Monday, February 25, 2019

Sex worker rights groups mark Canada’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day with scathing response to Justice Committee Report: Warns of harms to sex workers

Press Release from the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform

February 22, 2019– To mark February 22nd, Canada’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day, sex worker rights groups across the country are highlighting the harms of anti-human trafficking efforts in response to the report from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights released December 2018, Moving Forward in the Fight Against Human Trafficking in Canada. 

The final recommendations from the Committee’s report ignore the evidence provided by sex worker rights groups on the harmful impacts of anti-human trafficking efforts and fail to recognize sex workers as the primary targets of anti-human trafficking initiatives, and therefore as important stakeholders in Canada’s human trafficking response.

While the Committee explicitly states that it “does not take any position regarding the legalization or decriminalization of prostitution or the relationship between the sex industry and human trafficking as this is beyond the scope of this study,” their failure to concretely distinguish between sex work and human trafficking and to position itself on the human rights of sex workers has resulted in a series of recommendations that will lead to human rights violations against sex workers.

Throughout the consultation and across the country, sex worker rights groups and our allies provided clear, consistent data and submissions that demonstrated how anti-human trafficking discourse, policy and policing has caused — and continues to cause — human rights violations against people working in the sex industry.

Sex worker rights groups were also clear to distinguish human trafficking from sex work not only in practice and in the language used to accurately reflect people’s experiences, but in policy recommendations as well.

When sex work is conflated with human trafficking, sex workers and the people they work with are indiscriminately targeted for surveillance and investigation.

Sex workers experience this over-policing as antagonistic and as a result often do not report to or seek out law enforcement if they need to.

Sex workers may experience many types of violence and exploitation, but whether or not this is related to trafficking, none are adequately addressed through current policy and practice.

Sex work-specific criminal and immigration prohibitions are barriers to meaningfully addressing human trafficking.

While sex work and human trafficking are profoundly different, they are conflated in legislation, policy and practice.

Addressing human trafficking thus requires a review of both criminal and immigration laws and the ways in which human trafficking laws are currently being enforced in a way that threatens sex workers’ safety, security and agency.

See our full response and recommendations for a human rights-based approach to human trafficking at:
Contact our email for further comment:

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