Monday, June 10, 2013
Allowing brothels will make things worse for prostitutes
Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford is accustomed to getting her way. That's plainly obvious by the black leather, sado-masochistic outfit she parades around in, including a riding crop.
But many former prostitutes and those who counsel them, really hope Bedford does not get her way at the Supreme Court of Canada. The court will begin hearing the federal government's appeal of two lower court rulings on Wednesday that struck down sections of Canada's anti-prostitution laws.
Bedford, along with two other prostitutes Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott have seen some considerable success so far in Canadian courts.
On Sept. 28, 2010, Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel struck down three sections of Canada's prostitution laws because they exposed sex-trade workers to unreasonable risk.
Himel ruled that communicating for the purposes of prostitution, living on the avails of prostitution and keeping a common bawdy house force sex-trade workers from the safety of their homes and onto the streets, where they are more vulnerable to violence.
The Criminal Code provisions, wrote Himel in her 131-page ruling, "force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their security of the person as protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
Himel's ruling was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court is the end of the line in terms of ensuring that these Criminal Code provisions are not discarded thus legalizing brothels, pimping and potentially even the bold kind of soliciting made so infamous in Amsterdam's red-light district.
Natasha Falle, who calls herself a sex-trade survivor, says "women like me don't think the way to protect women is behind legislated doors."
Speaking at Servants Anonymous' Cry of the Streets Evening of Freedom fundraising event May 30 in Calgary, Falle says more women will be enslaved by human traffickers if those laws are deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Looking much younger than her 40 years, Falle is the founder of Sextrade 101 a public awareness organization and an instructor of police foundations at Humber College in Toronto.
She intends to show up at the Supreme Court next week holding a "pimp stick" an unravelled coat hanger that her pimp would often heat up on the stove and then use to whip her. Other former sex trade survivors will show up with other torture tools commonly used by pimps, such as curling irons and belts.
The daughter of a former Calgary police officer who, ironically, worked in the vice department, and a mother who worked in a bridal salon, Falle says she turned her first trick in Calgary's Chinatown when she was 14 with a man with rotten teeth.
Her parents had split up and her family life fell apart. Falle started sleeping on friends' couches until she wound up on the sofa of four young prostitutes whose pimp was out of town. Pretty soon, Falle followed their lead. At least they had a place to live and food to eat.
"I was trafficked across the country by the man who recruited me and who made false white-picket-fence intimacy promises," Falle told the crowd.
"I made a lot of money. I bought my pimp a Mercedes. I had a Mustang, we lived in a penthouse, but I was still subjected to all of the violence," she said. "He broke my arms, my ribs; my nose has been broken three times."
Her point? This happened indoors. Not on the streets. The former prostitute says the worst beating she ever got was in a common bawdy house she shared with four other teens, so the idea that there's safety in numbers is a myth.
Falle asks Canadians to consider what will happen to young women and girls should those prostitution laws be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Prostitution will become a licensed business, pimps will be legitimate business people, billboards advertising brothels could start appearing on roadsides and "a brothel could open up in the apartment next to yours or in the house next to yours," Falle says.
While prostitution is legal in Canada, running a bawdy house, living off of the avails and soliciting for the purposes of prostitution are not.
"If we legalize these three areas, will brothels be allowed to set up a booth at the high school job fair?" she asks.
Just last month, two men were arrested in the Toronto area after recruiting a teenage Windsor girl to work in a strip club. They then took her to Toronto, where they forced her to prostitute herself.
"I think many well-meaning Canadians support Bedford's challenge against Canada's prostitution laws because they believe it will help vulnerable women," Falle says. "But they are mistaken. It will make things much worse. It will legitimize pimping and human trafficking. It will enslave more women and girls."
Calgary police vice detective Paul Rubner says if the Supreme Court strikes down the prostitution laws, his job will be made "significantly more challenging."
Marina Giacomin, executive director of Servants Anonymous Society of Calgary, says of the more than 100 women and children her agency helps annually to shelter and transition out of the sex trade, none wants to see prostitution legitimized.
"In Holland and Germany, where prostitution is fully legalized, they're realizing organized crime is growing as a result. Young Eastern European women are lured by promises of a job as a nanny and are tricked into a life of violence and servitude," Giacomin says.
Falle states the obvious: "It's not Canada's laws that make prostitution unsafe, it's the nature of the business the johns who are raping and abusing the women and their pimps."
Here's hoping the Supreme Court will not be fooled into lending legitimacy to the oldest oppression in the world.
Licia Corbella is a columnist and the editorial page editor.
Copyright © The Calgary Herald
Created: June 12, 2013
Last modified: July 2, 2013
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