Thank you for the invitation to speak today. I'm going to briefly tell you a little bit of my background.
I am a survivor of both independent prostitution and forced prostitution. For seven years of my 12-year stint I was trafficked by a known pimp and felt pressured by the sex industry to gain his protection due to the amount of violence I dealt with on a daily basis by entitled and often abusive men. I was then abused not only by sex buyers, but by my pimp as well. Once he was shot twice by a pimp whose intention was to shoot me. He stabbed another man seven times for assaulting me. We were taught not to go to the police. We were taught to deal with violence with our own hands in the sex industry. Involving the police brought bad attention to their establishment. He would often tell me that I owe him my life for what he did and no one would love me the way he did. It's now been two decades and he is still a pimp, promoting himself as a stag manager with a website he probably built for free and a business licence he probably paid $120 for.
I'm going to talk a little bit about our coalition.
We are Canada's leading survivor activists regarding the sex trade industry and organized pimp violence. We offer public awareness and education on all aspects of the sex trade in order to eradicate myths and stereotypes about prostitution by replacing them with facts and true stories for women who have been enslaved by this dark and lucrative industry.
We are a group of very diverse and unique Canadian women. Our backgrounds and our stories are quite different. The common thread is prostitution. We have come together under the organization Sextrade101: Public Awareness and Education, to promote ourselves as sex trade experts, front-line workers, speakers, teachers, advocates, and activists for the rights of sex trafficking victims and prostitution survivors. Our reasons for this unity are personal to us. Our main goal is to offer a deeper insight into what the sex trade really consists of. Our stories differ one from the next. Some of us have horror stories, heartbreaking stories, stories that will make your jaw drop, and likewise powerless stories.
Aside from the sensationalism that surrounds prostitution, we want to be bold about telling you the truths within the trade. We have been collectively afraid, raped, beaten, sold, and discarded. Most of us were also children who were forgotten, neglected, abused, used, led astray, abandoned, and not protected. We believe every one should be shown a viable way out of the sex trade, not encouraged to stay in it. We believe in helping people understand the full picture of life in prostitution before they get involved and in helping women get out alive, with their minds, bodies and lives intact.
We are ready for a dialogue, for sensible, healthy communication with others who believe as we do. It's going to take a collective effort for us to abolish the world's oldest oppression. We offer first-hand knowledge of the barriers people face when trying to get out, and stay out, and we create opportunities for positive change for those enslaved by the sex trade and/or sex trafficking.
One of the items up for discussion today is the human trafficking strategy to combat human trafficking. This strategy is divided into four parts: the prevention of human trafficking, the protection of victims, the prosecution of offenders, and working in partnership with others both domestically and internationally. The only major comment we have about the human trafficking strategy is about prevention. These are the steps that were to be implemented for the goal fo prevention: promote training for front-line services, support and develop human trafficking awareness campaigns within sex trafficking, provide assistance to communities to identify places and people most at risk, and strengthen child protection systems within the Canadian International Development Agency's programs targeting children and youth.
That's all good, but there has been no coordinated effort do defund the sex industry. Reducing the money that fuels the sex industry requires that men be discouraged from purchasing sexual services. This is the only way we can expect to see a reduction in sex trafficking.
Some will say that traffickers are really bad and sex buyers aren't doing anything wrong, so we must go after the bad guys, the traffickers. Traffickers do it for two reasons, mainly for the money and secondarily for the notoriety. Therefore, if the market demand is high, if the money is available for the taking, trafficking will happen. Police enforcement against trafficking does not reduce human trafficking rates because being pursued by law enforcement, and even going to prison, helps the traffickers achieve the same notoriety as a gangster. Contrast that with police enforcement against buying sex; sex buyers are much less likely to buy sex if they know being arrested is a realistic possibility.
Sadly, john sweeps have been greatly reduced since the Bedford challenge to the prostitution law. Even with the new prostitution legislation, Bill C-36, purchasers of sex are supposed to be criminalized, yet very few are.
Academic studies do not support the notion that normalizing and regulating prostitution reduces human trafficking. However, there are many academic studies from around the world that indicate that enforcement against the purchase of sexual services does achieve that goal. Information to the contrary, used by the pro-prostitution lobby, is merely anecdotal. It is not credible and must therefore be disregarded.
Prostitution is violence, sexual violence, and discrimination at the hands of sex buyers for the profits of the sex trade, including pimps and brothel owners. Prostitution is gendered and preys on the most vulnerable women and girls. Of the 40 million to 42 million prostituted individuals in the world, 80% are female, and three-quarters are between the ages of 13 and 25.
Prostitution in many countries, and in Canada, under the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, is seen as incompatible with women's equality and human rights.
The PCEPA already decriminalizes prostituted women in almost every situation, so why would the Liberal Party want to decriminalize pimping?
With no debate or information provided, the Liberal Party voted in favour of a resolution calling for the decriminalization of pimping and the repeal of Bill C-36, despite the fact that both the Conservative and Liberal parties had legal experts review Bill C-36 and found it to be unconstitutional.
We are survivors, and very few of us have been asked for our input at the tables. Also, we are extremely disturbed that you would refer to exploited women and girls as sex workers. Sex work and sex worker are terms that were invented by the sex trade to normalize exploitation and mask the harm of prostitution.
We are asking why the government is being influenced by the pro-decriminalization, pro-pimping lobby, in violation of Canadian and international law.
All women and children have a right to equality before and under the law, as well as the right to dignity and the right to live free of prostitution and violence in all its forms. We have the right to be protected from men who proposition us for sex and think their money can buy all women and girls.
You must understand the relationship between prostitution and sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is the engine that pimps and traffickers use to bring their victims to prostitution. Without a vibrant sex trade, there would be no sex trafficking. It is the male demand for prostitution that fuels sex trafficking.
You already have the tools to decrease—