That’s what I’M saying…

At least someone is being heard… You can read the entire article at the link given. I’m just going to point out some areas that may need reiteration:

Seminar explores ways to regulate prostitution 

“Thirteen years old, I’m on the street in Montreal, I need to eat, some guy offers to buy me food, and maybe at that time the exchange (for sex) wasn’t cash, it was food, it was shelter,” Debra said in an interview with The Chronicle Herald on Friday.

“I decided to get the money so I could buy my own food, so I could decide what I wanted to eat and where I wanted to sleep.”

At the time, 1974, Debra was on the run from the former Nova Scotia School for Girls in Truro, where she had been sent for truancy. She alleges she was abused there.

“The counsellors were allowed to take girls home for the weekend,” said Debra, who asked that her last name not be used for safety reasons.

“One thing that I want understood is that not all the people in the sex trade come from the same backgrounds. . . . It’s not all about abuse and then (the) sex trade. I will say that sometimes that does happen. Someone will gravitate to what is familiar.”

Debra says that because of her own childhood abuse, “the day that I could tell a man what he could do and what he couldn’t do, and what it was going to cost him, was a very powerful day for me — it was an empowering day.”

The 56-year-old mother of three and grandmother of 14 has plied her trade across Canada and the United States for 40 years. Her life has been threatened more than once.

“I don’t have a problem with what I do,” Debra said Friday at a community education forum titled Green Light, Red Light: Regulating Sex Work in Halifax.

“To me, it’s a job. It’s not who I am, it’s what I do.

“As mean as people get . . . you’ve got to learn how to keep yourself safe.”

Debra told the forum about the impact that current criminal laws have on sex-trade workers.

“As long as these laws stay in effect, I will always be a potential victim for the lunatics, my family will be,” she said.

Prostitution in Canada is not illegal but communicating for the purpose of prostitution is.

Because of that risk of being charged, Debra and other workers often jump into a prospective client’s vehicle quickly to avoid arrest.

That “means there have been times when I think that there would be some of the women still alive today if they were able to take that couple of seconds and be able to make sure there wasn’t another person in the back seat, to make sure that that guy wasn’t sitting on a knife that he puts to your throat and threatens to cut you to hell.”

Since 1985, 18 known sex workers have been murdered or gone missing in the Halifax area, said Rene Ross, executive director of Stepping Stone, a non-profit agency that offers programs and outreach to men and women in the sex trade.

Fighting the stigma associated with their work is constant for these men and women, Debra said.

“There’s a woman that I know that was murdered in the Hollis Street area,” she said. “She was identified as a sex worker.

“A man stabbed her a numerous amount of times, (but) because she didn’t die of the stab wounds — because she froze in the snow from exposure — he got charged with aggravated assault (instead of murder) and got sentenced to 18 months,” Debra said.

“People don’t look at us as people that are just trying to survive. We’re trying to live. We’re trying to have toilet paper in the middle of the month. They don’t know our circumstances.”

Last September in Ontario Superior Court, Judge Susan Himel struck down the laws against keeping a common bawdy house, communicating for the purpose of prostitution and living off the avails of the trade. The decision was temporarily stayed and an appeal is to be heard next month in the Ontario Court of Appeal.

“I don’t believe if they decriminalize, that that’s going to increase the amount of women working,” Debra said.

“You’re going to do it whether it’s legal or not. I don’t think all of a sudden because they say it’s decriminalized that all of a sudden there’s going to be a brothel on every corner and there’s going to be all these people working and you’re going to have hookers running around on the ground where the children are.” (As I’ve stated before, ask a women if she would consider sex work if it were no longer illegal and the answer 9 times out of 10 will still be no… simply because they think the work is ‘icky’.)

“But I also get now, because of my association with Stepping Stone, I get why it’s so problematic to criminalize the most marginalized people in our society. It just doesn’t seem to work.”

If the Ontario appeal is unsuccessful, sex work could be decriminalized under federal law, and the responsibility for the regulation of sex work would fall under municipal jurisdiction, as it already does with massage parlours and adult entertainment establishments.

sborden@herald.ca)

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