Asian Women for Equality speaks to Ontario Superior Court: constitutional challenge
Our group first formed in 2006 as Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution in response to the growing need for the voices of Asian women in the fight for women’s equality, especially for our sisters in prostitution. Drawing from our extensive front-line work and lived experiences as Asian women, we were intervenors in the 2013 Canada vs Bedford case at the Supreme Court that would ultimately recognize prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation that disproportionately impacts women and girls.
Since then, we have continued to build awareness about the harms of prostitution and organize with women around the world who are also fighting against the normalization of prostitution. In the fight for equality, we believe these points are critically important:
Prostitution is inherently sexist and racist.
Prostitution is an industry built on misogyny and male entitlement to women’s bodies. Many women are recruited to the sex industry as girls, many are impoverished, and many do not have other options. Men buy women despite often knowing that she doesn't want to be there and see her as “other”.
Prostitution entrenches racism. Women of colour are subjected to racist stereotyping, with Asian women advertised as submissive, geishas, Japanese school girls and new in town. These stereotypes reveal the racist sexual subordination demanded by customers of prostitution and catered to by pimps, procurers, brothel keepers, advertisers and others profitting off prostitution.
Indoors is not safer.
Prostitution is inherently dangerous for women, and they regularly face sexual and physical assaults and rape. In a study that surveyed prostituted women across nine countries, they found that 95% of women were sexually harrassed, 73% of women (91% of Canadian women) were physically assaulted and 57% of women had been raped in prostitution.
Prostituted women often face violence at the hands of their pimps, and moving women into brothels only moves violence indoors. Women also experience violence from johns as well. Moving prostitution indoors did not keep the women that were killed in the massage parlours in Atlanta safe.
Target the demand and hold johns and pimps accountable.
Human trafficking is a regular aspect of how Asian women are prostituted. The demand of sexual services fuels sex trafficking and the recruitment of women into prostitution. In order to reduce sex trafficking and recruitment of women into prostitution, it is necessary to shrink the market for prostitution.
We support the Equality Model or the Nordic model of law which keeps pimping, trafficking of women into prostitution, brothel-keeping and being a john (buyer-of-women-for-sex) illegal. It allows police and courts to arrest and prosecute the men who are committing these acts.
Women deserve more.
We know that more than 89% of women in prostitution would leave if given the choice. There are often many overlapping vulnerabilities for women in prostitution, including poverty, age and precarious immigration status. Women need concrete supports in order to avoid or leave prostitution.
We believe that women should not be criminalized for prostitution, and that existing criminal records should be expunged. We also demand that governments provide women material aid, such as a Guaranteed Liveable Income, to help lift them out of poverty.
Asian Women for Equality presentation by member Sarah Mah
Learn more about how Sweden has approached prostitution and the outcome of the law
Asian Women for Equality submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights
Read survivors' stories and learn more about the Nordic Model (sometimes known as the Sex Buyer Law, or the Swedish, Abolitionist, or Equality Model)
From Canada to Zambia, researchers looked at the impact of violence on women in prostitution
Evidence-based research project with the goal of determining the most effective approach to promoting women’s equality and human rights.
Write a letter to your local representative to express your support to protect Canada’s Prostitution laws.
You can find how to reach your MP and a letter template here.
Learn more about how Guaranteed Liveable Income can help women out of prostitution and support a GLI campaign.
Support your local feminists who are organizing for the abolition of prostitution in favour of women’s liberation.
Often these are grassroots, volunteer-led organizations that are supported by the community.
Asian Women for Equality (Vancouver, Canada)
Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (Vancouver, Canada)
Formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating (Vancouver, Canada)