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#Notalljohns: Notes from the hearings on Bill C-36

The hearings on Bill C-36, the federal government’s proposed prostitution law, continued today. You can watch all of the testimonies, which began on Monday, on CPAC. Today’s hearings featured, among many others, john-advocate, Chris Atchison (begins at about 10:30), who began his testimony by stating that he is not an advocate “for any individual, group, organization, or moral position on the sex industry.” Atchison, in his own words, “stud and does research with adults who are involved in the purchase of sexual services.” To be clear, Atchison’s work focuses on destigmatizing johns and he advocates for their decriminalization. He is not a neutral party on the issue (not that I believe anyone should be or is neutral on this issue). Regarding the question of whether “prostitution is inherently exploitative,”...
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Podcasts

PODCAST: Janine Benedet & Alice Lee on Canada’s proposed prostitution legislation, Bill C-36

In 2007, lawyer, Alan Young, initiated a case challenging Canada’s prostitution laws as unconstitutional. After the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the laws criminalizing pimping, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, and running a brothel, the federal government was given a year to come up with new laws. Bill C-36, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, was unveiled on June 4th. Justice Minister Peter MacKay called it a “uniquely Canadian response.” The Bill explicitly targets demand and exploitation, criminalizing those who buy sex and those who profit from the exploitation of prostitutes. It also prohibits advertising sexual services unless a person is advertising their own services. One provision that is concerning to many advocates is that the proposed legislation would criminalize communicating for the purposes of...
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C-36: Some initial thoughts on Canada’s new prostitution bill

Most of you are likely aware by now that Canada’s federal government has unveiled their new prostitution bill. I wrote about it for VICE this week and based on talking to a number of women on the issue, here are the conclusions I’ve come to for the time being. I say “for the time being” because I think at this point we’re still speculating about the purpose of one particular (problematic) provision. Ok. So first a very brief summary of key aspects of the proposed legislation, called Bill C-36, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act: buying sex is criminalized pimping is criminalized advertising for sexual services is criminalized unless it is the prostitute themselves who is doing the advertising prostituted people are decriminalized BUT there is a...
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In prostitution, ‘race, class, and sex intersect in the worst of ways to subjugate Native women’

Last month CTV News aired a short documentary as part of their “First Story” series, called “Stepping from the Shadows,” which looks at indigenous women and prostitution, the Bedford decision, and how the future of Canada’s prostitution laws could impact indigenous women and girls in Canada. The documentary features women such as Jackie Lynne, Cherry Smiley, Summer-Rain Bentham and Mona Woodward, who describe the ways poverty, racism, sexism, and violence lead indigenous women into prostitution and keep them there. “Race, class, and sex intersect in the worst ways to subjugate Native women — and in the act of prostitution it’s the most racist, the most sexist… And the man holds all of the economic power in that,” Lynne says. Indigenous women and girls are overrepresented in street prostitution and...
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Podcasts

PODCAST: Amnesty International supports legalizing prostitution & Canada strikes down their current laws. What’s next?

Last month a proposal from Amnesty International advocating for the legalization of prostitution was leaked. Feminists and women’s rights organizations around the world were appalled — why was an organization that had done so much work for human rights legitimizing a violent and exploitative industry such as prostitution? Why were they advocating for men’s “right to buy sex?” Meanwhile Canada will be drafting new legislation with regard to prostitution as the Supreme Court struck down the current ones as unconstitutional. On January 28th, I spoke with Rachel Moran, activist and author of “Paid For:My Journey Through Prostitution;” Bridget Perrier, a prostitution survivor and co-founder and First Nations educator at Sextrade 101; and Kathleen Barry, Professor Emerita, author of Female Sexual Slavery, and founder of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women...
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Supreme Court of Canada removes laws criminalizing prostitution: What’s next?

I’m glad I was partially wrong in my reflections yesterday about the impending Supreme Court of Canada decision in Bedford. The Court did not follow the lead of the Ontario Court of Appeal by letting the laws pertaining to street prostitution stand. All the laws fall on the s. 7 Charter guarantee of security of the person. That seems ironic to some of us – since prostitution itself, indoor and outdoor, is the greatest threat to women’s security. But there it is. We have achieved one of our goals with resounding success: all women are now decriminalized if the Supreme Court regime stands and some of the most vulnerable women in prostitution – those who work on the streets – have not been ignored. This is a victory to...
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Press release: Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry Continue to Fight for the Abolition of Prostitution

As Indigenous women and girls who have experienced centuries of colonial male violence, the decision by The Supreme Court of Canada to strike down the existing prostitution laws comes as no surprise. Our histories, our laws and traditions, and our worldviews have been purposefully omitted from the Supreme Court decision. Once again, not only our voices, but our bodies and our lives have been dismissed as inconsequential. As women and girls indigenous to this land, who have resisted centuries of colonial oppression, we assert our right to our lands, cultures, laws, and body sovereignty. We reject any ruling that interferes with these unalienable rights. We pledge to continue in the proud tradition of our Mothers and Grandmothers and to continue to fight for our children and grandchildren.We are in...
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Elizabeth Pickett reflects on the future implications of Bedford v. Canada before the decision

Before the Bedford case comes down to us from on high on Friday, I have a few reflections. I’ve said since the case came before the courts that I think the timing of the constitutional challenge just couldn’t be worse — not just for all those women (and young men) in the sex exploitation industry — but also for women like Terri-Jean Bedford and Valerie Scott who claim to have chosen their life’s work as completely free agents (sometimes it seems they are saying prostituted women are the only truly free agents in the free market world). I say that because in these neoliberal and neoconservative times, I can’t see how even they are going to get what they want. What they want is the complete decriminalization of all...
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Podcasts

