Open letter: 300 researchers call for decriminalization of sex work in Canada

Academics also oppose criminalizing the purchasing of sex

More than 300 Canadian academics and researchers have issued the following open letter:

March 27, 2014

Right Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada,
Mr. Thomas Mulcair, MP, Leader of the Official Opposition, the New Democratic Party of Canada,
Mr. Justin Trudeau, MP, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada,
Mr. Jean-François Fortin, MP, Interim Leader of the Bloc Québécois,
Ms. Elizabeth May, MP, Leader of the Green Party of Canada,


Dear Sirs
 and Madam,

Re: Evidence-Based Call for Decriminalization of Sex Work in Canada and Opposition to Criminalizing the Purchasing of Sex

We, the undersigned, are profoundly concerned that the Government of Canada is considering the introduction of new legislation to criminalize the purchasing of sex. The proposed legislation is not scientifically grounded and evidence strongly suggests that it would recreate the same social and health-related harms of current criminalization. We join other sex worker, research, and legal experts across the country and urge the Government of Canada to follow the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision and support decriminalization of sex work as a critical evidence-based approach to ensuring the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers.

A large body of scientific evidence from Canada,[1] Sweden and Norway (where clients and third parties are criminalized), and globally[2] clearly demonstrates that criminal laws targeting the sex industry have overwhelmingly negative social, health, and human rights consequences to sex workers, including increased violence and abuse, stigma, HIV and inability to access critical social, health and legal protections. These harms disproportionately impact marginalized sex workers including female, Indigenous and street-involved sex workers, who face the highest rates of violence and murder in our country. In contrast, in New Zealand, since the passage of a law to decriminalize sex work in 2003, research and the government’s own evaluation have documented marked improvements in sex workers’ safety, health, and human rights.[3]

Therefore, we call on the Government of Canada to join with global leaders, community, researchers and legal experts in rejecting criminalization regimes, including those that criminalize the purchase of sexual services, and instead support the decriminalization of sex work in Canada as scientifically-grounded and necessary to ensuring the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers. Below, we briefly outline our key concerns.

1. Criminalization of any aspect of sex work undermines access to critical safety, health and legal protections: The science is unequivocal that where sex work operates within a criminalized and policed environment –whether targeting sex workers, their working conditions, or the people they work with, for, or hire (clients, managers, bodyguards, or other third parties)– sex workers are placed in an adversarial relationship with police and are unable to access critical social, health and legal protections. Both peer review research and the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Report have shown that within criminalization environments, stigma and discrimination of sex workers are major barriers for sex workers to reporting violence and abuse to authorities and accessing other critical health and social supports both in Canada and globally [4] In the official evaluation of the ban on purchasing sex in Sweden, sex workers clearly reported that the law increased police scrutiny, stigma and discrimination, and deterred reporting to police.[5] In contrast, the New Zealand Prostitution Reform Act (2003) placed the human rights and occupational health and safety of sex workers as the central goal of their law reform; and government’s own evaluation showed sex workers were significantly more likely to report abuse to authorities following decriminalization.[6]

2. Enforcement prohibiting communication in public spaces between sex workers and their clients directly elevates risks for violence, abuse and other health and social harms. Since the Communication Law was enacted in 1985 to reduce “public nuisance”, the number of sex workers who have gone missing and been murdered in Canadian cities has escalated dramatically, with disproportionate numbers of Indigenous women. Evidence has consistently shown that in order for sex workers and their clients to avoid police detection, sex workers have to work alone, in isolated areas and rush into vehicles before they have the opportunity to screen prospective clients or negotiate the terms of transactions, severely limiting their ability to avoid dangerous clients or refuse unwanted services (e.g. unprotected sex).[7] The Supreme Court of Canada identified client screening as one of the most vital tools available to sex workers to protect their safety and health.[8] In Sweden and Norway where laws criminalize the purchasing of sex, research has shown that enforcement targeting clients still forces sex workers to operate in clandestine locations to avoid police, increases their insecurity,[9] and places them at continued and increased risk for violence, abuse and other health-related harms, including HIV infection.[10] A report commissioned by City of Oslo in Norway (2012) found that the rate of strangulation and threat with a deadly weapon of sex workers had increased substantially in the three years since the implementation of the criminalization of clients.[11]

3. Criminalization of any aspect of sex work hinders sex worker’s ability to establish safer workspaces, to work collectively, and engage third parties who can increase their safety. Both the Supreme Court of Canada and the two lower courts in Bedford clearly highlighted access to indoor spaces as a critical safety measure, based on two decades of evidence from local and international sex workers, academics, and legal experts.[12] In Canada, an evaluation of safer indoor work spaces in 2012 within supportive low-income housing in Vancouver demonstrated that when sex workers have opportunities to move off-street, they can increase their control over their working conditions and are able to adopt safety and security measures that protect their health, safety and overall well-being.[13] Safer indoor spaces also provide a critical connection with social, health, and legal supports, including accessing police protections in cases of violence or abuse. However, in a law enforcement environment where clients remain targets for arrest, criminalization would continue to prevent sex workers from bringing clients indoors to safer indoor spaces; thereby reproducing the same harms as the current criminalized model. By contrast, in New Zealand and New South Wales, Australia, where sex work is fully decriminalized, sex workers have access to safer indoor work spaces and have increased control over the conditions of their work.[14]

4. Criminalizing the purchasing of sex does not reduce or eliminate prostitution. Following the ban on purchasing of sex, a number of evaluations of the criminalized regime from Sweden have found no evidence that the overall number of sex workers was reduced.[15] Of note, public health researchers in New Zealand have repeatedly estimated the size of the sex industry in 5 locations, and compared with 1999 (prior to decriminalization), the data show no increase in overall numbers of sex workers.[16]

5. Criminalizing any aspect of sex work undermines efforts to address human trafficking. The conflation of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation with sex work (the exchange of sex for money among consenting adults) undermines efforts to address these critical human rights issues. In the US and increasingly in Canada, funds intended for use to address human trafficking have been misused on anti-prostitution enforcement efforts. In two separate governmental evaluations of the Swedish criminalization regime, police reported that it creates an obstacle to prosecuting “traffickers and coercive pimps”.[17] Furthermore, scientific evidence and the experience of anti-trafficking organizations suggest that criminalizing the purchase of sex renders it more difficult to assist individuals in situations of coercion and abuse.[18]

Canadian researchers and academics call for evidence-based policies that are consistent with safety, health and human rights for sex workers and communities.

