Addressing the question of sex work & human rights

Trigger Warning: Discussion of discrimination, domestic violence, rape, slavery,  violence 

I have heard many activist stating that to be “pro-sex work” supporting human rights. I personally do not feel that being “pro-sex work” is the proper human rights approach. The reason why I hesitate to show support for “pro-sex work” is because I feel it perpetuates the status quo of women as non-human commercial goods, which is exactly what I stand against.

“We didn’t feel valued as humans in their hands.” – Nadia Murad

I highly recommend that you take a moment to read Nadia’s story and learn about her mission to help women and children who have survived genocide, mass atrocities and human trafficking to health and rebuild their lives and communities.

I realise that when people talk about sex-work they are not talking about human trafficking, but changing the term “prostitution” for “sex-work” conveys neutrality, and in doing so it desensitises us to violence and disguises the exploitation of women globally. It doesn’t solve the problem, simply hides it behind the idea that women willingly choose to sell their bodies.

“Prostitution happens to you because of troubles you had. In reality no woman would choose to do that.” – Catherine Deneuve

beauty-422700_1920Many sex workers who voluntarily go into the business, not for money, but because they are troubled people with no social support structure, they see it as their only choice. I don’t know anyone who dreamed of being a sex worker when they were a child. There will always be a few of course who want to earn money this way but I suspect it is a very low percentage.

That being said, I do not agree when sex-trafficking victims are treated like criminals in court. Cuffs shouldn’t be used on victims.  They shouldn’t be charged with prostitution or solicitation, but saved from the traffickers who took them away from their families in the first place.  In fact, the arrest many reports show that arresting both the victim and the pimp only contributes to trauma bonding. It also makes it almost impossible for these victims to get regular jobs when they get a criminal record for prostitution. There is a very little support system. It’s a huge reason why many return to their traffickers. The sad part is that the government doesn’t allocate funds necessary to properly rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of trafficking.

“Even a criminal has the right to a new life, but they made sure I did not have that. They just didn’t stop calling me a prostitute for ever and ever and ever and ever.” – Christine Keeler

No matter where you stand on the subject or if this is the first time you read hear about it, this is an important conversation to have. Really really important. A lot of people’s lives depend on it. It shouldn’t be a dirty little secret and only affect others. It should be at the forefront of discussion.

“The worst part about prostitution is that you’re obliged not to sell sex only, but your humanity. That’s the worst part of it: that what you’re selling is your human dignity. Not really so much in bed, but in accepting the agreement, in becoming a bought person.” – Kate Millett

seduction-1957736_1920I have been reading a lot and listening to survivors who have shared their stories. What I have learned so far is that the majority of those within the sex trade are female and are disproportionate of colour (Black, Asian, Native, etc.), in poverty, who didn’t have access to proper education, many taken when underage and almost always come from the most marginalised groups in society. The reason for this is that people of any other race than “white” do not get as much media attention when they go missing. It’s much easier to get away with the crime.

In Canada, native women have gone missing for years without much media, police and justice system’s attention. It is only now starting and even the current effort doesn’t seem nearly enough.

I have also learned that only a handful of human trafficking victims survives to lead a different life. It’s extremely difficult to get out once you are in.

“People who live outside the law feel that they can’t turn to the law for protection. Prostitutes are regularly beaten and even killed with little recourse.” – Wendy Gittleson

door-1587023_1920I had a brush with a network of online paedophiles and children pornography a while back. When I first called the police to report my findings, the person on the other end of the line thought I was an over paranoid parent. I was so angry that I hung up on him and went to work. As a computer geek, I have some skills that many parents don’t and was able to get enough information that the police were unable to ignore. It was only then that I was transferred to the police department that takes care of sex crimes. I finally spoke with policemen who cared but had their hands tied because of inadequate laws. It is so frustrating and terrifying.

No matter how much I read about it, my knowledge will never be pertinent enough. I feel that this is a cause that should be putting sex trade survivors’ voice front and centre.

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