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legal brothel in vancouver for 2010 olympics?

January 9th, 2008     by Thea Lim     Comments

We’re a little bit late on this topic: in November of last year, the sex worker’s organisation British Columbia Coalition of Experiential Women put in a proposal to open a “co-op” or legal brothel in Vancouver. The hope is that such a space will provide a safer working environment for sex workers when the city receives thousands of visitors for the 2010 Olympics. Interestingly some Vancouver politicians, including Mayor Sam Sullivan, are in support of the proposal.

Obviously this proposal has generated a great deal of controversy - but most notably from groups like X-PALSS (Ex-Prostitutes Against Legislated Sexual Servitude) and the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network.

X-PALSS has released a statement saying:

…We believe that no amount of changing the conditions or the locations in which we were prostituted could ever have significantly reduced that harm. We experience the normalizing of that harm by calling it “work” insulting at best…It matters very little to us whether we were prostituted on the streets or in the tolerated indoor venues and escort agencies of Vancouver…We oppose any measure that would put more power in the hands of the men who abused us by telling them that they are legally entitled to do so. This proposal does not speak for us, would not have affected our level of safety in a way that matters, and would not have spared us the harm that is inherent in prostitution.

The Aborginal Women’s Network says in a similar statement:

We have a long, multi-generational history of colonization, marginalization, and displacement from our Homelands, and rampant abuses that has forced many of our sisters into prostitution…The Aboriginal Women’s Action Network opposes the legalization of prostitution, and any state regulation of prostitution that entrenches Aboriginal women and children in the so-called “sex trade.” We hold that legalizing prostitution in Vancouver will not make it safer for those prostituted, but will merely increase their numbers…[legalizing prostitution] would only serve to make prostitution safer and more profitable for the men who exploit and harm prostituted women and children.

Having been primarily exposed to 3rd Wave feminist writings that advocate for the rights of sex workers, and often encourage readers to see sex work as positive, valid work, (Here’s a good e.g.: $pread Magazine, is a magazine for sex workers that exists to support the “right to self-determination; to choose how we make a living and what we do with our bodies. We aim to build community and destigmatize sex work by providing a forum for the diverse voices of individuals working in the sex industry.”), I’m not sure what to think.

What do you think? Is sex work inherently harmful? Would decriminalising it make it better? As feminists, should we support women’s choices to do whatever they would like to do to make a living, or should we be opposed to sex work in any form? Can people who have no first-hand experience of sex work (like me) really speak to this topic?

Also, does anybody know what happened to the proposal? My excellent Googling skills have failed me and I can’t find any info on what the verdict was.

Tags: body politics, news flash

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