Thursday, June 13, 2013
2 sides in sex trade debate clash during Supreme Court of Canada hearing
Bridget Perrier brandishes the "pimp stick" a straightened coat hanger like the one used to "discipline" her when she worked the streets.
"This is what was used to keep me in line for many years," said the 37-year-old, who now helps other women leave the sex trade.
"This was not my choice. It was his choice.
"We need to look at women who are selling sex as victims, we need to criminalize the pimps."
But "Chili Bean" said sex trade workers know all too well the dangers of the laws that "punish us instead of protecting us."
They force them to jump into a customer's car lest both be arrested instead of taking time to check him out, make sure he's not on a "bad date" list and negotiate rules.
"I chose to be in this work for 12 years and I chose to stay in it," said the 45-year-old who wore a "whore power" button.
The two women represent the two placard-waving sides whose chants competed on the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada Thursday.
On one side were the red umbrellas of supporters of the three sex-trade workers whose case was being argued inside, including POWER Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work, Educate and Resist.
They're calling for the full decriminalization of sex work, arguing laws against communicating with johns, living off a prostitute's earnings and running brothels put their lives at risk.
On the other were supporters of the Women's Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution, including groups that represent native women and sexual assault centres, who say prostitution is nothing more than exploitation.
They say women "trapped" in prostitution shouldn't be charged with any crime but there should be no safe haven for "the men who buy, sell and exploit" their bodies.
That amounts to "criminalizing our clients and forcing us into re-education programs," scoffed litigant Valerie Scott to cheers from supporters.
"There is no other legal occupation in Canada in which a worker is prohibited from taking any kind of security precautions," she said.
"We should not be forced to choose between our liberty and our safety."
But opponent Diane Matte argued only a fraction of women in the sex trade are there by choice and what's really needed is help to escape, such as income supports and affordable housing.
"It's not enough to say women should be safer in prostitution," she said.
"Women should be safe by not being in prostitution."
Created: June 14, 2013
Last modified: July 2, 2013
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