Friday, March 11, 2005


Underbelly News
Downtown Eastside


Hi All!

On Tuesday March 8,2005 I attended the celebration of International Women's Day at City Hall. It was a glorious day and I was proud to be in the company of so many wonderful women and men.

However, whoever made the decision to choose Mayor Larry Campbell to address the assembled crowd made a very poor choice.

Raven Bowen of PACE Society delivered a very moving and passionate speech. Here is the text of it.

You will be hearing a lot more of RAVEN BOWEN in the months ahead. Stay tuned!


Jamie Lee Hamilton

SPEECH: International women?s day: A City Designed by Sex Workers

Today, International Women?s day 2005, marks a significant point in time for all women. I am here to speak on behalf of sex workers, a group that continues to be marginalized, stigmatized, victimized and preyed upon 5 years into the twenty-first century. In this age of racing technology, and radical change in the lifestyles of people in the developed world, the lives of sex workers have not changed and the supports for the potential for change are not there yet. As most survival sex workers are women, today I am honoured to speak on their behalf.

Today I am sharing with you a theme that many of us dream of and work for; A City Designed by Sex Workers.

In a City designed by sex workers

The assaults, rapes, batteries abductions, murders and other predacious acts perpetrated upon sex workers would be considered a hate crime crimes and would be addressed adequately by the justice system without confirmation, validation, interpretation or any other tion that delays justice

Women, all women, would be safe in our community to work (with no regards to occupation), walk (with no regards to stride), eat with no worry of where the next meal will come from and sleep in safety and security without the constant threat of violence and misogyny

Dozens Hundreds of women in our city do not have these privileges?the time is now for change.

Today, International Women?s day 2005, marks a significant point in time for all women. As most survival sex workers are women, today I am honoured to speak on their behalves.

A City Designed by sex workers would

· Be governed by federal laws that do not further criminalize the oppressed but instead emphasize the safety of our women most susceptible to violence

· Eliminate survival sex and forced labour in all its forms by creating initiatives to: A) Support those who are disabled including those suffering the harmful affects of drug addiction. The city would work with other governments to implement a+d treatment options that reduce the pain of detox and go beyond abstinence and avoidance based models


B) Address poverty, homelessness and under housing issues for women

C) Instead of Jane School initiatives- a city would have a staffed sex worker advocate position, where the city itself takes ownership of sex worker issues

D) The city would provide and advocate for sponsored skill development opportunities, scholarships, rental subsidies and liveable wage employment for impoverished women and build those in as incentives to business and educational institutions that operate within our city.

Just last week another sex worker was denied an employment opportunity for a position that she helped create. Reason provided ?we have found that it would not be in line with the mission/purpose to accept applications from current sex trade workers?

E) In a city created by sex workers, women would not be pillaged for their expertise to developed programming and then overlooked for employment, they would be supported in employment to reduce their reliance on sex work for survival. Programs that are designed for sex workers where sex workers are denied even an interview- reminds me of segregation, when black performers like billy holiday could sing and dance on stage of some of the most prestigious music halls ever build- but they would be denied a seat in the audience

F) In a city created by sex workers, when parliamentary hearings come to town, a space would be rented, nutrition provided and organizations would be supported in preparing sex workers for self advocacy instead of scrambling at the 11th hour to facilitate women?s voices.

G) In a city created by sex workers women would be entitled and provided with what they need.

H) A city would also support and uphold with impunity the human rights of women who continue their involvement in the sex industry

· In this day, lets start addressing the root causes of our social ails. Street level sex workers represent the symptom of larger social issues they are not the cause. Visible street level sex workers are only 1/10 of the sex working population, women of colour are overrepresented in this population- they should serve as a barometer in which to measure the effectiveness of social supports to women and children. If there health is failing-there?s something wrong with health care, if they are homeless there?s something wrong with housing, if they are chronically addicted to drugs, something?s wrong with treatment, and if they are going missing without sound and fury there?s something wrong with community values.

· The majority of women involved in street level survival sex suffer from short or long term disabilities. Instead of focussing on who should be criminalized, lets shift our focus to addressing the basic needs of women in our communities. And let?s be farsighted about that to ensure that supports cover a broad spectrum of needs.

Today sex workers call upon

the international women?s movement to embrace sex workers in their appeal for human rights

you all of you to liberate women whose involvement in sexual bartering is forced.

sex worker advocates and abolitionists alike unite against violence and oppressive practises

Sex workers in our city include those that have been domestically and internationally trafficked either through poverty or organized crime

Some of you in the room today come from abject poverty, you have experienced brutality and the lack of choice?I would like to honour each and every women in this room and also acknowledge women around the world who celebrate openly and those who do so in secret under threat of persecution.

Let?s commit today to take a stand for sex workers in every aspect of our lives; from not listening to sex worker jokes to directly providing and advocating for supports to women.

Let?s take a stand now for them, before powerlessness or lack of power? paralyzes us as women

before the momentum of violence spreads to our daughters,

lets take a stand, before street level sex workers, one by one fall victim to violence

let?s not wait until fear, silence and inaction signs the death certificates of our sisters.

Thank you