Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Prostitution should be legal and regulated

There's a pie-in-the-sky solution to ending street prostitution in Winnipeg. Take away the demand and there's no point providing the supply.
Yes, it's simplistic. No, it's not likely to succeed. But pulling johns off the streets instead of busting sex-trade workers is really the only way to go. The men -- the guys who pay money to have sex with women and children -- are the really rancid part of the equation.

Tuesday night, Winnipeg police, together with officials from the Child Protection Branch and officers from the vice unit, tactical support team, street crimes unit, missing persons unit, and Division 11 community support unit swarmed the Centennial neighbourhood. In part, they wanted to establish a strong police presence to let residents, sex-trade workers and johns know they were serious about cleaning up the streets.
They arrested four adult female sex-trade workers and two youths. One girl was 13. The other was 16. One john was arrested and had his car seized. He was also busted for driving without a licence.
Centennial residents are rightfully outraged at the open solicitation taking place in their back lanes and front sidewalks. It makes them feel unsafe. They worry about their children. They want their neighbourhood back.
Const. Jason Michalyshen wouldn't say how many police officers were involved, only that there were "high police numbers." They pick up the underage girls, he said, "to try to give them the chance to make better choices."
The two girls were returned to their families. In this case, they had families.
If a john is arrested hiring a girl under 16 for the purpose of prostitution, he can be charged with sexual assault and sexual interference.
Michalyshen said the point of Tuesday night's exercise was to get the word out. In other operations, the goal may be to arrest as many johns as possible.
Christy Dzikowicz, head of Child Find Manitoba, says johns looking for sex with children come from all walks of life and every part of the city. The canard that they're all Volvo-driving guys from River Heights doesn't hold water.
Creeps can now use websites such as craigslist to find what they're looking for, she says. Technology is making it easier for perverts to find children.
She remembers police picking up a high-risk teen, who was holding a cellphone that wasn't hers. The text message on it read: "Hey, I have a 13-year-old girl. Want me to send her up?"
How do you fight that? Cleaning up the street can't touch these roaches.
Several years ago, I wrote a series called Innocence For Sale. It took readers through the murky underground of this city, where children as young as eight were put on the market, where johns were so bold they'd knock on kitchen windows to see if the girls were for sale. Parents had to walk their kids to school so they wouldn't be approached. There was denial from many people at city hall, despite the fact many of these girls were turning tricks a block from 510 Main St.
The police are doing the best they can to clean up the streets. But they have to be helped by a citizenry who doesn't look at a sex-trade worker and see a woman who made a choice.
Eight-year-olds don't choose to trade sex for food, money or shelter because Grade 3 wasn't working out. Thirteen-year-olds would rather not have several men a night performing sex acts on them.
Many of the older women were lured into the business when they were young teens.
If they can find some way to save the kids and women who are out there, hallelujah. First, they have to bust the johns, punish and embarrass them until they get the message they're the criminals. Then, they have to find some way to make it stick.
This is not a victimless crime. These women aren't choosing to be debased. These children surely are victims. Lock up the john, put their names in the newspapers and let them know our city has zero tolerance for creeps prowling the streets.

A young woman leans into a driver's window, furtively discussing an exchange of sex for money, when they're surprised by a police officer. Who gets charged? The prostitute? The john?
During a sweep in Winnipeg earlier this week, police charged four women with communicating for the purposes of prostitution. The johns were not charged.

Police warned Thursay the men who use prostitutes shouldn't think they're above the law. In November, police arrested 30 men for buying sex during a three-month sweep and they impounded 30 vehicles.
But Prof. Karen Busby, a University of Manitoba law professor who has researched prostitution in the Prairie provinces, said women who sell sex are charged more often than men purchasing it, and women are "way more likely" to receive a jail sentence.
She said charging johns is effective at deterring some men from reoffending, but doesn't deter women who sell sex because they don't have other options.
"Women are also perceived as the presence and the problem, so it's easier to do that kind of sweep and take them away than the men," she said.
The police project this week targeted women and girls working on Kate and Juno streets, near Bannatyne Avenue.
Police said the project wasn't traditional and, working with social workers, they tried to connect women and girls to resources that can shift them out of the sex trade. Two teenage girls -- one of whom was only 13 years old -- were returned to their families after police picked them up.
The project was an "alternative" way of dealing with prostitution, said a police spokesman, dealing with "root issues" of the social scourge.
"That's why we have other resources or other agencies with us, as well as diversion," WPS spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said.
"Hey, maybe we can make contact and provide some resources to these individuals so that they will make a change in their lifestyle.
"It's not about arresting people always and forcing them through the judicial process. It's bigger than that," he said.
The Salvation Army helped with Tuesday night's project.
"We were there whether they were arrested or not, so we could provide a resource for them," said Dianna Bussey, the Salvation Army's prostitution-diversion program co-ordinator.
The organization runs separate prostitution programming for johns and sex-trade workers, in which they attend programs aimed at stopping their behaviour.
Three staffers from the Child Protection Branch were present when police made the arrests. They took the teenagers and returned them to their families.
"In my experience (with) the WPS, there has been a good balance of men charged," said StreetReach outreach co-ordinator Jennifer Berry on Wednesday. "It's not often out there, but the diversion programs are often just as full with men as they are with women that are diverted and charged."

Prostitution should be decriminalized completely. Criminalizing the clients doesn't help anyone. Sex itself isn't illegal, so why should it be a crime for consenting adults to have sex? Arresting men is not going to deter or prevent other men from paying for sex. 

