FIRST is a coalition of feminists who have come together to support the rights of sex industry workers and advocate for the decriminalization of adult sex work. We are guided by the fundamental principle that sex industry workers should have equal benefit of the human rights protections that are available to all members of Canadian society. To be a society that is truly committed to equality, freedom and human dignity, we must recognize the rights of sex industry workers to:
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Statement on the Ontario Court of Appeal decision: Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, 2012 ONCA 186
Historic step forward is undermined by inexplicable failure to protect street-based sex workers
March 28, 2012
The Ontario Court of Appeal decision on Canada’s prostitution laws calls for major changes in the legal landscape of sex work in Canada. It is available in its entirety here and the lower court decision written by Madame Justice Himel of the Superior Court in Ontario is available here. Below we outline our reactions to the precedent-setting case.
A major victory by sex workers and their allies saw the Ontario Court of Appeal strike down the law against operating a common bawdy house. This means that sex workers are now legally free to operate their businesses indoors―a work environment that research has proven to be safer than street-based work.
Another important victory is the change to the law on living on the avails of prostitution―a law that has until this point criminalized sex workers who financially support adult children, spouses or room mates, and prevented workers from employing drivers, accountants, receptionists or others who facilitate their businesses. This law will now only apply when there are “circumstances of exploitation.” However, it is unclear how law enforcement will investigate such cases, and advocates remain understandably wary of any legal differentiation between exploitation in the context of sex work compared to other financial transactions. We fear that police and the judiciary may not recognize that a sex worker’s right to consent to sex in exchange for money is not exploitation.
We know that criminalization endangers sex workers: Criminalization makes sex workers far more vulnerable to violence, compromises their health and access to services and rights, and profoundly undermines their status in our society.
As of 1999, Sweden’s laws on prostitution criminalize those who buy sexual services, but not those who sell sexual services. It also makes brothel ownership and procurement (pimping) illegal. While sex workers can no longer be arrested for doing sex work, they still are forced to work in a criminalized environment. Our perspective: Criminalization is criminalization.
See attached document for a detailed review of the Swedish model of prohibition.
It is the view of FIRST and Pivot Legal Society that the criminal laws prohibiting prostitution directly undermine the health, safety, and dignity of sex workers. Criminalization perpetuates stigma against sex workers and exposes them to negative social attitudes and harmful stereotypes. These laws force sex workers into the shadows.
For the most vulnerable sex workers – survival, street-based workers – criminal laws fail to address the underlying conditions that affect their lives.
A Public Service Announcement from FIRST, celebrating the strength and diversity of sex workers.
The Video below is housed at http://firstcoalition.blip.tv/
Thank you so much to everyone who was involved in this project from start to finish. We can't wait to make more!
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Definition
Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction of fraud, of deception of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
September 24, 2009
Dear Salvation Army:
Vancouver’s sex workers are distressed and angry over your ‘The Truth isn’t Sexy’
anti-trafficking campaign. Sex workers are appalled that you never consulted the sex
worker community before launching this highly offensive campaign. Research has
repeatedly found that the involvement of sex workers is critical to the success of antitrafficking
Anti-trafficking initiatives are critically important, but grossly inflating the level of
trafficking and treating most female sex workers as trafficked “sex slaves” does
nothing to improve sex worker safety—it only exacerbates their stigma and
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