Sex Work Trafficking

27 Nov, 2020

This is a message I work hard to send when engaging in any anti-trafficking work. This is also a perspective that can be unwelcomed and hard to hear based on your own experiences. When I think about ways that I can contribute to 16 days of activism I think this topic needs attention both locally and globally.  For me, after my own experiences, journey and learning in my career, I have been fortunate enough to meet a variety of women with a variety of experiences and I’ve landed in this place that I want to share.

For some women, all sex work feels exploitive and for some individuals and community’s sex work Is always exploitive because it is rooted in colonization and patriarchy and therefore sex work positive environments can go against values, teaching and advice.  Or there are experiences where sex work absolutely is exploitive, and trafficking is happening. 

On the other side of that I have learned for some other folks, sex work is empowering, not exploitive, and employment that provides more freedom then many other options.

Then there may be folks who fall in the middle somewhere that sex work feels exploitive but is the best option right now although not the preferred option.

Finally, there are other ways in which someone may identify or connect to how and if sex work feels or shows up as exploitive, not exploitive or many ways at any point in time. As we know our lives are not any one way and we are layers on top of incredible layers that make us who we are and how we experience the world.

So regardless of your own view on sex work what I do want to share is that coming into any space from a “rescue or saving” position is incredibly harmful. When we come into a relationship of any kind from a place of changing someone, we are imposing power, we are playing out patriarchal values and disempowering other humans while devaluing their expertise in their own lives.

Some times this position can be hard to connect with.  It has taken me such a long time to even begin to identify the ways that this can play out in my life and I have no doubt I will continue to learn more and more until I die. In the training program I launched today and every program we will launch moving forward we operate from a place of supporting those who are in any stage of trafficking and not rescuing them. Additionally, if we are talking about sex trafficking we will continue to separate sex work from sex trafficking. 

There is often a lot of talking in the anti-trafficking movement that we should address demand ( for the purpose of this blog I am speaking about adults experiences and not children) In Canada we currently charge the person who is buying sex (and a whole bunch of other laws surrounding sex work that makes things much less safe and still criminalizes sex work(ers)) My personal position is that decriminalizing sex work is an act of harm reduction to trafficking. If legislation decriminalizes and further work to destigmatize sex work is done, then some layers of power are removed from traffickers. Many times, throughout my career I was told that it wasn’t sex work that was causing challenges for many women it was the isolation and stigma around sex work that was harmful.  There is a movement towards rights, chances to organize and for communities to legally care for each other and more opportunities for those who are being exploited or trafficked to engage with help.

When I think about 16 days of activism, I think about systemic change. There are lots that can be done on an individual level to end violence against women, but I still feel not enough is being done on a systemic level. There is no more research that is needed to prove that women and those who identify elsewhere on the spectrum of gender identities are being harmed at greater rates than anyone else. There is action that is needed from those in power. ACTION! For me It is about fixing the inequities that create the conditions for trafficking to happen that is how we end it. Education will work for a portion of people who do not have complex risk factors. For many trafficking is necessary for survival. So, until we adjust the conditions that foster all forms of trafficking, we will not end it.

If you want to learn more about sex worker rights and sex worker led agencies you can check out Maggie’s Pivot 
If you know more resources please feel free to link below! What are you doing for 16 days of activism?