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mardi 12 décembre 2006
Federal MPs and prostitution
A contradictory, inconsistent and dangerous report
DANS LA MEME RUBRIQUE
What About the Women Who Want to Get Out of the Sex Trade ?
For the Industry of Prostitution : A Victory Disguised as a Defeat
Federal Report on Prostitution : The Missing Link
The majority report of the Justice Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws : a direct assault on women’s rights and a gift for organized crime
Prostitution is a Form of Violence, not Commerce
The Subcommittee’s majority report is moving towards normalizing the buying and selling of women
A Report Trivialising Prostitution
Protect victims and criminalize profiteers
Montreal, December 13, 2006 -The Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle - a wide coalition of associations, women’s groups and individual feminists - is astonished by the contradictions and inconsistencies of the federal Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws, which today tabled its report (representing majority and minority opinions) in the House of Commons.
A go-ahead for sex exploiters
While the CLES appreciates the subcommittee’s lengthy accounting of the damage brought by prostitution, and acknowledgement of the lack of choice of most of the women and youth concerned, the Quebec-based coalition is surprised and indignant that Liberal Party, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs can nevertheless recommend abolishing the sections of the Criminal Code that specifically target pimps and johns.
Indeed, although the report deplores the discrimination that guarantees immunity to prostitution’s real agents (clients and procurers), it nevertheless proposes to abolish the laws that target them. They settle instead for more general provisions, while at the same time criticizing the fact that these laws are never enforced. On the other hand, although the report denounces the selective repression of victims of street prostitution, it still proposes to maintain the general laws and regulations that are currently used to single them out for harassment and punishment (see p. 89-90 of the report - http://tinyurl.com/y92xnl).
The CLES finds it surprising that MPs who bemoan a lack of conclusive evidence and call for further research regarding this grave problem nonetheless summarily propose the abolition of legislation against pimping and soliciting by sex buyers. By confining their definition of "pimping" to procurement involving explicit coercion, the authors of the majority report inordinately increase the burden of judicial proof and expose Canada to a proliferation of sexual exploitation.
A biased regard
CLES advocates are puzzled by the mental gymnastics of Subcommittee members. They quote all the experts who have told them how poverty, violence and addictions push the young, mostly girls, into prostitution well before the age of 18, and then magically transform these women, when they turn 18, into consenting adults who freely offer their sexual services. The wilfull ambiguity of the report’s authors is also evident in the near-absence of information concerning the role and interests of sex buyers and pimps. It often seems as if prostitution only involves the female vendors ! Links between prostitution and the trafficking in persons or with organized crime are also barely mentioned, even though it is well-known that millions of dollars flow through the sex industry every year.
Predictable impacts of general legalization
Studies in Europe and New Zealand have established that violence against women and children is in no way abated when prostitution is legalized or pushed out of sight, in "red light" districts or discreet bawdy-houses. On the contrary, studies demonstrate that jurisdictions that have given the go-ahead to a massive expansion of the sex industry are in fact encouraging trafficking in women and the active recruitment of increasingly younger children into prostitution. CLES advocates worry that this approach will exacerbate violence against prostituted persons, contrary to the federal subcommittee’s mandate.
The CLES refuses to see prostitution as "above all a public health issue" to be managed with no attempt at reducing it. "Women have been struggling for a long time against sexist violence, racism, sexual trafficking and the sexual commodification of young girls," explains Michèle Roy, spokeswoman for the Quebec Coalition of Sexual Assault Centres. "The Quebec women’s movement is nearly unanimous in opposing a decriminalization of pimping and soliciting by clients. Where do the report’s authors get the authority to oppose them ? Have they been endorsed to do so by their party or their constituents ?"
Yet another Commons subcommittee is slated to table a report in January 2007 on the issue of trafficking persons into Canada. Many of the experts the Subcommittee heard from delineated close links, throughout the world, between the sex industry’s exponential development and the prevalence of trafficking. How will the Canadian government be able to counter trafficking if it decriminalizes the prostitution industry, thus making Canada a haven for sexual trafficking ?
The need for prudence
Before laws and policies are subjected to changes that may have major impacts on all of society, CLES advocates demand a genuine public debate on sexual exploitation. This debate must take into account the realities highlighted by the Subcommittee’s report : problems of poverty, racism, sexual assault and other forms of violence and of addictions that currently lock too many women and young people into veritable sexual slavery. In addition, the issues of trafficking and obstacles to immigration faced by women of the global South must be incorporated into the quest for equitable solutions, based on genuine protection of the persons targeted by the sex industry.
The struggle to end prostitution is above all one of human rights. Prostitution negates the principles of gender equality, race equality and class equality. It is no coincidence that the vast majority of persons being prostituted in the world are women and children, almost always from impoverished social classes and from the poorest of countries. Far from treating prostitution as unavoidable, CLES believes that another world is possible, a world free of prostitution and all other forms of sexual exploitation.
For further information, please contact Michèle Roy, spokeswoman for CLES : 514-529-5252
On Sisyphe, December 14, 2006.