Sex workers, supporters march ahead of Supreme Court hearing
Published Saturday, June 8, 2013 2:46PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, June 8, 2013 7:00PM EDT
Ahead of next week's anticipated Supreme Court of Canada hearing into the future of Canada’s prostitution laws, dozens of sex workers and their supporters marched through the streets of downtown Toronto Saturday afternoon, calling for decriminalization of prostitution.
The march, one of several rallies scheduled across Canada this weekend, was attended by Terry-Jean Bedford, one of three women involved in the legal challenge.
"These women actually have a beating heart," she told CP24. "All they want to do is feed their families….The Brady Bunch is not the norm," the retired dominatrix said.
Bedford told the crowd that the outcome of next week’s hearing doesn’t just affect sex trade workers. “This is about every Canadian who enjoys their right to privacy,” she said.
"The government’s coming in through the back door and they’re going to tell you what you can and cannot do in the privacy of your home with another consenting adult -- for money or not."
Protesters in Toronto carried red umbrellas and chanted: "Sex work is real work, decriminalize now."
A sex worker, who identified herself as "Shalimar" told The Canadian Press that Canada's prostitution laws are hypocritical given that sexual activity is essentially tolerated but that the sex trade industry has been outlawed.
"Why are they morally pushed in on us?" she asked.
Next week's hearing stems from an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that struck down the Criminal Code ban on brothels but upheld a ban on the communication for the purposes of prostitution – effectively making street prostitution illegal.
Prostitution is not illegal in Canada however many of the activities surrounding it are banned under the three sections of the Criminal Code.
The Ontario case revealed a deep division among groups that work with women in the sex trade. Some groups are fighting for a form of legalizations, while others say prostitution must remain illegal. Nearly two dozen organizations are to present their arguments to the high court on Thursday.
The case involves three women: Bedford, former prostitute Valerie Scott and Vancouver sex worker Amy Lebovitch. They argue that the laws related to prostitution violate the charter.
Bedford said she hopes Canada's prostitution laws will be changed and the Criminal Code amended.
Marches were planned for six cities across Canada, including Ottawa, Vancouver and in Montreal where sex workers have been the focus of recent media attention because of this weekend’s Grand Prix Formula One race.
The week leading up the racing event is typically one of the sex trade industry's busiest time of the year.
According to advocates for decriminalization of prostitution, Montreal sex trade workers are vulnerable to violence as prostitution has been pushed to isolated areas of the city.
With files from CP24 and The Canadian Press