Newly appointed Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has set her sights on repealing Canada’s anti-sex work laws. Maclean’s reports that Canada’s new anti-sex work laws are one of three major priorities for the Minister. The law is called the Protecting Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA). It came into effect in December 2014 as a result of the Supreme Court’s Bedford decision.
Regional updates: North America and the Caribbean
The North America and the Caribbean Region is made up of several country and regional networks, including a variety of organisations in Canada, the United States, and throughout the Caribbean.
Serpent Libertine (SWOP-Chicago), USA.
Quincy McEwan, (Guyana Sex Work Coalition), Caribbean
NSWP member organisation SWOP USA launched a campaign to end PEPFAR’s “anti-prostitution loyalty oath,” in November. The campaign is in collaboration with SWOP Philadelphia, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, Desiree Alliance, and Best Practices Policy Project. All are NSWP member organisations. PEPFAR stands for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. It is a United States funder that provides money for local and international projects aimed at reducing HIV transmission. PEPFAR is one of the largest global funders of HIV prevention money, with a budget of $6.73 billion as of 2014.
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer failed to appear in a US Congressional Hearing on November 19th. Ferrer may face contempt charges as a result. “Definance of a congressional subpoena is rare and it’s serious,” said Senator Rob Portman. Portman and Senator Claire McCaskill are leading a subcommittee investigation into Backpage’s supposed involvement in ‘sex trafficking’.
NSWP member organisation Butterfly – Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Network have called for an end to anti-trafficking campaigns in Canada. Joining the call are No One Is Illegal, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, STRUT, and NSWP member organisations Migrant Sex Workers Project and Maggie’s: Toronto’s Sex Worker Action Project. The group of organisations are centering the voices of migrant sex workers. Migrant sex workers in Canada face police harassment, arrest, detention, and deportation.
California voters will have the chance to vote on restricting porn performers to using condoms next year. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the upcoming 2016 vote earlier this month, according to the Washington Post. The vote comes after several years of campaigning by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
Sex workers in Vancouver, Canada, are planning to create a permanent memorial for their coworkers. Sex workers announced their plans at a community meeting on November 4, 2015.
The West End Sex Work Memorial Project was founded by sex worker activist Jamie Lee Hamilton and sociologist Becki Ross of the University of British Columbia. The memorial is planned for Vancouver’s West End, an area where many sex workers worked in the 1970s-80s.
The Winnipeg Working Group for Sex Workers’ Rights is speaking out against claims that a major sporting event will increase “sex trafficking” in their city. In the lead up to the Grey Cup, a football event, government officials have set up over $45,000 CAD worth of funds to combat “human trafficking” in Winnipeg. The funds will be used to set up a phone hotline and an awareness campaign called Buying Sex is Not a Sport.
Local LGBT, sex worker, and Haitian women’s groups are speaking out against the violation of their rights in the Dominican Republic, reports Diario Libre. Haitian women and members of the LGBT community are often cited as victims of “sex trafficking” in the Dominican Republic. Many work in the sex industry due to job discrimination. NSWP’s Briefing Paper, Sex Work is Not Trafficking, explores this topic.
Squirt, a Canadian gay sex website owned by Pink Triangle Press, announced October 21st that they have pulled escort ads from their service according to Daily Xtra.
NSWP, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, emphatically condemns the actions of the USA’s Department of Homeland Security and federal prosecutors in New York for the raid on the offices of Rentboy.com and the arrests of seven of its staff members.
This action appears to be a blatant, morally-driven discriminatory attack on gay consensual sex. The New York Times Editorial Board have stated that the criminal complaint that resulted in this raid was ‘so saturated with sexually explicit details, it’s hard not to interpret it as an indictment of gay men as being sexually promiscuous.’ Many USA activists, LGBT community members and commentators have highlighted the increasing climate of homophobia that they identify as having accompanied the tenures of Mayor De Blasio and the Commissioner of NYPD, William Bratton.
NSWP’s opposes all forms of criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work (including sex workers, clients, third parties, families, partners and friends). The term ‘third parties’ includes managers, brothel keepers, receptionists, maids, drivers, landlords, hotels who rent rooms to sex workers and anyone else who is seen as facilitating sex work. Sex workers and our allies actively campaign for full decriminalisation of sex work for a number of reasons, including promoting safe working conditions and labour rights for sex workers; Increase access to health services and reduce sex workers’ risk of HIV and STIs; Increase sex workers’ access to justice; Reduce police abuse and violence; Help to tackle exploitation and coercion when it does occur.
Sex workers need to be able to communicate openly with clients and managers without constantly fearing arrest, police harassment or worse. Sex workers often use advertising websites to screen clients for their own safety.
The timing of this raid could not be more acutely out-of-step with the overwhelming body of evidence and the findings of international bodies such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, who recommend that governments should work towards the decriminalisation of sex work and The Lancet which recently published a special series on HIV and Sex Workers, which also recommends the decriminalisation of sex work.
Amnesty International’s global movement recently voted to adopt a policy to protect the human rights of sex workers, including the full decriminalisation of sex work at their International Council meeting this August. Amnesty joins a growing list of other major international agencies such as the World Health Organization, Human Rights Watch and the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women in the call for decriminalisation of sex work.
You can download this 2 page statement below.