Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Alienation, security key issues: sex worker

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THE Supreme Court's decision Friday to strike down three anti-prostitution laws as unconstitutional is being praised by Manitobans who work with sex-trade workers.

But one Winnipeg sex-trade worker said challenges facing prostitutes aren't just constitutional.

"The biggest issue for sex workers like myself is the social stigma attached to the job, and not having insurance in case I get sick or hurt," said the woman who spoke anonymously to the Free Press.

'The biggest issue for sex workers like myself is the social stigma attached to the job'

The woman considers herself a "independent service provider" and said steps to get rid of anonymous phone numbers and apps that generate fake phone numbers would help escorts immensely.

"Independent service providers rely on phone numbers that can be traced so there is accountability. We also use references from other providers."

The woman suggested having a "bad date" phone line or info board to facilitate communication between sex-trade workers as well.

"Any new laws need to pay attention to those that are in the trade that are vulnerable," said Karen Peto, the chairwoman of the board at the YWCA Westman Women's Shelter. "In the past, the law has treated the prostitutes obviously more harshly than the clients."

Peto said Parliament needs to consider the diversity of sex-trade workers' situations when making new laws.

"Although the people that brought up the case may feel very in charge of their lives, I think there's lots of people in the trade that aren't there of their own free will or might have addictions," said Peto.

Tammy Reimer, manager of Sage House, a drop-in centre for women who work in the sex trade, was pleased with the Supreme Court's decision.

"We were happy to see this; this is a really good step and this is a step in the right direction... We recognize that nothing has changed today. It'll be a year to hopefully come together to evolve," said Reimer.

"It feels like a long time coming for us and there's so much more to this than just these laws. There's more in this system that needs to change," she added.

The anonymous sex-trade worker hopes the ruling by the Supreme Court reflects shifting social values.

"If (you) really think about it, sex workers are like anybody else. Any law that helps the general population against human trafficking, youth exploitation and violent crimes would in turn help sex workers."

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2013 A6

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