Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Decriminalize prostitution, sex-trade worker urges

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SHE'S at the centre of a headline-making case which could permanently change the way people buy and sell sex.

However, for now, Amy Lebovitch, 31, of Vancouver says making money selling sex from her home or a rented space remains "completely illegal," so she continues to fight for prostitution to be decriminalized.

"I'm a person and I have a job, and this is the job that I have, and it doesn't change who I am," said Lebovitch, a spokeswoman for the Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC).

She's in the city this week to talk about how prostitution laws affect people who work selling sex. The Montreal-born woman should know, as she's worked in the sex trade since the age of 18. She's also one of three women at the centre of a controversial ruling last year by Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel.

The ruling struck down three provisions of the Criminal Code related to prostitution, living on the avails of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy-house and communicating in a public place for the purpose of engaging in prostitution, and led Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to say the federal government will appeal.

Lebovitch, who studied criminology, psychology and social work at universities in Ottawa and Toronto, has worked as a "street prostitute, as an escort, and in a fetish house," according to a court ruling in the case.

She's says "the fight for sex worker's rights is a fight for human rights."

"Because of a lot of reasons, there's not a lot of people in sex work that can speak publicly," said Lebovitch.

Lebovitch said laws around prostitution have impacted her own work.

"Many years ago, when I worked outdoors, the communicating law affected my life," she said. She said she currently works "indoors," which she considers to be a "privilege" but still presents legal worries.

"(It's) simple things like worrying that my place can be found out, that I can be found out that I'm working, that I can lose my housing, that I would be arrested," she said.

Lebovitch fears being charged and convicted under Criminal Code laws related to bawdy houses, which could lead to the possibility of home forfeiture, according to Himel's court ruling. Lebovitch also said a section of the Criminal Code that prohibits people living off the avails of prostitution can also be problematic, like for roommates or partners of people selling sex.

"That law directly targets people that are in a sex worker's life, that may not be predatory," she said. "That is something that hangs over your head."

Lebovitch was scheduled to speak Wednesday evening at the Rudolph Rocker Cultural Centre on Albert Street.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 24, 2011 B2

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