August 7, 1996

The Campaign to Decriminalize
Adult Prostitution
GRIP Quebec PIRG McGill
3647 Universite
Montreal (QC)
H3A 2B3

Thank you for your letter of July 12, 1996. The Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver appreciates your endeavour but we will need some time to decide if we endorse the policies of the campaign.

Personally I'm hedging on the "adult" prostitution part. I understand the wish to not get tangled in the controversies of young people and sex work but I feel that ethically, I cannot skirt the issue. I left home when I turned 17. Should have done it sooner. I can't sell out the rights of young people for the off chance that the government will address prostitution in a way that will make the workplace better and not worse. (There are many sex workers out there who believe that decriminalization will ruin the business too. There's too much competition as it is. Our incomes have decreased fairly dramatically in the last ten years.)

I think it is a mistake not to talk about juvenile prostitution since it is the first question opponents will raise anyway. Why sell out the rights of young people? This topic should be discussed within the parameters of workplace health and safety. How often do we see the media hysterical about a workplace accident of someone 17 years old, in a mine or on a pipeline? What aoub the exploitation of younger workers by non-unionized corporations?

If you truly believe that sex work is work then why would you exclude people under the age of 18 years from sex work and not other jobs with safety hazards? If your goal is to make the workplace safer, by removing laws, then your refusal to address laws about juvenile prostitution suggests that you believe that people under the age of 18 years are unable to make decisions about work if it involves sex. But the age of consent for sex in Canada is 14 years.

Which labour laws govern the age someone can legally work? Maybe the age is too high? Maybe young people who chose to not longer live with their parents need the right to work at jobs other than prostitution as well as access too training and education financial support.

The definition of sex work is very broad in the context of developing regulations. What kind of regulation for safety does phone sex need for instance? Why would someone have to be 18 years old to do that? What if the government decided that there are things (like to do with age) you are not allowed to talk about and that phone sex lines should be monitored? This would be a huge step back for free speech.

I have some other concerns as well:

Section VI: If you must say "must" be regulated, (Section III) then don't leave the job to politicians, public health officials, police and lawyers etc.. Your current formula would NOT put sex workers on an equal footing. Equal representation (and decision making power) for sex workers, with so manyh other categories of people who don't work in the sex industry, will mean that sex worker representation will be reduced to being token.

Workers' safety standards must be developed by the people working in, and knowledgable about, the sex industry. We need the right to unionize first then for the union to develop safety regulations in consultation with workers and Workers' Compensation, Safety Councils and perhaps some other supportive experts. This process should be stated explicitly. (Brothel workers have recently unionized in Victoria, Australia.)

Section V should state the actual names of the crimes, i.e. assault, extortion, theft, etc.

Section VIII: I don't think programs to educate the public should be run by the government at all. How about developing programs with Workers' Compensation or unions?

You can get instructions on how to write a proper legal petition to the federal government from Sven Robinson's office. (I've lost my copy.)

I hope I have not been too frank and offended anyone. I really do support your efforts.

Have an arrest-free day!

Andrew Sorfleet
for the Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver


When Sex Works... [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