We are calling on the federal government to demonstrate leadership when addressing these challenging issues by promoting evidence-based laws and policies that protect the safety, health and human rights of sex workers. We encourage Canada to adopt the decriminalization of sex work recommendations of the World Health Organization, UNFPA, UNAIDS Advisory Group on HIV and Sex Work, and the Global Commission on HIV and the Law.[19] We invite you to work together with sex workers, researchers and legal experts to develop evidence-based policy approaches that promote the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers.

We look forward to your response.

CC: Members of Parliament of Canada

Signed,

  1. Gillian Abel, PhD | University of Otago | Christchurch, NZ
  2. Barry Adam, PhD | University of Windsor | Windsor, ON
  3. Anu Aggarwal, PhD
  4. Laura Agustin, PhD | The Naked Anthropologist
  5. Aziza Ahmed, MA, JD | Northeastern University School of Law | Boston, MA
  6. Michel Alary, MD, PhD | Université Laval | Québec, QC
  7. Sarah Allan, LLB/JD | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  8. Paul Amar, PhD | University of California | Santa Barbara, CA
  9. Solanna Anderson, MA | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  10. Elena Argento, MPH | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  11. Robert Argue, PhD | Professor Emeritus, Ryerson University | Sudbury, ON
  12. Chris Atchison, MA | University of Victoria | Vancouver, BC
  13. Cheryl Auger, MA, PhD (c) | Political Science Department, University of Toronto | Toronto, ON
  14. Jacenta Bahri, MA
  15. Brook Baker, JD | Northeastern University School of Law | Boston, MA
  16. Natasha Bakht, LLM | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  17. Gillian Balfour, PhD | Trent University | Peterborough, ON
  18. Nandinee Bandyopadhyay, MA
  19. Stefan Baral, MD | Centre for Public Health and Human Rights | Toronto, ON
  20. Julie Bates, MSc | Urban Realists Planning & Occupational Health & Safety Consultants | Sydney, AU
  21. Katharine Bausch, MA | Trent University | Toronto, ON
  22. Ahmed Bayoumi, MD, FRCPC | Toronto, ON
  23. Calum Bennachie, PhD | New Zealand Prostitute’s Collective | Wellington, NZ
  24. Darcie Bennett, PhD | Pivot Legal Society | Vancouver, BC
  25. Cecilia Benoit, PhD | University of Victoria | Victoria, BC
  26. Benjamin Berger, JSD | Osgoode Hall Law School | Toronto, ON
  27. Rachel Berger, PhD | Concordia University | Montreal, QC
  28. Elizabeth Bernstein, PhD | Barnard College | New York, NY
  29. Manjima Bhattacharjya, PhD | Mumbai, Maharashtra
  30. Steven Bittle, PhD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  31. Gary Bloch, MD | University of Toronto | Toronto, ON
  32. John Boan, PhD | University of Regina | Regina, SK
  33. Mandy Bonisteel, RN, OMC | George Brown College | Toronto, ON
  34. Colin Bonnycastle, MSW | University of Manitoba | Thompson, ON
  35. Suzanne Bouclin, PhD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  36. Pierre Boulos, PhD | University of Windsor | Windsor, ON
  37. Raven Bowen, MA | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  38. Jason Boyd, PhD | Ryerson University | Toronto, ON
  39. Mark Boyd, MD | University of New South Wales | Sydney, AU
  40. Neil Boyd, LLM | Professor, School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University | Vancouver, BC
  41. Borce Bozhinov, MD | STAR-STAR | Skopje, Macedonia
  42. Ella Bradley, BSW | University of Windsor | Chatham, ON
  43. Suzanne Brissette, MD | Centre hospitalier de l’université de Montréal | Montreal, QC
  44. Deborah Brock, PhD | Associate Professor, York University | Toronto, ON
  45. Chris Bruckert, PhD | Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  46. Zabrina Brumme, PhD | Simon Fraser University | Vancouver, BC
  47. Laurence Brunet, MSc | McGill University | Montreal, QC
  48. Chloe Brushwood Rose, PhD | Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, York University | Toronto, ON
  49. Licia Brussa, PhD | TAMPEP International Foundation | Amsterdam, Netherlands
  50. Katherine Burress, RN | Casey House | Toronto, ON
  51. Karen Busby, JD, LLM | Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba | Winnipeg, MB
  52. Denton Callander, PhD | University of New South Wales | Sydney, AU
  53. Kenneth Camargo, MD, PhD | Rio de Janeiro State University | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  54. Thais Camargo, MSc
  55. Deanna Campbell, MA, JD (c) | Vancouver, BC
  56. Anna Carastathis, PhD | California State University Los Angeles | Los Angeles, CA
  57. John Carlsleym MD, CM, MSc, CCFP, FRCPC | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  58. Sarah Carlsley, MSc | Toronto, ON
  59. Marie-Eve Carrier-Moisan, PhD | Carleton University | Ottawa, ON
  60. Patrizia Carrieri, PhD | INSERM | Marseille, France
  61. Claire Carter, PhD | University of Regina | Regina, SK
  62. Connie Carter, PhD | Canadian Drug Policy Coalition | Victoria, BC
  63. Sheila Cavanagh, PhD | York University | Toronto, ON
  64. Helen Cerigo, MSc | Toronto, ON
  65. Yao Chi Hang, MA | Chinese University of Hong Kong | Hong Kong, China
  66. Alexandra Choby, PhD | University of Alberta | Edmonton, AB
  67. Sandra Ko Hon Chu, LLM | Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network | Toronto, ON
  68. Alison Clancey, MSW | Vancouver, BC
  69. Deborah Clipperton, MA, CP | York University | Toronto, ON
  70. Claudia Coeli, MD, PhD | Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  71. Marisa Collins, MD, MDSc, CCFP, FCFP | Pemberton, BC
