Opponents of Bill C-36 or the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, argue that such legislation will make prostituted persons’ safety more tenuous by driving prostitution underground and forcing sex “workers” to lower their standards to be competitive, i.e. not use condoms. I put quotations around “work” because I honestly question how selling one’s body and often assisting someone to cheat on their significant other is equated with intellectually creative and challenging forms of manual labour which add to the economy and the health of a society – sorry, not all forms of money-making earn the appellation of “work”.
Another argument against the bill is that people have a right to take up the world’s oldest oppression if they so choose; truth is, it’s not so much an argument as it is a reflection of a mentality which is more concerned with an unabashed “freedom” than eliminating harm to free human beings.
Whenever I hear this latter contention, I think about the fact that I can drink copious amounts of alcohol, consistently eat ridiculous amounts of unhealthy food and practice other forms of “freedom” if I so choose…of course, that doesn’t mean my behaviour is justified or even excusable in practically any context.
I am running for city council because I want to improve the overall context within which prostituted people live and provide them with productive forms of social recourse.
Among rehabilitation programs and other programs for vulnerable individuals, the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) represents a stellar example of a brave, grassroots initiative, offering counselling, advocacy and other services for abused women, free of charge.
Megan Robinson-Walker, executive director of the LAWC, is leading the fight for Bill C-36 and against the normalization of the “sex trade” – whenever my wife hears that term, she inevitably asks: “What exactly are they trading? Stocks? Bonds? Where is their Return On Investment (ROI)?”
Criminalizing the pimps and johns is exactly the point of this bill. As Megan told the media last month: “Hopefully we will end the demand. Ultimately in the long run, the goal is to abolish prostitution.”
When I contacted Megan about whether the LAWC gets any municipal funding she told me that her organization receives only $3,400 in city funding to provide a group “for women at their end stage in our program.”
She said the group is called the Women’s Support Group and that it helps women make connections with other women before they leave the LAWC.
“It’s not a lot of money, but $3,400 actually goes a long way in helping us provide service. With that funding, we are able to provide four groups per year,” she told me. “That is pretty important to the women that attend. We provide the women with transportation, childcare for their children and snacks plus, a facilitator to help bring speakers in and plan the meetings. It’s a 12-week group, once a week for 12 weeks for three hours and offered four times per year.”
I’ve got to say that Megan is pretty humble about the whole thing…I mean $3,400 a year from the city for helping abused women!!
As someone who personally saw members of his family and his own mother sustain years of verbal abuse and intimidation by men, I don’t believe that amount of money is sufficient. And given how much money the city would like to take from taxpayers for a largely unwanted performing arts centre, it’s clear that the vision for a better future is sorely lacking at city hall – not with everyone, of course.
Megan, on the other hand, has clear vision about what our community needs: direct improvement of the lives of struggling single mothers and other women, who, for various reasons, need such support.
Our community grows by supporting these kinds of centres that empower women to take back their autonomy. Bill C-36 assists in this process by allowing women – as well as men and transgendered individuals – the opportunity to turn to the police and community service workers without the fear of being criminalized – I can’t help but think about women involved in prostitution in the Old East Village and across London who are under the thumbs of unscrupulous pimps and violent johns.
I remember years ago, I was sitting in a political science class of mine at Western when an argument about being in favour of legalizing prostitution came up. I responded to one student who was in favour of its legalization by asking him: “Can you see your sister, mother or grandmother engaged in this line of work?” The class went silent and there wasn’t a single rhetorical response thereafter.
The anti-social construct centered on prostitution has often been focused on the women for partaking. But it’s actually the men who initiate the violence and abuse. Yes, the women make themselves available, but it’s the alluring sense of financial stability that’s proselytized by the pimps and solicited by the johns, which usually traps the women in such sexual exploitation. Bill C-36 is meant to remedy these gross violations of women’s rights.
Moreover, sexual exploitation doesn’t just involve women; our children are also being exploited against their will. That’s why this bill is so important for London as well as other municipalities because it also protects the future of our children who can be exploited by those who wish to harm them.
I find it pathetically ironic that Ward 4 incumbent Stephen Orser’s personal webmaster is a buddy of his who allegedly runs a porn site – remember this from late May? The councillor turns a blind eye to this kind of sexual exploitation and thinks this sort of personal/professional affiliation is somehow acceptable. How can he address the real prostitution issues in our ward and elsewhere with such lurid relationships in the background?