I frequently hear the name Robert Pickton invoked to support legalization of prostitution, a dishonest argument.
The women who were murdered by Robert Pickton went to his farm to do drugs and party. They were not kidnapped. These are not women who would be hired by brothels. They did not turn to prostitution as an alternative to working for MacDonalds.
Under today's laws Pickton could have been arrested.
This article is old but the arguments remain valid.
Some opponents have claimed this new legislation reproduces colonial state violence against aboriginal women and girls by increasing police power. What this analysis fails to recognize is that prostitution is not a traditional activity for aboriginal women and, in fact, is "the world's oldest oppression." It is a system, like Canada's residential school system, that has been imposed on our aboriginal communities. Prostitution is part of the continuum of colonial male violence against aboriginal women and girls, telling us incorrectly that we are disposable in life and that predators can harm us without recourse. The end point of that continuum is the thousands of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, an ongoing massacre that continues to tell us that we are disposable, even in death, with no official inquiry or accountability.
Prostitution, akin to the residential school system, is an institution that continues to have devastating impacts on the lives of aboriginal women and girls, who are disproportionately involved in street-level prostitution. Prostitution is an industry that relies on disparities in power to exist. We can see clearly that women, and especially aboriginal women and girls, are funnelled into prostitution as a result of systemic inequalities such as their lack of access to housing, loss of land, culture, and languages, poverty, high rates of male violence, involvement with the foster care system, suicide, criminalization, addiction, and disability. To imagine that prostitution, a system that feeds these inequalities, should be allowed or encouraged, is dangerously misguided and supports the ongoing systemic harms against our women and girls. In the same ways that those who came before us were funnelled into the residential school system "for our own good," the attempts to now funnel us into the system of prostitution, and to support the rights of pimps and johns, is also being incorrectly portrayed as being for our own benefit and protection.
I will not deny the existence of women who are empowered by prostitution and claim that it affords them a better life than any other employment available to them, or even that they enjoy it more than any other profession available to them. It is also true that there are laws againsts all forms of abuse that happen within prostitution. But then laws didn't stop Pickton and neither would decriminalization or legalization. It would not prevent the mass exploitation of minority women who in many countries make up the vast majority of visible prostitutes. New Zealand is held up as a model but their population is only 4.5 million and it's an island. It is far more likely we would end up like Germany than like New Zealand.
This is encouraging:
- 58% of Ontarians oppose any changes to the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act that would decriminalize pimps, brothel owners and sex buying
- 75% of Ontarians think that prostitution is harmful to women and girls
- 77% of Ontarians feel that most women and girls do not want to have repeated sex with random men
- 78% of Ontarians would NOT support their son, brother, husband or family member purchasing sexual services from a prostituted person
- 58% of Ontarians do NOT view prostitution as a job like any other