(Vancouver) At the invitation of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter (VRRWS) 40 feminist front line activists from Scotland, England, United States, New Zealand and from across Canada have gathered to discuss the use of transition houses as a strategy for women’s equality. On the first day of the four day meeting the guests wanted answers to the reports of Vancouver’s move to legalize prostitution for the 2010 Olympics.
Suzanne Koepplinger, Executive Director of Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center was shocked to hear about the promotion of prostitution for the Olympics. “I know that Aboriginal women will be served up for male tourists who are looking to buy women as part of their tourist package. I reject that any government should support the buying and selling of women.”
Judy Hughs, Executive Council from the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) says:
“Any attempt to legalize prostitution will further increase the racialized, sexualised violence that has led to the murder and disappearance of our 500 Aboriginal women across Canada. It is also an open door for the trafficking of Aboriginal women as well as targeting our youth and children.”
All of the guests agree prostitution should be seen as part of a continuum of violence against women that includes wife assault, incest, sexual harassment and rape. Women’s groups in Scotland have come out against the legalization of prostitution.
Dianne Hogg from Clydebank Women’s Aid in Scotland asserts: “its time to put the heat back on men who buy women. Lets criminalize the men and get on with providing services for women trapped in the trade.”
Marai Larasi, Chief Executive of London’s nia project, says: “The promotion and rationalization of prostitution as a “choice” for women benefits pimps, johns and traffickers. This notion does not ring true for the women trapped in the trade. No woman that I have worked with has told me that she chose to work as a prostitute.”
Kathleen Piovesan of VRRWS says: “We as transition house workers are experiencing the Canadian State withdrawing welfare at the very same time they are promoting prostitution as legitimate work. Every day, we see in our transition house how women leaving violent husbands, abusive bosses or fathers are pushed into prostitution by having no other way of supporting themselves and their children.”
Jacqueline Gullion of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centers claims, “The state has abandoned their responsibility to ensure women’s equality. The move towards legalizing prostitution must be challenged at the local, provincial and federal level. Sexual assault centers across Canada have agreed to see prostitution as violence against women and as a reflection and product of women’s inequality.”