a first step. 

In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that criminalizing sex work promotes violence and violates sex workers’ human rights. Yet no action has been taken to repeal the laws and regulations that place sex workers at risk every day. The statement demonstrates unprecedented and widespread support for sex workers’ rights from social justice-seeking organizations across Canada.

On the federal level, both criminal and immigration laws contravene the safety of sex workers safety and create a hostile context with law enforcement. Since the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act came into force in 2014, sex workers have reported increased antagonism with law enforcement, targeted violence and fear of reporting, unwanted and unsolicited police interactions, and targeting of Indigenous, Black, trans, and migrant sex workers, as well as sex workers who use drugs.

Criminalization has increased surveillance of sex workers, clients, and third parties, and resulted in the same human rights violations underscored in the Bedford decision. Much of this enforcement is also due to the conflation of sex work and human trafficking, and the law enforcement responses to both.

“Every aspect of sex work is criminalized, which means that sex workers are unable to access social, legal, and health supports, should they need them,” says Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. Adding that, “sex workers have made clear that they can’t and won’t report violence against them when they risk continued surveillance, arrest, detainment, deportation, and discrimination.”

“The conflation of sex work and human trafficking has emboldened law enforcement to misuse and overuse human trafficking laws to target sex workers, clients, and third parties,” says Jenn Clamen, National Coordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform. “This creates a context where sex workers experience unwanted contact with law enforcement and are isolated as a result. This isolation contributes to targeted violence and lack of access to important services.”

136 organizations have signed onto the statement of solidarity asking the federal government of Canada to take measures towards a first step in a process of decriminalizing sex work—a commitment to the repeal of Criminal Code and Immigration Law provisions (IRPA) that threaten sex workers’ health and safety, as well as a push to center sex workers in related policy and law reform processes.

“Ultimately, decriminalization is a first step to ensuring sex workers’ safety and dignity, which means creating spaces where they can work in a way that they feel safe and not isolated,” says Prasad.

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Posted on 2019-09-27
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