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Legalizing prostitution would result in more people being subjected to prostitution?

Legalizing prostitution would result-canada-mileniostadium
Photo: David Ganhão

 

The prostitution came to the news again in the last months because with the pandemic the industry is suffering, and the sex workers didn’t have access to federal benefits. The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, an amending legislation to former Bill C-36 introduced in 2014, criminalized a range of sex trade-related conduct, including purchasing sexual services.

At that time the government explained that according with international studies, some jurisdictions that have decriminalized or legalized prostitution have larger sex industries and higher rates of human trafficking for sexual exploitation than those that seek to reduce the incidence of prostitution. The same is to say that legalizing and regulating prostitution would result in more people being subjected to prostitution. In Canada research shows that the majority of those who sell their own sexual services are women, girls and marginalized groups. Research also shows that prostitution is an extremely dangerous activity that poses a risk of violence and phycological harm to those subjected to it and proves that men are the primarily the purchasers of sexual services, paid access.

Considering that some of the sex workers are women, Milénio Stadium heard the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development (WAGE), a ministry named in 2018.

Milénio Stadium: Between 2009 and 2014, almost half of the people accused of a prostitution-related offence were female. Is this a female job?

WAGE: Violence against women is unacceptable. It continues to be a pervasive problem in Canada with significant health, social and economic costs. For decades, women have been bravely telling their stories, advocating for more support, and demanding action to address gender-based violence (GBV). Our government is committed to preventing and addressing GBV, as well as protecting those in the sex trade, whether they are there by choice or through coercion.In December 2018, new legislation created the Department for Women and Gender Equality, transforming the former Status of Women Canada into an official department of the Government of Canada. This change modernized and formalized, in law, the roles of the Minister and the Department.  With this legislation, Women and Gender Equality Canada was given an expanded mandate for gender equality that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The department works to actively promote the inclusion of all people in Canada’s economic, social, and political life by developing and implementing policies, providing grants and contributions funding to organizations, delivering programs, investing in research, and providing advice to domestic and international partners.

MS: Comparing with other genders, non-status, refugee and immigrant women can experience more violence?

WAGE: In 2017, we launched Canada’s first strategy to prevent and address GBV, It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, a whole-of-government approach to the issue. We have invested over $200M and over $40 million per year ongoing to advance efforts to prevent GBV, support survivors and their families, and promote responsive legal and justice systems, but we know there’s more work to do.We are currently working with our provincial/territorial counterparts, Indigenous organizations, civil society and other partners to build on efforts to date with the development of a National Action Plan to end GBV. This plan is in response to calls from domestics and international organizations for stronger and more unified action against GBV across the country. Both the federal Strategy and the National Action Plan reflect a commitment to addressing the root causes of GBV, supporting survivors, improving access to the justice system and information, and supporting Indigenous-led approaches to ending GBV.

In addition, we continue to support the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girl’s (MMIWG’s) Calls for Justice, in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.

MS: Like all service industries, sex workers have been significantly affected by social-distancing measures and the closure of non-essential business. What kind of help does the government provide to sex workers that can’t work during the pandemic?

WAGE: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for Canadians and has further amplified existing inequalities. Women – and in particular low-income women – have been hit hardest by COVID-19. This is seen through job losses, the reduction in hours worked, over-representation in frontline work, and the additional burden of unpaid care work at home, such as looking after children and providing care for sick relatives. Although some jobs returned as public health restrictions were lifted, the sectors many women work in have been slower to rebound. As announced in the Speech from the Throne, the Government will create an Action Plan for Women in the Economy to help more women get back into the workforce and to ensure a feminist, intersectional response to this pandemic and recovery. This Plan will be guided by a task force of experts whose diverse voices will power a whole of government approach.Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, too many people in Canada were experiencing gender-based violence. COVID-19 shone a light on the shadow pandemic of GBV, as women, girls and gender diverse people experiencing violence face new challenges as a result of isolation measures.

MS: In April, women’s participation in the Canadian workforce fell to 55 per cent, a level last seen in May 1986. Is this a setback?

WAGE: Every Canadian has the right to live and work in safety. That’s why, in the recent Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada committed to accelerate investments in shelters and transition housing and to continue to advance with a National Action Plan to End GBV to ensure that anyone facing GBV has a safe place to turn.

On October 2, 2020, the Honourable Maryam Monsef announced up to $50M in funding to support organizations providing supports and services to those experiencing GBV. This includes: up to $10 million for women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help them continue to provide their critical services safely; up to $10 million to support organizations providing services related to GBV to Indigenous people off-reserve and up to $30 million for other women’s organizations to support the delivery of GBV supports, to help combat the spread of COVID, and to address the increased demand for services. This $50M builds on previous emergency funding provided to women’s shelters, sexual assault centres and other organizations providing GBV services to ensure continuity of services at this challenging time. This brings the total emergency funding provided to GBV organizations to $100 million. Gender-based violence must not be tolerated in Canada, and we will continue to work with Canadians to end it in all of its forms.

Joana Leal/MS

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