PODCAST: Reflections on Bedford v. Canada: An interview with Janine Benedet

On June 13th, Bedford v. Canada was heard before the Supreme Court of Canada. The case is a legal challenge to Canada’s prostitution laws. Currently, in Canada, it isn’t technically illegal to buy sex, but many of the laws surrounding prostitution criminalize it: communicating for the purposes of prostitution, operating a bawdy house (brothel), or living off the avails of prostitution (pimping). The debate around prostitution and prostitution law is often discussed as though there are only two options: legalization or complete criminalization. But many women’s groups across the country argue that Canada should adopt a more feminist model of law. The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution, comprised of a number of groups, including: Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the...
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Podcasts

PODCAST: An interview with the directors of ‘Buying Sex’

Filmmakers, Teresa MacInnes and Kent Nason set out to explore the various models of prostitution law across the world and the impacts on women in the industry. They spoke with johns, sex workers, law enforcement officers, academics, experts, and government officials. Much of the film is focused on the Bedford v. Canada case, scheduled for hearing on June 13th at the Supreme Court of Canada, and feature interviews with both the plaintiffs and their lawyer, Alan Young. ‘Buying Sex’ recently showed at Hot Docs, Toronto’s documentary film festival and will be available to the public, on the National Film Board of Canada’s website, as of June 6, 2013*. Listen to the podcast below. *EDIT: June 7, 2013 — The dates the film will be available to view online have...
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Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution granted leave to intervene in Bedford case

The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution, a pan-Canadian coalition of equality-seeking women’s groups, has, as of today, been granted leave to intervene in the Bedford case, scheduled for hearing on June 12, 2013 at the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court will decide whether or not to keep the current prostitution laws (which criminalize communicating for the purposes of prostitution, running a brothel, and pimping) or strike any or all of them down. The Coalition consists of: Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS), the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (CASAC), Le Regroupement Québécois des Centres d’Aide et de Lutte contre les Agressions à Caractère Sexuel (CALACS), la Concertation des Luttes contre...
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Is this journalism? A response to DiManno and The Toronto Star’s falsification of the prostitution debates

A piece published in the Toronto Star over the weekend may have led you to believe it would, as the headline: “Feminists take opposite stands on prostitution” alludes, explore different feminist positions on prostitution and prostitution law. The author, Rosie DiManno (“one of the Star’s best and most prolific writers“!), immediately trips all over herself in an attempt to rile up some page views by framing feminist positions on prostitution as “completely oppositional,” following through with a 1300 word story she made up in her head about feminism. Cool story, Rosie! Oh wait, are we pretending this is journalism? Sweet. As much as the prostitution debates in feminism are divisive, they aren’t “oppositional” (though, I don’t know how many more times I can point this out without feeling like...
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Podcasts

PODCAST: Indigenous women & prostitution: An interview with Cherry Smiley

Prostitution is a gendered issue, but it’s also an issue that is very much tied to class and race. Canada’s history of colonialism is not something to be ignored when looking at both causes of and solutions to prostitution. In this episode, I speak with Cherry Smiley, co-founder of Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (IWASI), a volunteer group of radical feminists from many nations committed to the abolition of prostitution and pornography. Listen to that interview below: Podcast: Play in new window | Download...
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A quick note on accuracy & the prostitution debates

Because it’s difficult to have a genuine conversation or debate when we are presented with inaccurate information, I just wanted to write a quick post to respond to this post that went up a last week over at Gender Focus. The post was initially written about a recent decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada to grant public interest standing to Sheryl Kiselbach and a group called Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV) which, rather than having much to do (yet) with prostitution and prostitution law (aside from the fact that the group wants standing in order to challenge prostitution law in B.C.), is relevant in terms of public-interest litigation and who can launch constitutional challenges of the criminal code. The federal government had originally argued that the...
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All the abusive men I've known seemed super nice at first

It’s true. I’ve known more than one abusive man in my day. Some I knew intimately and some were only acquaintances. You know, just friends of friends. Some men still think it’s ok to maintain friendships with abusive men dontchaknow. At a certain point someone might accidentally let it slip that so-and-so, you know, that guy we party with, you know, maybe tormented or threatened or tried to strangle his girlfriend, and funny thing! I wouldn’t want to hang out with those dudes anymore. How awkward for everyone. “Meghan, Meghan – we don’t acknowledge those things.” “Hey! Buddy never abused me so who knows, right? His girlfriend is probably lying about that abuse.” If you don’t see it with your own eyes you should just assume it isn’t happening...
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My response to the Simone de Beauvoir Institute's statement on the Bedford decision and on prostitution law in Canada

The Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University  is “a college of Concordia University dedicated to studying feminisms and questions of social justice.” It is, essentially, the Women’s Studies Department at Concordia University. Following the Bedford v. Canada decision, they released a statement “applauding” the ruling. Here is the response I sent earlier today: I am beyond appalled that a university Women’s Studies department would take a public position on this issue, never mind such an anti-feminist one. The purpose of academia is to learn, to critique, to further discourse. You are in a position to influence many young women who are perhaps only beginning their foray into feminist theory and it is your job to support them in developing the skills and foundations to come to their own...
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The Latest in Bedford v Canada: What does it mean?

This is a guest post by Laura Johnston, re-printed with permission of the author and originally published at The F Word. Laura is a law student who worked for Janine Benedet, counsel for the Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution, an intervener in Bedford v Canada.   The Ontario Court of Appeal released its judgment in Bedford v Canada on March 26, 2012. Much of the media coverage has presented this as a startling new shift in Canadian law that “swept aside” prostitution laws. However, the judgment was actually an appeal of a trial decision of the Ontario Superior Court made in 2010 and much of Canada’s prostitution laws have remained intact. There are many things to address in this lengthy judgment, but in this post I just want...
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