COMMENT: Defend Dignity Campaign
I was approached by a number of constituents who are involved in the Defend Dignity Campaign, a justice initiative of 430 churches of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada.
Defend Dignity exits to abolish prostitution in Canada and proposes that Canada implement the Nordic law as Sweden did in 1999.
Nordic law was first implemented in Sweden in 1999. This law recognized prostitution as violence against women, and something that negatively affects individual women and all of society. Prostitution is a direct deterrent to gender equality. Nordic Law penalizes the buying of sex, while decriminalizing those who are being sold. The premise is that if there is no demand for purchases of sexual services, there will be no supply. Recognizing that prostitution targets the poor and marginalized of every society, Sweden also put in place social programs for education, drug rehabilitation and job retraining to enable women to exit prostitution. A fuller description of Nordic law is available on the Defend Dignity website. www.defenddignity.ca
According to an independent study of outcomes which was published in 2010, the results in Sweden have been excellent.
The report concludes that the number of persons, mainly women, exploited in street prostitution in Sweden has halved since 1999, while in neighbouring countries without Nordic law, the numbers tripled.
Evidence from countries that have adopted the Nordic model of Law shows that criminalizing men who use women, men, girls and boys for the sole purpose of sexual exploitation is an effective step toward the abolition of prostitution and trafficking in human beings.
Those who have worked with the Swedish legislation for over twelve years know it is an important tool in changing prevailing cultural patriarchal norms. They are no longer a culture that normalizes prostitution as benign, nor one that does not question the harm committed by sex buyers, pimps, and traffickers. They are becoming a culture where no one is for sale and where the political, legal, social and economic rights of women and girls are respected, advanced and upheld.
The Christian and missionary Alliance in Canada has historically raised awareness and funds for justice and mercy projects globally and has now decided to take up this cause in regard to prostitution. They point to some disturbing facts, the first being that prostitution is violence against women.
In an authoritative 9-country study, Dr. Melissa Farley, a clinical psychologist, concluded that “…the physical and emotional violence in prostitution is overwhelming.” She and other researchers interviewed 854 people in prostitution in Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, United States and Zambia. The study concluded that prostitution caused many traumas. Some 71% of respondents were physically assaulted in prostitution; 63% were raped; and 68% had the clinical symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder. Of the Canadian women participants, 75% were injured during prostitution. These injuries included: “stabbings and beatings, concussions, broken bones…Half of the Canadian women suffered traumatic head injuries as a result of violent assaults with baseballs bats, crowbars or from having their heads slammed against walls or against car dashboards.”
The violence listed above is in addition to the violence that the act of prostitution is in and of itself. Non-consensual or coerced sex constitutes violence against women.
The second point that stands out is that prostitutes start young and are most often victims of sexual abuse as children. This fact is corroborated in a powerful documentary film entitled, Nefarious – Merchant of Souls which exposes human trafficking and prostitution in Europe, Southeast Asia as well as in North America.
The average age of entry into prostitution is 13 or 14 years and most are recruited or coerced into it.
As requested by my constituents, I have forwarded this information to the Minister of Justice for his consideration.
Alex Atamanenko is the MP for BC Southern Interior.