We support women who are assumed in the dominant public discourse to be victims of sex trafficking. Despite the preponderance of ads advertising sexual services of somethings, the average age of the women we support is Over the past few years, there has been a war against online classified-ad websites such as Backpage that carry sex workers' ads. While this war started in the United States, it has crept across the border to Canada as the discourse around sex trafficking has intensified.
But one perspective is consistently missing: Why does this matter? Li and many women like her use online classifieds to screen clients. This relatively inexpensive form of advertising allows them to work for themselves, define the parameters of their own business and work indoors, which research shows is much safer for them than the street.
It provides greater control over their working conditions. In Canada, more than ever, adult consensual sex work is conflated with sex trafficking — by law enforcement, the media, women's organizations, faith-based groups and the public.
Organizations like SWAN work hard to prevent trafficking and address it if it occurs, but shutting down sites like Backpage is not the way to do that. Prohibiting advertising pushes sex work further underground, where exploitation is more likely and harder to detect. Online classified sites have enabled SWAN to connect with women who tend to be isolated due to their newness in the community and the stigma around sex work. Using sites like Backpage, SWAN has become known in the migrant and immigrant sex-work community as a trustworthy support organization giving women a channel to deal with workplace problems.
The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act introduced in criminalized third-party advertisers like Backpage, although few charges have been laid to date. Shortly after the law came into force, many websites imposed stricter posting criteria for adult-oriented ads, banning the use of sexual terminology.
This prevents sex workers from clearly communicating in their ads what services they provide, increasing the risk for misunderstanding and potential violence. Pivot Legal Society has heard from people across the country that the new law makes sex work more challenging and dangerous.
That is bitterly ironic, given that the law was enacted to replace our former prostitution laws, which were declared unconstitutional for putting sex workers' lives at risk in a court challenge known as the Bedford case.
In the case — in which Pivot was an intervenor — the Supreme Court of Canada found unequivocally that client screening was among the most crucial safety measures for sex workers. The ban on advertising violates sex workers' rights to personal security and freedom of expression. Canada does not need legislation that inhibits communication between sex workers and their clients and impedes sex workers from working independently indoors.
We also won't eliminate trafficking through a crack-down on channels like Backpage that allow sex workers like Li to work more safely. Rather than blindly following the U. Law-making and law-enforcement responses to trafficking should be predicated on people's lived experiences, not popular hysteria.
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What is a note about happy couples doing in a move made in response to a bill to fight sex trafficking?
Well, this is the vast possibility and danger of Craigslist. For decades, it's been the place where someone might find the perfect or most horrible roommate; a steal of a couch or total piece of junk; casual sex or even a spouse. The public nature of dating apps can make it harder to be forthcoming about just wanting sex, if that's what you're after.
One of my oldest childhood friends, for example, posted a Craigslist ad back in the mids and met her husband. Now they're expecting their second child! But answer the wrong ad, and there's a risk of being raped, murdered or falling into a sex-trafficking ring. As these ads go offline, we spoke to a year-old man in New York who used Craigslist's personal ads - specifically the casual encounters section - as a way of finding casual sex in his early 20s. He spoke to us on condition of anonymity, because, well, that's what Craigslist personals were all about.
It's part of what made them successful, he thinks. Unlike dating apps that often require being linked to a social media account, on Craigslist you could be nameless and Facebook-less. There's less stigma now about using dating sites or apps, but some people prefer to be anonymous. And sometimes he didn't even get to see what they looked like.
He estimates that he would answer hundreds of ads, which might net about 10 replies, which might then lead to one in-person interaction. That's a LOT of email. But the encounters were memorable. In one encounter, a woman insisted on having porn blasting the entire time.