Christine Wilson is a former prostitute and a sociologist. This is not her real name.
I am a former hooker, and the first thing that I want you to know is that I would not encourage anyone to enter the sex trade. The second thing I want to say is that Canada’s proposed new prostitution laws couldn’t be more of a disaster.
I’ve heard the triumphant rhetoric from some feminist types who claim the new laws are a glorious victory for women’s rights. Wrong. It is the biggest set back we could have possibly faced.
What the government wants you to believe is that women in the sex trade will now be treated like the victims that they are and the johns will be viewed as the predatory perverts they have always been. That is what Justice Minister Peter Mackay wants you to believe. The reality is very different.
The fact of the matter is regardless of what Mr. MacKay may say; he has effectively condemned his “victims” to a life of working on the streets. Provisions in the legislation that will ban both print and on-line advertising mean that sex trade workers will no longer be able to work from home or in what are known as bawdy houses.
If you can’t advertise, that means you can’t bring the customers to you. You can’t pre-screen your clients and you can’t have a driver or body guard because it will also be illegal for a third party to profit from someone else’s prostitution. That leaves one option - alone on the streets. There simply will be no other way to do it.
The fact is that most hookers work out of ads. I counted 118 such advertisements in one Toronto alternative magazine alone. That means there will be at least 118 more women who will have to turn to street walking if they want to continue work at all. This is the least safe, lowest paid form of sex work there is. Factor in that johns will now pressure the women to jump in the car as fast as possible so they won’t be arrested, and you’re leaving these girls in the most vulnerable position possible.
Don’t think for a moment that these women are really being seen as innocent victims. The government has left itself plenty of room to prosecute hookers when it chooses. It will still be illegal to communicate for the purposes of prostitution, illegal to work on residential streets or anywhere a minor might stumble upon you. They have left themselves a back door to arrest their own victims when it suits them.
Add into it the fact that it will now be a crime for the first time to purchase sex, and what you are effectively left with is an indirect re-criminalization of the sex trade. The streets will be flooded with victims who can be arrested on a technicality, and men who are seen as predators will be sitting ducks for police stings.
This all adds up to a worst case scenario for everyone involved in the trade, with everyone in a more dangerous situation than they were before. The Supreme Court effectively said that laws that endanger sex workers are unconstitutional. What part of that does the government not understand?
There’s another element of this debate that has been completely and deliberately ignored – the plight of male prostitutes. I have not heard one word uttered about the rights of men involved in sex work. You think they’re not out there? A full 10 per cent of the adult ads in that same magazine were for male sex workers.
They face a double stigma. Not only are they prostitutes, but most are gay prostitutes. The government doesn’t want to talk about them. They want them to be invisible. How are they going to like it when the streets are suddenly flooded with male hookers who will also be forced to ply their trade on the side of the road? And how will they be treated? The transsexual prostitutes work the so-called “tranny stroll” on the edge of the gay village in Toronto. Not only is it a residential area, it is right beside a school. I have seen them subjected to much abuse out there on the street from bigoted loudmouths, but now they will also be prime targets for arrest for violating the restrictions placed on them by the new laws. Does anyone really believe this government is sympathetic to their plight and really sees them as innocent victims?
The laws we are now looking at do not treat sex workers like victims and give them a pass; they are creating the circumstances where they are most likely to be victimized. I may have been a hooker, but I’m not dumb. I can see through the smoke and mirrors here. This government is not sincere about protecting sex workers. They are more committed to creating the perception that they are sincere about protecting sex workers, and that’s not the same thing.