By Sadiya Ansari
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Groups representing Aboriginal women hope the government will have a partial victory in upholding current prostitution laws. They say female sex workers need to be decriminalized, but they will be endangered if the government stops arresting pimps and johns.
VANCOUVER, Canada (WOMENSENEWS)--The Canadian government is appealing a judge's decision to decriminalize many aspects of prostitution.
As Aboriginal women's advocates wait for the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, it's a time of ambivalence.
While they side with the decriminalizing judge when it comes to the treatment of prostitutes, they agree with the federal government on outlawing pimps and johns, because they often commit violence against sex workers.
"It's not a question of morality," said Teresa Edwards, in-house counsel for the Native Women's Association of Canada, which is based in Ottawa and represents 13 Aboriginal women's organizations across the country. "It's a question of safety."
Aboriginal women are over-represented among sex workers, who are often living in poverty, suffering from addiction and have few other choices. Predatory gangs target these women, says Edwards, when they are as young as 9 years old.
A decision on the federal government's June 2011 appeal--following the Ontario Superior Court's September 2010 decision striking down anti-prostitution laws as unconstitutional--is expected early this year from the appeal court in Toronto.
Such rulings are typically published within six months, but the Ontario Court of Appeal has indicated in cases as complex as this one, a ruling may take longer.
Meanwhile in British Columbia, sex workers are trying to launch a constitutional challenge to the prostitution laws. The Supreme Court of Canada will decide on whether the group will be able to initiate a challenge based on arguments presented to the court last week.
By Rich Daly
By Kari Neumeyer