Prostitution should be legal and controlled/regulated. It's a profession for some of these young women, just like any other career. If it was legal, it could be regulated by the government and be safer. Prostitutes should NOT be charged with a crime. Often times, they are living in poverty, are homeless, have been physically/sexually abused, are dependent on drugs/alcohol, are single parents, unemployed and have no other way of making money to support their families. It is a sad reality, but it is not a crime. Many of these women are also addicted to drugs/alcohol and come from abusive or dysfunctional backgrounds. Criminalizing them, is not a solution. These women need help, such as education, employment, addictions treatment, counseling, etc. Nobody should be charged, not even the johns. The government should regulate and monitor prostitution. It could be effectively controlled and made safer. Charging people for trying to participate in what is a basic human need, is repulsive. I do not understand why prostitution is illegal. It is just a woman offering a service using the abilities she has, with the tools (body) she has. Sex itself is not illegal and prostitution is consensual, so it should also be legal. Johns and prostitutes are consenting adults (most of the time) and they should not be penalized. Making prostitution legal would allow the act to be managed instead of ignored. Legalizing prostitution would prevent the underground prostitution which occurs today. There could be legitimate parlours and agencies, which would be much safer. When adult women decide to exchange money for sex, it is a personal choice open to them under the philosophy of a free, democratic society. When troubled minors who do not yet have the social survival skills to prostitute, they are often manipulated by opportunists who exploit these teens. Legalizing prostitution would help prevent these instances through regulation. Encounters could take place within controlled environments that would bring safety for both customers and prostitutes. Underage prostitution would be curtailed. There would also be health-safety improvements. There should be management as opposed to abandonment of prostitution. These sex trade workers often need help, as many are homeless, live in poverty, are victims of physical abuse, suffer from drug/alcohol dependency or have been physically/sexually abused during childhood. Instead of managing the problem through the medical and social interventions accompanied by regulation of the industry, critics of legalized prostitution would rather adopt prohibition and cold abandonment. When critics mention neighbourhood safety, they do not offer meaningful alternatives. Their plan is to heighten police patrols, encourage undercover sting operations and stiffen penalties. Prohibition drives the industry further underground, making it harder to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and various other STD's in the community. If critics of prostitution wanted to truly help prostitutes and the communities where prostitution occurs, they would reconsider their position. Research shows the many benefits of legalization. Prohibition will cause drug dependency to continue, physical abuse to continue, and STD's will spread. Women who need help will continue their lives on the same harmful paths. 

Bottom line: Prostitution should be legal. It is going to continue operating and always will. The best way to make is safe, is to legalize brothels and control/regulate prostitution. 

I am signing this petition because I believe that as long as prositution is illegal the women involved in this profession are being subjected to unfair labor conditions, unequal police protection, lack of health care and a general social stigma.

I believe that women have the right to choose what they want to do with their bodies and I, therefore, believe prosititution should be legalized.

Governments and politicians criminalize prostitution and often make women out to be victims. While I am sure their intentions may be good, they rarely stop to realize that by victimizing the women, they are forcing a lot of the ladies to put themselves in dangerous situations and work environments all for the sake of simply making a living the way they want to without being hassled by police.

A woman should have the freedom to choose her own path in life, including her method of income. If a woman happily chooses to enter into prostitution, then she should have the ability to do so without fear of social ostracization or lack of police support when they need it for serious matters.

Prostitution has been around since the dawn of humans and it is not going away any time soon. When will people realize that fighting against the natural act of sex won’t work?

Sex is a natural thing, and so is prostitution. Trying to smother the prostitution industry with laws often harms the girls and is not going to work. Many innocent women will be victimized or worse because of it simply because they’re too scared to go to the police for fear of being labeled a criminal.

Human trafficking is another matter and we are completely against it. However, in the case of two adults consenting to sexual services in exchange for money, then that is nobody's business but their own.

The laws we have now are bogus. They protect nobody.

They do not protect the ladies involved because they are focused on making the ladies out to be these poor, defenseless victims instead of the strong, focused businesswomen they are. The laws we have now scare the women into hiding when they should feel safe enough to work with the police to bring in a lot of the criminals that the police SHOULD be looking for.

They do not protect the general public either, because the law allows pimps and human traffickers to continue without much concern and cause the general public a lot of grief. All because the industry is living in such a large shadow of fear that the law becomes a tool used to scare some ladies into silence.

If we were to decriminalize prostitution, then a lot of the pimps and human traffickers would be dragged to the center of police attention because ladies would be less fearful of reporting them once they know that they’re in no legal danger.

We know what doesn't work. Now let's try something that DOES work: the freedom of our own sexuality.

Decriminalize Prostitution NOW! Save the police department funds for hunting down the pimps and human traffickers instead!

Of course, the most important argument for the legalization of prostitution services is that such prohibitions violate one's most basic and inherent rights.

Prostitution is the voluntary sale (or rental) of a labor service. Individuals own their own bodies and their own labor services and have the absolute right to decide how those labor services should be used. As long as the prostitution transaction is voluntary, there is no justification for governmental interference. Indeed, such interference constitutes an infringement of the privacy and personal liberty of the individuals involved.

The government does have a legitimate role to play in the prostitution market. As with all markets, it should ensure that all exchanges are truly voluntary. In short, it should protect individual rights to property, especially the right not to be coerced.

Currently, since prostitution is illegal outside of Nevada, most prostitutes are in a "no-man's-land" as far as physical protection is concerned. They are often beaten and brutalized, with no real legal recourse. In a free market for prostitution services, suppliers of labor services that are physically harmed would have the same rights to police protection and to legal recourse as the rest of us.

The moral and economic case for the legalization of prostitution is overwhelming. Government prohibition and regulation blatantly violate the rights of the individual and are economically expensive. Therefore, America's views and strategies on the topic of prostitution must undergo an immediate and radical change. The time has come to abandon the nation's archaic attempts to legislate personal morality. The time has come to face up to the facts and to implement the only policy that can truly make a positive difference. The time has come for the legalization of prostitution.

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