Pivot lawyers target prostitution laws

Exotic dancers hold fundraiser Dec. 17
Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier
Published: Friday, December 12, 2008

A six-week trial challenging Canada’s entire body of prostitution laws could be precedent setting, says a lawyer for Pivot Legal Society.

“The outcome could mean the decriminalization of adult prostitution in Canada,” said Katrina Pacey. “It could have huge implications.”

Pacey and co-council Joe Arvay are representing plaintiffs Sheryl Kiselbach, a former sex-trade worker, and Sex Workers United Against Violence Society in the court case, which is scheduled to begin Feb.

Susan Davis, spokesperson for the West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals, says Canadian law does not protect sex workers.

According to Pivot, the case argues Canada’s criminal laws relating to adult prostitution endanger the health and lives of sex workers and violate their rights and freedoms. Lawyers for the government argue that because most of the plaintiffs are no longer actively involved in sex work or remain in the sex trade but have not been criminally charged, they have no legal basis for a lawsuit.

“In the past some groups have challenged sections of the law, but this is the first time all of the laws regarding adult prostitution have been challenged,” said Pacey.

To help Pivot with its Supreme Court battle, a fundraiser has been organized for Dec. 17, which sex-worker advocates mark as International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Proceeds from the Moulin Rouge Masquerade event at the Royal Unicorn Cabaret will be shared between Pivot and the West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals. Pacey said the two groups are linked because the co-op’s objective is to open a safe space out of which sex workers can operate. “But they can’t do that with these laws in place,” said Pacey.

Susan Davis, spokesperson for the co-operative, said the group seeks to offer safety and stability to sex workers.

“What have we gained in the wake of the missing women,” said Davis, a former sex-trade worker and member of the B.C. Coalition of Experiential Communities. “Our laws still don’t protect us. And many sex workers still lack a safe place to work.”

Davis added the co-op, which operates largely out of her East Side apartment, also helps former and active sex workers find alternative methods of employment and income. The co-op, officially incorporated in February, received national media attention earlier this year when it announced plans to run a co-op brothel, which has not yet been organized. It also serves as an industry association with attempts to introduce minimum labour standards and offer health and safety training.

Davis said International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was chosen as the date for the fundraiser to let sex workers know they matter and to promote the movement to make sex work safer. “It’s about true harm reduction,” she said.

The fundraiser features burlesque, exotic entertainers, acrobatic performances and a bachelor auction and runs from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., Dec. 17, at the Royal Unicorn Cabaret, 147 East Pender St.

For more information, see www.stilettostorm.com

© Vancouver Courier 2008

Link to original on The Vancouver Courier

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