Saturday, June 8, 2013

Maryam Shah


Sex workers march in support of legal ruling

Sex Workers march in downtown Toronto during a National Day of Action on June 8, 2013. PHOTO: Stan Behal/Toronto Sun
PHOTO: Stan Behal/Toronto Sun
Sex Workers march in downtown Toronto during a National Day of Action on June 8, 2013.

TORONTO — Around 100 sex workers and their supporters chanted, "No bad whores, only bad laws!" as they called for the decriminalization of prostitution in Canada in a march from Moss Park to Allan Gardens on Saturday.

The rally was one of several across Canada and comes days before a June 13 Supreme Court hearing on the federal government's appeal of an Ontario Superior Court ruling that would make brothels legal.

The uphill battle to reform prostitution laws began four years ago as a constitutional challenge brought by three women.

One of them, dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, argues sex workers should be allowed to protect themselves legally.

"In all other professions in Canada there are health and safety laws in place," Bedford said. "Why not here?"

The Supreme Court of Canada is also scheduled to hear from sex-trade workers on a current ban on soliciting.

Chanelle Gallant works with Maggie's: Toronto Sex Workers Action Project. She said they were surprised that of the 21 intervenors granted status to speak at the hearing, not many represented the sex trade.

"So we see organizations that have sort of a moral stake in sex work but what we don't see are a lot of people who are directly impacted by the legislation," Gallant said.

While there is no solid figure for the number of people working in Toronto's sex industry — spanning from exotic dancers to web-cammers — she said there were likely thousands.

People at the rally ranged from young to old, yelling: "Two-four-six-eight, whores don't need a state!"

It's not just about sex workers, according to Bedford. It's about freedom.

"We have every right to protect ourselves, we have every right to have sex with who we want, when we want, wherever we want," she said. "And what's the government going to do, hire bedroom police and start spying on each other now? Make a report that if Mrs. Jones has more than one visitor a week, we want to know?"

Current laws don't allow sex workers to communicate but screening clients is important to their safety, Bedford said.

"They need to know that they don't have a serial killer, they need to ask pertinent questions," she said.

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Created: June 11, 2013
Last modified: July 2, 2013
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