Social Workers being recruited by abolitionist camp

The BC Association of Social Workers heard today,
November 8, in Vancouver from Shelagh Day, a founding member of LEAF (Legal
Education and Action Fund) and international Human Rights expert, and from Lee
Lakeman, a worker at Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter and
co-ordinator of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres. Both
discussed the legal challenges being put forward by representatives of the
prostitution industry before the Ontario Superior Court, who want to see all
sections of the Criminal Code dealing with prostitution struck from the law:
total decriminalization.


Contrary to the BC Civil Liberties Association also
represented on the panel, that advocates for full decriminalization, including
that of the behavior of pimps, procurers, brothel owners and clients, Lakeman
and Day argued for an immediate decriminalization of soliciting by prostituted
people, but for a reinforcement of criminal sanctions against the people who
exploit them.


Using both Human Rights and substantive equality
arguments, in a panel titled “What is The Harm,” they reminded
their audience of social workers of the very real harms inflicted on women by
the sex industry and by “johns”, and situated the industry’s
proposal in the framework of a neo-liberal push for deregulation of corporate
interests and of wholesale destruction of social programs.


They explained that the decriminalization of selling sex
but the sanctioning of its purchase and exploitation by 3rd parties was proving
very successful in Sweden – which has experienced a 90% reduction in
human trafficking for sexual purposes over the last decade. This policy has now
been adopted in Norway and Iceland, while full decriminalization had had
devastating results in Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand and is starting
to be rolled back, having not realized its advocates’ promises.


The BC social workers in attendance were very supportive;
there was no hostility at all in the room. When asked for a show of hands, they
showed almost total agreement that we should decriminalize the women the few
men and of course the children prostituted, but criminalize the buying of sex.
There was general agreement that we needed to create proper social programs for
all, plus exit services for prostituted women, but for sure no
decriminalization for johns, pimps, procurers, or bawdyhouse profiteers. The
organizers seemed delighted with the turnout and this consensus.


Martin Dufresne


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