  72. Jason Congdon, MSc | School of Communication, Simon Fraser University | Vancouver, BC
  73. Sandra Connely, MSc | Niagara Falls, ON
  74. Bruno Cornellier, PhD | University of Winnipeg | Winnipeg, MB
  75. Sonia Correa, MSc | Abai/ SPW | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  76. Patrice Corriveau, PhD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  77. Anna-Louise Crago, PhD (c) | Trudeau Scholar, University of Toronto | Toronto, ON
  78. Marion Crook, PhD | Gibsons, BC
  79. Joanne Csete, PhD, MPH | Columbia University | London, UK
  80. Anne Dagenais Guertin, MD | Gatineau, QC
  81. Isolde Daiski, Ed.D | Toronto, ON
  82. Darcy Dalgaard, M.Ed | Victoria, BC
  83. Amber Dean, PhD | McMaster University | Hamilton, ON
  84. Kathleen Deering, PhD | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  85. Sonja Dolinsek, MA | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Berlin, Germany
  86. Basil Donovan, MD | Sydney Hospital | Sydney, AU
  87. Liza Doyle, MPH | University of New South Wales | Sydney, AU
  88. Putu Duff, MSc, PhD (c) | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  89. Richard Elliot, LLM | Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network | Toronto, ON
  90. Deanna England, MA, BA (Hons.) | University of Winnipeg | Winnipeg, MB
  91. Danya Fast, PhD | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  92. Maritza Felices-Luna, PhD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  93. Shawna Ferris, PhD | University of Manitoba | Winnipeg, MB
  94. Thomas Fleming, PhD | Professor of Criminology | Wilfred Laurier University | Toronto, ON
  95. Anna Forbes, MSS | Kensington, MD
  96. Juliana Francis, MSc | Movimiento de Mujeres Feministas | Managua, Nicaragua
  97. Margot Francis, PhD | Brock University | Toronto, ON
  98. Jennifer Fraser, PhD | Ryerson University | Toronto, ON
  99. May Friendman, PhD | Ryerson University | Toronto, ON
  100. Caspar Friesen, BSc, MD | University of British Columbia | Victoria, BC
  101. Robert Gaucher, PhD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  102. Mary Gavan, PhD | Vancouver, BC
  103. Leah George, MD, MSc | Calgary, AB
  104. Andree Germain, MSW | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  105. Mark Gilbert, MD, MHSc | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  106. Fiona Gold, RN | BC Centre for Disease Control | Vancouver, BC
  107. Shira Goldenberg, PhD | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  108. Tonantzin Goncalves, PhD | UNISINOS | Porto Alegra, Brazil
  109. Todd Gordon, PhD | Society, Culture and Environment, Laurier University Brantford | Toronto, ON
  110. Kelly Gorkoff, PhD | University of Winnipeg | Winnipeg, MB
  111. Andrew Gray, MD | McGill University | Montreal, QC
  112. Devon Grayson, MLIS | Vancouver, BC
  113. Pauline Greenhill, PhD | University of Winnipeg | Winnipeg, MB
  114. Silvia Guillemi, MD | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  115. Gordon Guyatt, MD, MSc | McMaster University | Dundas, ON
  116. Devon Haag, MSc | Vancouver, BC
  117. Thomas Haig, PhD | Université du Québec à Montréal | Montreal, QC
  118. Helga Hallgrimsdottir, PhD | University of Victoria | Victoria, BC
  119. Julie Ham, MSW, PhD (c) | Monash University, Melbourne AU
  120. Stacey Hannem, PhD | Department of Criminology, Wilfred Laurier University | Branford, ON
  121. Ross Harvey, FMP | Mission, BC
  122. Ashley Heaslip, MD
  123. Robert Heynen, PhD | Department of Communications Studies, York University | Toronto, ON
  124. Heidi Hoefinger, PhD | John Jay College, City University of New York | New York, NY
  125. Robert Hogg, PhD | Simon Fraser University / BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  126. Kirby Huminuik, PhD (c) | Vancouver, BC
  127. Sarah Hunt, PhD | Camosun College | Victoria, BC
  128. Mary Ives, RN, MHS | Fraser Health Authority | Chilliwack, BC
  129. Shahnaz Islamova, MSc | Tais Plus NGO | Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  130. Mikael Jansson, PhD | University of Victoria | Victoria, BC
  131. Leslie Jeffrey, PhD | University of New Brunswick St. John | Saint John, NB
  132. Bryan Jones, PhD | Simon Fraser University | Vancouver, BC
  133. Darlene Juschka, PhD | University of Regina | Regina, SK
  134. Angela Kaida, PhD | Simon Fraser University | Vancouver, BC
  135. Lara Karaian, PhD | Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Carleton University | Pakenham, ON
  136. Mohammad Karamouzian, MSc | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  137. Lisa Kelly, JD, JSD (c) | Harvard Law School | Vancouver, BC
  138. Kamala Kempadoo, PhD | Professor, York University | Toronto, ON
  139. Perry Kendall, MD | Victoria, BC
  140. Lisa Kerr, JD, LLM, JSD (c) | New York University | Vancouver, BC
  141. Thomas Kerr, PhD | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS/ University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  142. Ummni Khan, JD, MA, LLM, SJD | Carleton University | Ottawa, ON
  143. Julie Kille, BScN, RN | Vancouver, BC
  144. Alexandra King, MD | Vancouver, BC
  145. Malcolm King, PhD | Simon Fraser University | Vancouver, BC
  146. Gary Kinsman, PhD | Department of Sociology, Laurentian University | Sudbury, ON
  147. Mieke Koehoorn, PhD | Vancouver, BC
  148. Steven Kohm, PhD | University of Winnipeg | Winnipeg, MB
  149. Kat Kolar, PhD (c) | University of Toronto | Toronto, ON
  150. Rodney Knight, MSc, PhD (c) | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  151. Andrea Krusi, MSc | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  152. Marc Lafrance, PhD | Concordia University | Montreal, QC
