Vancouver legal society continues push for decriminalization of sex work

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There’s a renewed push for the decriminalization of sex work in Canada, with half a dozen Vancouver sex workers reporting negative or violent incidents each week.

As the world marks International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, which remembers sex workers lost to violence, Pivot Legal Society is highlighting how violence and stigma persist in BC.

“What people don’t hear about on the nightly news are the number of bad dates that a reported [by sex workers] every week in Vancouver. At least five or six reports are made on a weekly basis,” Kerry Porth, who is on Pivot Legal Society’s board of directors, says.

“Most of those reports are not made to the police due to ongoing distrust of the police by sex workers. So there’s an awful lot of situational and predatory violence that continues to happen that’s not being addressed.”

She says the continued criminalization of many aspects of sex work in Canada pushes sex work into unsafe, underground environments.

“I think the biggest thing that sex workers want and have wanted for more than 40 years is decriminalization of sex work. So decriminalizing all aspects of adult, consenting sex work,” Porth says.

“We’re really calling on the Justice Minister to meet with sex workers to talk about a legal regime that would protect their rights.”

Pivot Legal Society is also looking into whether a Charter challenge is a feasible option.

“Sex workers really don’t want to do that. Those are costly activities to engage in. We already won a Charter challenge. But it has enormous cost to the individuals who appear as plaintiffs. And so we would much rather just work with the government who said they would repeal these laws to do just that.”

Nearly three years ago, the federal government adopted Bill C-36, which explicitly outlawed the buying, but not the selling of sex. It also gave police new powers to prosecute those who advertise sex work.

PACE Society, which works with and for sex workers in Vancouver, is holding an event to mark the day.

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