source - -

What if UQAM took a Stand Against Prostitution ?

27 novembre 2006

par Micheline Carrier

In a precedent message, I asked Irene Demczuk :

"Do you believe that the UQAM Service to communities would give as unconditional and as fervent a support to a group or persons if they organised a 2 year course for the health, justice and media professionals, hand in hand with researchers such as Yolande Geadah, Richard Poulin and Rose Dufour, and called that course "Prostitution and the alienation of women - All you always wanted to know and never dared ask about the links between local prostitution, trafficking in women and children, and organized crime" ? avowed aim “to demystify, in an era of globalization of the sex industry, a discourse trivializing prostitution and the part that pimps and johns play in the degradation of women’s condition" ? While this program would have a section about services provided to prostituted persons and the many difficulties and discriminations they are faced with, it would not try to introduce prostitution as a job to the health, justice and media professionals, or to university staff or any one else. Would the UQAM’s Service to communities give such a project their technical and logistic support, the space and the setting as well as help in obtaining the grant ? I am seriously asking that question.

Here is my answer to I. Demczuk’s response on this subject, published in French on Netfemmes.

M. CARRIER : I would like to comment and ask for more information on Ms Demczuk’s answer to the hypothesis that a community group, women’s group or a worker’s union should propose a course at the University of Quebec in Montreal, called "Prostitution and women’s alienation : links between local prostitution, women and children trade and organized crime".

I. DEMCZUK : "In other words, in the event that a group or many groups asks our service to create a project such as the one described by Ms Carrier, the demand would almost certainly be eligible. The agent’s part in this case would be to receive the demand, to define its objectives and find a teacher in UQAM who would accept to co-direct teaching this course. Still, in the hypothesis which has been raised by Ms Carrier, not one of the three researchers mentioned is a UQAM professor."

M. CARRIER : That is true. And knowing the stand that these researchers have on the subject of prostitution and trafficking, I doubt that they would be employed by UQAM. Nevertheless, aren’t there women researchers in UQAM who work on the subject of women’s trafficking ? Their stand on decriminalization of prostitution and pimps is no public knowledge, because they have not made it public, but who knows, they might be interested to take part in a course such as the one I have described ? At some universities, courses about "The sex industry during the globalization era" are known to be added to the regular program.

I. DEMCZUK : "This has nothing to do with sex work because in many projects that are submitted to us, we fail to find people on the university staff who would have either the time or the expertise to meet with the group’s demand."

M. CARRIER : Is one advised before hand that the project is not bound to be accepted ? "In many projects... we fail to find people on the university staff... Isn’t this an additional reason for accepting outside’s funding which would be as qualified as UQAM’s funding ? This would not be the first time UQAM invites teachers from outside its walls. If the aim of the Service to communities is helping groups within the Montreal community to finalize their projects, then why should it be important to know where the professor comes from ? After all, this is about collaborating with a course that is being provided by a group, just as it is the case for Ms Mensah and the School for Social Work collaborating with a course that is being offered by the Stella Group. Have I understood rightly that the groups who have submitted the projects have created the course and that the teachers and Service to Communities provided the supervision as well as the assistance ?

I. DEMCZUK : "Once the project is shaped, it is either submitted to a joint committee or, depending on the project’s field of interest, to an advisory committee. There is a joint committee for the Protocol UQAM/Relais-femmes that is made up of representing members of Relais-femmes (as well as of the group’s members) and of UQAM (namely IREF). This committee acts as an advisor and takes care of programming and developing the Protocol’s activities."

M. CARRIER : This might be where this still hypothetical project would be stopped if - and I insist in saying IF - the advisory committee was made up of a majority of members who want the recognition of prostitution as a job and the complete decriminalization of prostitution (i.e. of pimps), who see no link between local prostitution and trafficking in women, who are fervent activists for the Stella Group and who cannot bear to read or hear the names of either Richard Poulin or Rose Dufour. By the way, knowing that Relais-femmes and IREF have taken on a similar course as the one described on behalf of the Laval Women Centre by Ana Propovic who has lived through such a course, gives me infinite grounds for thoughts on the subject of feminism. (Read the text.)

I. DEMCZUK : "At this stage, some projects can be put off to a later date because no one is available to help coordinate the Protocol, but we do the best we possibly can in order to efficiently acknowledge the numerous demands from women’s groups."

M. CARRIER : "This could indeed be a good motive for rejecting a project, because the organizing groups would have such a hard time contesting its being put off indefinitely. It would still be possible to argue that the project cannot be done "due to the number of demands emanating from women’s groups." I almost wish I started the project to see how it goes. Would anyone be interested in trying ?

I. DEMCZUK : "As far as looking for funding is concerned, once the partnership for the project has been defined, it is a strategy which implicates each partner in the supervision’s committee. There is no miracle recipe in this field but a partnership is already a plus. Our small team of 4 coordinators in the Department works with a lot of energy in developing all our projects, whether they are big or small."

M. CARRIER : And what if we did not find funding at UQAM but the professors and the organizing groups accepted to participate in the course for free ? Would the office space still be available to us ?

I. DEMCZUK : Everything that is logistic support is part of our job as partners in a project. But groups that organize events can reserve office space with the Department of Buildings and Equipment of UQAM as well, without having to go through our service."

M. CARRIER : Would the space be given for free and can we have a faint idea of the costs for a course that would last as long as, let’s say, the one provided by the Stella Group ?

I. DEMCZUK : "Anyway, I hope it will become clear that we do not choose projects but use the means that are put at our disposal to respond the best we can to the demands of the groups."

M. CARRIER : Sure. I hope it is clear that I believe the Service to communities is both totally objective and unbiased in its choice of projects for the course provided by the Stella Group as well as in its understanding of the subject of decriminalization. In fact, my main problem nowadays is how to consider as being impartial, the links that exist between a university, feminist groups of researchers and the merchandizing of women and human beings in general (which is exactly what prostitution is).

This being said, I believe that the Service to communities at UQAM plays a very important role for women’s activism as well as for the community as a whole. To call upon them is to acknowledge their importance. Yet, one could wish for the selective criteria of groups’ projects and groups’ partners to guarantee against a conflict of interest or even the semblance of it".

I. Demczuk did not answer so this was the end of the discussion.

On Sisyphe, December 3, 2006

Micheline Carrier

Source - -