  153. Tammy Landau, PhD | Ryerson University | Toronto, ON
  154. Jeffrey Langer, MA | Laurentian University | Sudbury, ON
  155. Rosanna Langer, PhD | Laurentian University | Sudbury, ON
  156. Jennifer Lavoie, PhD | Wilfred Laurier University | Brantford, ON
  157. Stephanie Law, MJ | McGill University | Montreal, QC
  158. Tuulia Law, MA | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  159. Robert Leckey, PhD | McGill University | Montreal, QC
  160. Cory Legassic, MA | Dawson College | Montreal, QC
  161. Lucie Lemonde, PhD | Université du Québec à Montréal | Montreal, QC
  162. Annalee Lepp, PhD| Chair, Department of Women’s Studies, University of Victoria/ Director, GAATW Canada | Victoria, BC
  163. Jacqueline Lewis, PhD | University of Windsor | Windsor, ON
  164. Katherine Lippel, LLL, LLM | Canada Research Chair on Occupaional Health and Safety Law | Montreal, QC
  165. Abby Lippman, PhD | McGill University | Montreal, QC
  166. Mona Loufty, MD, FRCPC, MPH | Women’s College Research Institute; Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto | Toronto, ON
  167. John Lowman, PhD | Simon Fraser University | West Vancouver, BC
  168. Tara Lyons, PhD | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  169. Gayle MacDonald, PhD | St. Thomas University | Fredericton, NB
  170. Josephine MacIntosh, PhD | University of Victoria | Victoria, BC
  171. Shoshana Magnet, PhD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  172. Janet Maher, PhD | Toronto, ON
  173. Lisa Maher, PhD | Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity/ University of New South Wales | Sydney, AU
  174. Kristina Mahnicheva, MD | Tais Plus NGO | Dushanbe, Tajikistan
  175. Olga Marques, PhD | University of Ontario Institute of Technology | Oshawa, ON
  176. Stephanie Marsan, MD | Université de Montréal | Montreal, QC
  177. Brandon Marshall, PhD | Brown University | Providence, RI
  178. Jessica Martin, MA | York University | Toronto, ON
  179. Corinne Mason, PhD | Brandon University | Brandon, MB
  180. Bradley Mathers, MBChB, MD | Sydney, AU
  181. Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale, PhD | University of Windsor | Windsor, ON
  182. Jennifer Matthews, MSc | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  183. Sergio Maulen, MD | Buenos Aires, Argentina
  184. Ruth McCarrell, RN | Providence Health Care | North Vancouver, BC
  185. Bill McCarthy, PhD | Professor, Department Chair, Department of Sociology, University of California Davis | Davis, CA
  186. William McCready, MD | Thunder Bay, ON
  187. Drew McDowell, MA, PhD (c) | University of Calgary | Calgary, AB
  188. Nicole McFadyen, PhD (c) | Toronto, ON
  189. Helen Meekosha, MA | University of New South Wales | Sydney, AU
  190. Nengeh Maria Mensah, PhD | Professeure, École de travail social, Université du Québec à Montréal | Montreal, QC
  191. Emily van der Meulen, PhD | Department of Criminology, Ryerson University | Toronto, ON
  192. Erin Michalak, PhD | Vancouver, BC
  193. Esther Miedema, PhD | Amsterdam, Netherlands
  194. Robin Milhausen, PhD | University of Guelph | Guelph, ON
  195. Cari Miller, PhD | Simon Fraser University | Vancouver, BC
  196. M-J Milloy, PhD | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  197. Julio Montaner, MD, FRCPC | Professor, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia; Director, BC Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS; Past President, International AIDS Society | Vancouver, BC
  198. Melissa Munn, PhD | Coldstream, BC
  199. Michelle Munro, MSc | Agrteam Canada | Ottawa, ON
  200. Laura Murray, MHS | Columbia University | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  201. Viviane Namaste, PhD | Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University | Montreal, QC
  202. Vrinda Narain, DCL | McGill University | Montreal, QC
  203. Ariel Nesbitt, MPH | Oak Tree Clinic Research | Vancouver, BC
  204. Ruth Neustifter, PhD, RMFT | University of Guelph | Guelph, ON
  205. Zoe Newman, PhD | Toronto, ON
  206. Trent Newmeyer, PhD | Brock University | Toronto, ON
  207. N. Nicole Nussbaum, LLB | London, ON
  208. Nadia O’Brien, MPH | Université de Montréal | Montreal, QC
  209. Tamara O’Doherty, MA, JD | Simon Fraser University | Langley, BC
  210. Marcia Oliver, PhD | Wilfred Laurier University | Toronto, ON
  211. Maggie O’Neill, PhD | Professor, Durham University | Durham, UK
  212. Treena Orchard, PhD | University of Western Ontario | London, ON
  213. Michelle Owen, PhD
  214. Katrina Pacey, LLB, MA | Pivot Legal Society | Vancouver, BC
  215. Charles-Maxime Panaccio, SJD | Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  216. Colette Parent, PhD | Université d'Ottawa | Gatineau, QC
  217. San Patten, MSc | Mount Allison University | Halifax, NS
  218. Kathryn Payne, MA | George Brown College | Toronto, ON
  219. Monika Penner, M.Ed | Edmonton, AB
  220. Isabelle Perreault, PhD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  221. Heather Peters, PhD | Quesnel, BC
  222. Justin Piché PhD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  223. Phillip Pilon, MA | York University | Toronto, ON
  224. Catherine Pirkle, PhD | Université Laval | Québec, QC
  225. Nancy Pollak, MALS | Langara College | Vancouver, BC
  226. Susan Price, RSW
  227. Rebecca Raby, PhD | Brock University | St. Catharines, ON
  228. Momin Rahman, PhD | Department of Sociology, Trent University | Peterborough, ON
  229. Genevieve Rail, PhD | Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University | Montreal, QC
