On the first anniversary of the Conservative government’s controversial new prostitution legislation, sex workers and their advocates are teaming up to shed light on what they call a dangerous law.
The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act makes it legal to sell sex – but not to buy it, promote it, or provide any services related to the act.
Nikki, with the group Sex Workers United Against Violence says that puts women’s lives at risk, because it forces them to take their business underground.
“Now the girls are going into dark alleyways, dark corners, just so they can communicate with the client without having to get the client busted.”
She says a friend of hers was brutally murdered under exactly those circumstances, after taking a John into an alley.
It’s a concern Brenda Belak with the Pivot Legal Society echoes. She says it prevents women from working together or in safe places, and makes them afraid of authority figures.
“It’s making them fearful all the time about interacting with police, and because of that, when they have problems, when they are raped, when they’re robbed by their clients – they can’t go to police.”
The two groups have teamed and launched a campaign aimed at educating sex workers about what their rights are under the law.
Belak says they have created a set of information cards – one breaking down the key terms of what they call a confusing law, and one explaining what the Vancouver Police’s policy on sex work is.
“For several years, the police department worked together with community organizations to put together a set of guidelines that prioritizes sex workers safety over enforcement of the criminal aspect of the law.”
Click to see Pivot and SUAV’s Sex Workers Know Your Rights cards
In the end, Nikki and Belak are hoping to see the law scrapped.
They have written to the justice minister, asking her to move quickly to repeal the law — and to consult with sex workers on any new legislation drafted to replace it.
Nikki says she’s counting on the Liberals to follow through.
“Hopefully they do what they say they were going to do and either repeal it, or totally change it.”
The groups will be on the streets tonight handing out the “know your rights” cards.