To the Mayor and Councillors
c/o City Clerk's Office
City of Vancouver
City Hall
453 West 12th Ave.
Vancouver, B.C.
V5Y 1V4

August 12th, 1996

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

Please find enclosed:

In recent weeks there has been some discussion among Council members about introducing a "john school" program to address the issue of street prostitution in Vancouver. We would like to take this opportunity to present the side of the equation which is invariably overlooked -- that of the prostitutes themselves.

The first john school was established in San Francisco, primarily through the efforts of a former prostitute and heroin addict who endured some particularly violent incidents on the street. Despite efforts from prostitutes' and women's rights groups in San Francisco to present a more balanced approach, the school insists on perpetuating the myth that all streetworkers regard themselves as victims of exploitation, and that they are incapable of speaking on their own behalf. The woman behind the program has repeatedly expressed her contempt for all johns, and places her personal agenda of abolishing prostitution above more immediate concerns such as preventing the spread of HIV and empowering sex workers.

The Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver (SWAV) represents individuals from all facets of the sex trade, including those who work on the street. These are the people most directly affected by anti-prostitution initiatives, yet they are also the last to be consulted when motions such as the proposed john school come up. It is therefore SWAV's intention to ensure that sex workers' voices are heard. While we acknowledge that street prostitution does violate Section 213 of the Criminal Code, there are factors which prevent streetworkers from changing how they work. There are no legal venues for prostitution; working out of your home ("keeping a common bawdy house") is a more serious charge which carries a heavier sentence. You can't work out of your home if you have kids. As well there are problems such as homelessness and addictions. We believe that resources would be much better spent addressing these factors rather than introducing a measure intended to "starve" them off the street -- a blatant contradiction in its own right -- by targetting their clients.

In the enclosed package, we have clearly outlined the drawbacks of john schools. As you will see, not only is their effectiveness questionable, but they operate on a shaky legal foundation and offer no solutions for prostitutes who want to get off the street. We urge you to read through this material carefully, and would welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you further. Please feel free to contact SWAV at 488-0710 at any time if you have any questions or would like to arrange a meeting.


the Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver


News about john school... [SWAV Letters] [Rights Groups]

Created: August 12, 1996
Last modified: March 6, 1999
SWAV Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710