  230. Rajive Rajan, MD
  231. Frances Ravensbergen, PhD | QC
  232. Cheryl Reed-Elder, PhD
  233. Alexandra Regier, MA | Vancouver, BC
  234. William Reimer, PhD | Concordia University | Laval, QC
  235. Dan Reist, MTh | University of Victoria | Mission, BC
  236. Jamie Reschny, PhD (c) | University of Northern British Columbia | Prince George, BC
  237. Lindsey Richardson, D.Phil | BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  238. Megan Rivers-Moore, PhD | Carleton University | Ottawa, ON
  239. Dominique Robert, PhD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  240. Pascale Robitaille, MA | Monteal, QC
  241. Annika W. Rodriguez, M.Phil | International Community Health| Oslo, Norway
  242. Becki Ross, PhD | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  243. Eric Roth, PhD | University of Victoria | Victoria, BC
  244. Sean Rourke, PhD | University of Toronto | Toronto, ON
  245. Perrine Roux, PhD | INSERM | Marseille, France
  246. Melanie Rusch, PhD | Island Health | Victoria, BC
  247. Trish Salah, PhD | Assistant Professor, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Winnipeg | Winnipeg, MB
  248. Anne Salomon, PhD | Simon Fraser University | Vancouver, BC
  249. Joan Sangster, PhD | Trent University | Peterborough, ON
  250. Ginetta Salvalaggio, MD, MSc
  251. Alejandra Sarda-Chandiramani, MD | Mama Cash | Buenos Aires, Argentina
  252. Cristine Sardina, MSJ | Desiree Alliance | Tucson, AZ
  253. Michael Schwandt, MD, MPH | University of Saskatchewan | Saskatoon, SK
  254. Jamie Scott, MD, PhD | Simon Fraser University | Port Moody, BC
  255. Javier Segura del Pozo, MD | Madrid City Council | Madrid, Spain
  256. Kate Shannon, PhD, MPH | Associate Professor of Medicine, University of British Columbia; Director, Gender and Sexual Health Initiative, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS | Vancouver, BC
  257. Frances Shaver, PhD | Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University | Montreal, QC
  258. Alexis Shotwell, PhD | Carleton University | Ottawa, ON
  259. Jean Shoveller, PhD | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  260. Eric Shragge, PhD | Concordia University (retired) | Montreal, QC
  261. Jacob Siegel, MPH | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  262. Reed Siemieniuk, MD | Medical Reform Group | Toronto, ON
  263. Joel Simpson, PMP, LLM | Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) | Georgetown, Guyana
  264. Paul Simpson, PhD | Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity/ University of New South Wales | Sydney, AU
  265. Bruno Spire, MD, PhD | INSERM & AIDES | Marseille, France
  266. Malcolm Steinberg, MD | Simon Fraser University | Vancouver, BC
  267. Kyle Stevens, MD | Kelly Ave Medical Cllinic | Summerland, BC
  268. Steffanie Strathdee, PhD | Carlsbad, CA
  269. Marie-Eve Sylvestre, PhD | Faculté de droit, Université d'Ottawa| Ottawa, ON
  270. Alison Symington, LLM | Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network | Toronto, ON
  271. Jason T., MSc | Toronto, ON
  272. Marliss Taylor, RN | Streetworks | Tofield, AB
  273. Sophie Thériault, PhD | Faculté de droit - Université d'Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  274. Athena Thiessen, MFA | Winnipeg, MB
  275. Gerald Thomas, PhD | Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia | Summerland, BC
  276. Heidi Thomas, RN, BScN | H’ulh-etun Health Society | Duncan, BC
  277. Sarah Thompson, PhD | Department of Criminology, Ryerson University | Toronto, ON
  278. Kimberly Thomson, MA | University of British Columbia | Vancouver, BC
  279. Ryan Thoreson, D.Phil | Yale Law School | New Haven, CT
  280. Jim Thorsteinson, MD | North Vancouver, BC
  281. Meaghan Thumath, RN, MPH | University of British Columbia School of Nursing | Vancouver, BC
  282. Louise Toupin, PhD | Université du Québec à Montréal | Montreal, QC
  283. Steven Tufts, PhD | Toronto, ON
  284. Laura Track, LLB | Vancouver, BC
  285. Francine Tremblay, PhD | Concordia University | Deux-Montagnes, QC
  286. Kathryn Trevenen, PhD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  287. Mark Tyndall, MD | University of Ottawa | Ottawa, ON
  288. Mariana Valverde, PhD | University of Toronto | Toronto, ON
  289. Kim Varma, PhD | Ryerson University | Toronto, ON
  290. Tamara Vukov, PhD | Université de Montréal | Montreal, QC
  291. Stephanie Wahab, PhD | Best Practices Policy Project | Portland, OR
  292. Pamela Walker, PhD | Carleton University | Ottawa, ON
  293. Kai Wang, MD | Toronto, ON
  294. Grant Wardell-Johnson, BEc, LLB, CTA | Sydney, AU
  295. Thomas Waugh, PhD | Program in Sexuality, Concordia University | Montreal, QC
  296. Kevin Wilson, BA (Hons.), MSc. (c) | Dalhousie University | Halifax, NS
  297. Yasmin Winsor, MScN | BC Centre for Disease Control | Vancouver, BC
  298. Teresa Whitaker, PhD | Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland | Dublin, Ireland
  299. Melissa Autumn White, PhD | UBC Okanagan | Kelowna, BC
  300. Stephen Whittle, LLB, MA, PhD | Manchester Metropolitan University | Stockport, England
  301. Robert Winston, MD, FRCPC, FACP | BC Cancer Agency | Surrey, BC
  302. Peter Woods | Emeritus Mayor | Patron Local Government New South Wales | Sydney, AU
  303. Kristopher Woofter, PhD (c) | Concordia University/ Dawson College | Montreal, QC
  304. Sean Yaphe, MPH | McGill University | Montreal, QC
  305. Alan Young, LLM | Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School | Toronto, ON
  306. Kate Zinszer, MSc | Montreal, QC

