Over the past few years, there has been a war against online classified-ad websites such as Backpage that carry sex workers' ads. Li and many women like her use online classifieds to screen clients. Story continues below advertisement We support women who are assumed in the dominant public discourse to be victims of sex trafficking. In Canada, more than ever, adult consensual sex work is conflated with sex trafficking — by law enforcement, the media, women's organizations, faith-based groups and the public. Rather than blindly following the U.
Despite the preponderance of ads advertising sexual services of somethings, the average age of the women we support is Prohibiting advertising pushes sex work further underground, where exploitation is more likely and harder to detect. Her online ad describes her as "young" and "new in town," a year-old ready to "give you what you please. In Canada, more than ever, adult consensual sex work is conflated with sex trafficking — by law enforcement, the media, women's organizations, faith-based groups and the public. Organizations like SWAN work hard to prevent trafficking and address it if it occurs, but shutting down sites like Backpage is not the way to do that. But one perspective is consistently missing: Li and many women like her use online classifieds to screen clients. The ban on advertising violates sex workers' rights to personal security and freedom of expression. Using sites like Backpage, SWAN has become known in the migrant and immigrant sex-work community as a trustworthy support organization giving women a channel to deal with workplace problems. On the Internet, not everything is as it appears. That is bitterly ironic, given that the law was enacted to replace our former prostitution laws, which were declared unconstitutional for putting sex workers' lives at risk in a court challenge known as the Bedford case. In the case — in which Pivot was an intervenor — the Supreme Court of Canada found unequivocally that client screening was among the most crucial safety measures for sex workers. Online classified sites have enabled SWAN to connect with women who tend to be isolated due to their newness in the community and the stigma around sex work. This relatively inexpensive form of advertising allows them to work for themselves, define the parameters of their own business and work indoors, which research shows is much safer for them than the street. Why does this matter? Story continues below advertisement We support women who are assumed in the dominant public discourse to be victims of sex trafficking. Law-making and law-enforcement responses to trafficking should be predicated on people's lived experiences, not popular hysteria. The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act introduced in criminalized third-party advertisers like Backpage, although few charges have been laid to date. Rather than blindly following the U. While this war started in the United States, it has crept across the border to Canada as the discourse around sex trafficking has intensified. Over the past few years, there has been a war against online classified-ad websites such as Backpage that carry sex workers' ads. It provides greater control over their working conditions. When we eventually meet her in person, we find that she is twice her advertised age. Story continues below advertisement Story continues below advertisement We also won't eliminate trafficking through a crack-down on channels like Backpage that allow sex workers like Li to work more safely. This prevents sex workers from clearly communicating in their ads what services they provide, increasing the risk for misunderstanding and potential violence.
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