August 13-20, 1998. Vol. 32 No. 1599


p. 7.

Childhood-Prostitution Article Sparks Debate

Tara Shortt's otherwise excellent article on child prostitution ["Childhood Lost," August 6-13] fails to adequately address the problem of this activity occuring in and around residential areas. I live on a block adjacent to the so-called "kiddy stroll" around Victoria, Pandora, and Semlin, "one of the main areas where johns buy sex from children on the street." Shortt documents the evening and early-morning activity on the stroll itself, but she doesn't mention what my neighbours and I witness on a daily basis, night and day, in our backyards: young girls crouched in our doorways, hedges and parking lots, smoking crack and shooting heroin.

Almost every evening I encounter one or two girls passed out or completely stoned in my parking lot. They tell me that they consider it a safe haven from the industrial side of Semlin Drive, where at night they are often beaten for their drugs and in the day chased away by business owners. I ask them to move on for the sake of the children who live in my building, but where the hell are they supposed to go? To someone else's backyard? It's obvious that chasing the girls away, like some communities such as Mt. Pleasant and New Westminster are doing, is not a proper solution.

Shortt states that "Discouraging clients from conducting their business in residential neighbourhoods is one of the Vancouver vice unit's priorities." The only evidence she cites for this, however, is the "Dear John" program, which "has been operating for the past few years." Obviously, this program isn't working since this neighbourhood is getting worse, not better. Besides, it is not clear to me how that program is going to stop the girls from shooting up in my backyard.

Perhaps most Vancouverites think this is someone else's problem, but it the current trend of driving prostitutes away continues, and it will if governments continue to drag their feet on this issue, then they will soon find it appearing in their backyards, or worse yet, happening to their daughters. What is needed are enlightened solutions that benefit these young girls, which in turn, will benefit all of society.

Perry Bulwer

It was with some dismay that I read Tara Shortt's article "Childhood Lost." She made it sound as if my problem with municipalities licensing prostitution in body rubs and escort services is that men can buy sex with impunity in off-street venues. That is not my point of view.

I do not believe that children should be involved in prostitution, nor should they smoke, drink, or drive. However, consenting adults who want to sell or buy sex should be allowed to -- and, indeed, in Canada, they are.

When it comes to the political hypocrisy surrounding prostitution, my problem is with the municipal politicians who. because they don't want to be seen to condone prostitution, refuse to talk about where street prostitutes and their customers should meet. At the same time, these politicians are actively involved in licensing off-street prostitution, the high-priced end of the business. It's time for all politicians in Canada to acknowledge that prostitution is legal and talk openly about where prostitutes should meet clients and conduct their business. Once we do this, we will be in a position to direct customers away from children and youth on the street (and anywhere else, for that matter) and prosecute those who don't get the message.

But if that is all we do, we will not have done nearly enough for street-involved children and youth. We need to recognize that for them, prostitution in a solution, not a problems, and until we provide a better solution -- from their point of view -- we will only have delayed the inevitable. In this respect, our main objective would be to create situations where people don't feel compelled to prostitute because of economic necessity, not feed the prohitionist mentality that creates many of the problems we currently associate with adult prostitution.

John Lowman
Professor, school of criminology
Simon Fraser University

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Created: August 24, 1998
Last modified: August 24, 1998

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