[1] Lowman J. (2000) Violence and the outlaw status of (street) prostitution. Violence Against Women, 6(9), pp. 987-1011; Shannon K (2010) The hypocrisy of Canada’s prostitution legislation, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 182(12), p.1388.

[2] WHO (2012) Prevention and treatment of HIV and other STIs for sex workers in low and middle Income countries: Recommendations for a public health approach; Shannon K & Csete J (2010) Violence, condom negotiation and HIV/STI risk among sex workers. Journal of the American Medical Association, 304(5) pp. 573-4; Csete J. & Cohen J., (2010) Health benefits of legal services for criminalised populations: The case of people who use drugs, sex workers and sexual and gender minorities. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 38(4), pp. 816–831.

[3] Abel G., Fitzgerald L., & Brunton C. (2009) The impact of decriminalisation on the number of sex workers in New Zealand. Journal of Social Policy, 38(3), pp. 515-531; Abel G., Fitzgerald L, & Brunton C. (2007) The impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the health and safety practices of sex workers’, Report to the Prostitution Law Review Committee, University of Otago, Christchurch.

[4] Supra note 2; See also Oppal WT., (2012) Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry; Shannon K. et al. (2008) Social and structural violence and power relations in mitigating HIV risk of drug-using women in survival sex work. Social Science & Medicine, 66(4), pp. 911-921; Lazarus L. et al. (2012) Occupational stigma as a primary barrier to health care for street-based sex workers in Canada. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 14(2), pp. 139-150.

[5] Skarhed A. (2010) Selected extracts of the Swedish Government Report SOU 2010:49, The ban against the purchase of sexual services: An evaluation 1999-2008, Swedish Institute.

[6] Supra note 3.

[7] Supra note 1, 2 and 4; See also Shannon K. et al. (2009) Structural and environmental barriers to condom use negotiation with clients among female sex workers: Implications for HIV-prevention strategies and policy. American Journal of Public Health, 99(4), pp. 659-665.

[8] Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72

[9] Gerdts AH. (2010) Lokale Konsekvenser av Sexkjøpsloven i Bergen. En kartleggingsrapport om kvinnene, markedet og samfunnet. Bergen: Utekontakten i Bergen; Skilbrei ML. & Holmström C. (2013) Prostitution policy in the Nordic region: Ambiguous sympathies, Ashgate Publishing Company, Burlington.

[10] Chu S & Glass R. (2013) Sex work law reform in Canada: Considering problems with the Nordic model, Alberta Law Review, 51(1), pp. 101-124; Dodillet S. & Östergren P. (2011) The Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Claimed success and documented effects; Norwegian Ministry of Justice and the Police, Working Group on the Legal Regulation of the Purchase of Sexual Services (2004) Purchasing sexual services in Sweden and the Netherlands: legal regulation and experiences. Oslo, Norway; Östergren P. (2004) Sex workers critique of Swedish prostitution policy; Levy J. (2013) Swedish Abolitionism as violence against women, Sex Worker Open University (SWOU) Sex Worker’s Rights Festival, Glasgow, April 6, 2013.

[11] Bjorndahl, AU. (2012) Farlige Forbindelser: En rapport om volden kvinner i prostitutusjon i Oslo utsettes for.

[12] Supra note 7.

[13] Krusi A. et al. (2012) Negotiating safety and sexual risk reduction with clients in unsanctioned safer indoor sex work environments: A qualitative evaluation, American Journal of Public Health, 102(6), pp. 1154-1159.

[14] Supra note 3.

[15] Supra note 5; See also The National Board for Health and Welfare of Sweden, Socialstyrelsen (2007) Prostitution in Sweden; National Council for Crime Prevention, Regeringskansliet (2000) Förbud mot köp av sexuella tjänster Tillämpningen av lagen under första året BRÅ-rapport, Stockholm.

[16] Supra note 3.

[17] Supra note 11.

[18] Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW). (2011) Moving beyond ‘supply and demand’ catchphrases: Assessing the uses and limitations of demand-based approaches to anti-trafficking; La Strada International et al. (2014) NGO Platform Statement ahead of the vote in the European Parliament on the Report of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality (2013/2103(INI)). (Accessed March 8, 2014).

[19] Global Commission on HIV and Law (2012), Risks, rights and health; Supra note 2.

Comments (27) Add New Comment
Brian Marlatt
Three hundred "researchers" have just called their credibility into question.
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Rick in Richmond
And how many of these 'researchers' would gladly see their own daughters become prostitutes?
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Hazlit
If the peer reviewed research is "unequivocal" on this issue, then why is there still debate on the issue? Can't the criminalizers simply accept that they're wrong and leave the rest of us in peace?

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sunny
People like to deny the evidence, in order to further their own agenda. The signatories on this letter do not profit from their POV, but the anti-sex work abolitionist pro Nordic groups most definitely do. To the extent that human trafficking organizations have distanced themselves from anti sex work groups who try to manipulate the general public by falsely using human trafficking stats in their sensationalism 'reports'.

