FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 21, 2010
HALIFAX: Stepping Stone, an outreach organization for former and current sex workers in Halifax is calling for the British Columbia Court of Appeal to permit a group representing street based sex workers from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to challenge the constitutionality of the laws that criminalize them.
In December of 2008, The BC Supreme Court ruled that the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society (SWUAS), a non-profit society composed of active sex workers along with Sheryl Kiselbach, a former sex worker with 30 years of experience in the sex industry, did not have legal standing to challenge the harmful laws that impede the health and safety of a marginalized population, and that such a challenge must be brought forth by an active individual sex worker.
On January 20 and 21st representatives from SWUAS and counsel from Pivot Legal Society will argue against the standing issue in the BC Court of Appeal. Here in Halifax, representatives of Stepping Stone will continue to monitor the case closely as it has serious access to justice implications for advocacy organizations who support former and current sex workers across the country.
“Courts fail to understand the risks that sex workers face in coming out publically” according to Rene Ross, Stepping Stone Executive Director. “To take this one step further and refuse the right of a former sex worker to challenge these laws is ludicrous. Do former sex workers need to return to the sex trade to challenge these dangerous laws?”
If the appeal is denied, the decision would set a disastrous precedent for organizations such as Stepping Stone who see first hand the damage that our prostitution laws inflicts on sex workers. “Sex workers continue to be pushed into dangerous and un-safe environments as a direct result of our laws” notes Ross, “Organizations such as Stepping Stone are working on the front lines with sex workers. Not only do we understand the issues, we know that expecting active sex workers to launch constitutional challenges against the laws that oppress them is totally unrealistic and places their health and safety in serious jeopardy.
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For media inquiries please contact:
Executive Director, Stepping Stone
(902) 420-0103 (work)
(902) 456-8945 (cell)