When Sex is Work: Organizing for Labour Rights and Protections

RESEARCH ON SEX WORK IN CANADA tends to analyse the ways in which the Canadian Criminal Code contributes to stigma, discrimination, and violence toward sex workers. (1) The negative implications of criminalization have been well documented in sexuality studies, women’s studies, policy studies, and criminal justice studies research, not to mention by the courts themselves. In September 2010, a pronouncement by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (2) ruled that the sections of the Criminal Code which seek to prohibit aspects of prostitution are not congruent with the principles of justice as protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (3) In effect, the ruling supported the decriminalization of many common work-related activities, for example: working from a fixed location, including one’s own home; hiring a driver or a bodyguard; and communicating in public for the purposes of engaging a client for services. The federal government appealed, and in March 2012 the Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision which again supported partial decriminalization. (4) The section of the decision regarding bawdy-houses includes a twelve month stay, which gives policy makers, politicians, sex workers, and labour organizers a limited amount of time to make recommendations and decisions about how to best regulate and organize indoor sex work.

While it is well documented that the criminalization of sex work increases harm and violence, the specific effects of criminalization on the organization of labour within the sex industry is considerably less documented. (5) As Becki Ross argues, “sex-free labour studies alongside work-free sexuality studies within Canadian social history has meant that the rich registers of ‘sexuality’ and ‘labour’ have rarely been placed systematically in relation to, and in tension with, one another.” (6) As such, this article broadens the scope of analysis related to sex work and criminalization by looking at its labour-related consequences.

Full article available here.
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