The facts do not support criminalization, or anything other than simple regulation of something that has been and is already legal in Canada, provided it is not under duress and done by 18 and over, anything else is already fully and completely addressed by current laws.
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Sarah M Mah, McGill Epidemiology Student
Sadly, I believe many of these "researchers" have come to their recommendation based on inappropriate assumptions, incomplete (and in some cases, entirely false) information, and dare I say - motives that have absolutely nothing to do with the health, safety, or rights of women and girls - and disproportionately, those who are poor and racialized and Aboriginal.

All of their so-called "evidence-based research" is poorly synthesized to account for the overwhelming reality of women's inequality in this country, and the study design, analysis, and conclusions of the "evidence-based research" these signatories are referring to are engineered to frame prostitution as a job, a matter of disease control, as an inevitable harm that we can only ever hope to reduce, and not work to eliminate that harm instead.

Prostitution is violence against women, full stop. Women need to be decriminalized, yes, and granted viable alternatives such as safe exiting strategies and social welfare reforms that don't leave women in abject poverty, but we need to be able to limit the ability of the pimps and purchasers to violate the rights of the sexualized, the racializd, and the poor. Legal brothels have never worked, and will never work. I ask you to consider the Asian women who are trafficked and murdered in the massage parlours that operate with impunity across the major Canadian cities.

The standards of academic research are at an all time low - both in scientific integrity and in ethics, and there is a glaring failure to see the full decriminalization of the pimps and purchasers as posing an unquestionable threat to the social, political, and economic security of women. As some of the most privileged people, equipped to critically assess and evaluate the health and safety impacts of prostitution which are directed at the impoverished and dispossessed, the social scientists, the epidemiologists, the public health researchers - you all need to wake up.
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sunny
Yes, that's right, they used the 'poorly' done police research and government non biased researchers for their evidence. They 'relied' on the Swedish police reports that verified that the results of the criminalization had no impact on the sex trade, and certainly did not reduce trafficking in the country. They 'believed' the NZ govt based evidence of a thorough and most comprehensive review 5 years after decriminalization which also found that there was no increase in either the number of sex workers or in the number of trafficked/unwilling workers.

I realize that the 'facts' are difficult to comprehend, but we are talking here about the people who have done the real research, have investigated the issue, and, shockingly, have actually talked to sex workers.
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sunny
Oh, and not to mention that these researchers include information that i think you should actually read. If a complaint is that the voices of the marginalized street workers (the minority of all sex workers) then imagine how it is to be the vast majority seeing their voices silenced. These are not the 'privileged', these are the majority, and they deserve to be heard. Stamping them out, dismissing them as incapable or incompetent to govern their own lives, what does that make you? Someone who wants to silence the only people capable of helping those same marginalized sex workers you claim to be so concerned about.

Because i can tell you right now that the only thing they are most concerned about is paying their rent, buying their food and hopefully make the lives for their children better. I don't see one solid fact based reasoning for anyone against sex work to resolve that adult consensual sex workers don't need or want your help, In fact dismissing this majority of voices is harmful to all sex workers, including the ones you claim to want to 'save'. They'll be the first to tell you they are also not your rescue project.

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Don Collins
The Supreme Court has ruled on this issue. Re-introduction of legislation to make this a criminal offence once again is boneheaded and irresponsible.
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Jenny Rickmann
Please do read the following scientific paper by Swedish political scientist Max Waltman:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1966130
as well as the following article:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/why...
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Mullah_Kintyre
The 2008 New Zealand government report was exhaustively detailed, and most importantly consulted a large number of their nation's estimated 2332 sex workers. The supporters of the so-called Nordic system disingenuously ignore the large majority of sex workers they claim to want to help.
The best alleged research and backers (Melissa Farley, etc.) the government could find to support its side in the case that led to the Himel and Supreme Court decision were quickly and easily debunked in court by the winning side. Yet Joy Smith clownishly still uses their ridiculous nonsense in attempting to justify her position.
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sunny
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/03/27/lies-damned-l...



Lies, damned lies, and sex work statistics
Imagine a study of the alcohol industry which interviewed not a single brewer, wine expert, liquor store owner or drinker, but instead relied solely on the statements of ATF agents, dry-county politicians and members of Alcoholics Anonymous and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Or how about a report on restaurants which treated the opinions of failed hot dog stand operators as the basis for broad statements about every kind of food business from convenience stores to food trucks to McDonald’s to five-star restaurants?

You’d probably surmise that this sort of research would be biased and one-sided to the point of unreliable. And you’d be correct. But change the topic to sex work, and such methods are not only the norm, they’re accepted uncritically by the media and the majority of those who the resulting studies. In fact, many of those who represent themselves as sex work researchers don’t even try to get good data. They simply present their opinions as fact, occasionally bolstered by pseudo-studies designed to produce pre-determined results. Well-known and easily-contacted sex workers are rarely consulted . There’s no peer review. And when sex workers are consulted at all, they’re recruited from jails and substance abuse programs, resulting in a sample skewed heavily toward the desperate, the disadvantaged and the marginalized.

This sort of statistical malpractice has always been typical of prostitution research. But the incentive to produce it has dramatically increased in the past decade, thanks to a media-fueled moral panic over sex trafficking. Sex-work prohibitionists have long seen trafficking and sex slavery as a useful Trojan horse. In its 2010 “national action plan,” for example, the activist group Demand Abolition writes,“Framing the Campaign’s key target as sexual slavery might garner more support and less resistance, while framing the Campaign as combating prostitution may be less likely to mobilize similar levels of support and to stimulate stronger opposition.”
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anonymous
Regarding Sarah M Mah: "Prostitution is violence against women, full stop."

Sex work is performed by men, transgender people, and many others that do not identify as a woman. Your statement is clearly false.

But even if you claimed that prostitution is violence, the evidence dose not agree with you. Men that hire sex workers are not all violent nor are they more predisposed to violence. The vast majority of johns care about the safety of sex workers. Various john studies have demonstrated that there is no significant difference in measured parameters between cohorts of men that hire sex workers and those that report never having hired a sex worker.

