Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Red Umbrella Day

December 17th is Red Umbrella Day. Red Umbrella Day has a double meaning. It is both to protest the criminalization of Sex Workers and to call to end violence against Sex Workers.

The laws around sex work have been in the news quite a bit lately as Justice Susan Himel struck down three of the laws that caused the most harm in Ontario. PIVOT Legal Society is trying to do a similar action in BC.

The laws struck down were the "living off the avails of prosititution", prohibition of running a bawdy house, and communicating for the purposes of prostitution.

The "living off the avails of prostitution" law was implemented in order to address pimping. However, it does nothing to change the lives of people working for pimps, it wrongly targets anyone involved with a sex worker (an adult child living with a sex worker, a sex workers spouse or partner, for example) and it creates an environment in which partners, roommates, and family members of sex workers are criminalized for sharing money.

The bawdy house law prohibits sex workers from working inside, with other people, forcing them to work on the street, and in isolation. This creates huge safety risks for those in an already risky trade.

Prohibiting communicating for the purposes of prostitution means that sex workers can't negotiate a transaction, can't lay clear boundaries and limits with clients or use that conversation to suss out a potential client.

This is a very nutshelled version of the laws and we applaud Justice Himel for taking such a bold stand.

Justice Himel said:

"These laws, individually and together, force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," she said.

..."I find that the danger faced by prostitutes greatly outweighs any harm which may be faced by the public,"

As you can see, fighting the violence against sex workers and continuing the fight against these nonsensical laws go hand in hand.

Red Umbrella Day is a march to rally the community to help end the violence and abuses targeted at sex workers. It really does have to stop.

This morning over coffee at PEERS several women started a conversation about thier scars. Several other women chimed in with stories of how they got this one, how they got that one, where they were in healing from the fear and trauma, how it still affects them. Violence against sex workers isn't an abstract concept or something that sounds like a bad idea, it's something that affects us very deeply. These are real women and men really getting beaten bloody. They are really getting killed and leaving family and friends grieving in their wake.

Join PEERS on Red Umbrella Day. Wear red, bring a red umbrella, paint a sign. Be part of the solution.

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