Abolitionists crow about the harms of prostitution, but in their zeal to abolish this remnant of "human slavery" their actions actually make sex work more dangerous. They also fail to give rehabilitated sex workers economically viable options once they are "saved", but that is another topic entirely.
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Barry William Teske
Regarding Sarah M Mah and her first three words: "Sadly, I believe ..."

Fortunately belief and knowledge are two different things.
Recent world history proves that.
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Pourquoi
If these persons are researchers, why don't they do some research so that they know, what they have signed. Why don't they mention, that rape has dropped from 29 % to 15 % and hit with fist from 29 % to 18% in Norway?
Why don't they mention 6 murdered prostitutes in New Zealand where there are illegal prostitution and Brothels in nearly every city. That means, that there are no knowledge of the exact numbers of prostitutes in NZ.
20 murdered prost in Germany. 127 murdered prost in Netherlands. Legalization didn't help these Women at all, because the clients and pimps are still the same violent persons and legalization don't change their behaviour.
It is also very sad to see, that these researchers read Skarheds report from 2010 as the Devil reads the Bible. If they did any research, they would and could find facts and surveys that show that prostitution has not gone underground, and both police and socialworkers have no problems at all to be in contact with the prostitutes.
They would also know, that the Swedish prostitutionmarked probably is one of the most watched markeds in the world.
Instead they use sources in Sweden, that has a credibility problem, and whereof one has been accused of scientific misconduct and the other still uses informations collected for more than 10 years ago.

The Researchers also use a 10 year old report from the Norwegian Police that at that time was very negative about the Swedish Model, as evidence about prostitution in Sweden. One can rightly wonder, why it is necessary to find a more than 10 year old report made by a police force in another country as evidence for a conclusion. It smells a lot of desperation and looks like a biased conclusion where you're just looking for something that fits into the prefabricated picture.
The Norwegian Police has since then changed their minds about the Swedish or Nordic Model and is now fully supporting it.

This signed letter is pure amateur work.
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The Baby Jesus
@Jenny Rickman

I was doubtful about criminalizing any aspect of prostitution but I'm, at least, tentatively convinced by the articles you posted. Preserving the safety (and freedom) of the workers while reducing the instances of their exploitation is a win-win. Shifting the law to focus on the Johns looks like it could really work. I think it's worth a shot.
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Optimist
Germany and The Netherlands recognize the failure of their model. It is pimping which was legalized!

«There is “absolutely” a correlation between legalised prostitution and trafficking, says Andrea Matolcsi, the programme officer for sexual violence and trafficking at Equality Now. “For a trafficker it’s much easier to go to a country where it’s legal to have brothels and it’s legal to manage people in prostitution. It’s just a more attractive environment.”

http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/projects/welcome-to-paradise/index.html

« Pimps, under legalisation, have been reclassified as managers and businessmen. Abuse suffered by the women is now called an ‘occupational hazard’, like a stone dropped on a builder’s toe. Sex tourism has grown faster in Amsterdam than the regular type of tourism: as the city became the brothel of Europe, women have been imported by traffickers from Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia to meet the demand. In other words, the pimps remained but became legit — violence was still prevalent but part of the job, and trafficking increased. Support for the women to leave prostitution became almost nonexistent. »

http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8835071/flesh-for-sale/

And New Zealand is a paradise ... for pimps and johns!

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9428778/Ex-prostitutes-call-for...

Abolitionism is not the perfect model, it is only the best we have.
Women are not products.
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Hazlit
@Optimist:

"Women are not products." Absolutely agree 100%. One good solution would then be not to offer prostitution services. But they do. And unless you're wilfully blind, some offer their services of their own free will. So while they are not products they ARE capitalists!

Women who sell sex are just after profit and making money; they merely exploit poor men who can't get sex any other way. Sad. If only sex was FREE and widely available! There would be no prostitution then.
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Optimist
"The reality is that the great majority of these women are not voluntarily in prostitution and that the johns buy them all the same. Their money goes directly into the pockets of the pimps. They are accomplices."
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Pourquoi
@Hazlit The poor men are not so poor after all.

Picked up from the Journal.ie Thursday:
"There are a lot of similarities between the findings in each of the five countries. We all found that buyers are in the main well-off with over two-thirds earning more than €20,000 a year, most were well-educated and, in the case of Ireland, 52 per cent are in a relationship while 45 per cent are over the age of 45.
The study confirmed what we have always suspected that buyers are in the main men, while the sellers of sex are in the vast majority of cases women."

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sunny
optimist, you are quoting someone with an opinion, not someone who has provided evidence as to their opinion. This is not presenting a fact to dispute the actual researchers.

So, if this wasn't sex work, would any employer be considered a pimp? I mean, like a contruction company hires workers, are they pimping out their labour? You see, just because a sex worker chooses to work at a brothel or with an agency doesn't mean that is actually pimping. A pimp actually takes all of the sex worker's earnings.

There are always abolitionists, what the abolitionists don't have is any actual real evidence to support their claims.

AT Pourquoi, why do you think that female sex workers are going to be able to avoid the same dangers of being female in any society that any other female person has? Women in general are at high risk of danger from men, but most specifically male partners. It is not credible to claim that the only reason a sex worker may be assaulted is because she is a sex worker. It is far more credible to claim that she is assaulted because she is a woman. What women do really has nothing to do with them being assaulted or not. If it was, then there would be a ban on women going to university, because apparently it is a lot riskier for women to be university students than it is for them to be sex workers.

You need to also understand that the only discredited researcher that we know of is an abolitionists, melissa farley, so maybe you should name the person you claim is disreputable? thanks.

You didn't mention the number of sex workers killed in Sweden. Are we to believe there are none? I think you'll find, like most women, even sex workers are more likely to be killed by their male partners than strangers or clients.
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