Thursday, January 05, 2006


Underbelly News
Downtown Eastside


Already only a few days into the New Year and once again, the local organization, Rape Relief and its staff member, Alice Lee, are attempting to re-define prostitution as a race driven issue ( Rape Relief is manipulating the media and politicians, into believing that if prostitution is de-criminalized that Asian women are at greater risk of human trafficking. When all else fails, scaremongering seems to be the ends to the means, at least in getting your message out, as far as Rape Relief is concerned.

In the case of prostitution, there is no doubt Rape Relief has a diminished view of the purchasers of the sex trade since they believe all men capable of raping women. Hence, RR has a viewpoint which makes the male customers of prostitutes as exploiting & commodifying females and therefore raping women. With this troubled thinking what better way then to have customers of sex workers punished by calling for criminalization of customers of sex workers.

Sadly, criminalizing the men who use the services of sex workers will create greater hardship and harm for on-street sex workers--the majority who are not Asian. Moreover, studies have shown that most on-street sex workers are independent and are not controlled by other people. Their lives are guided primarily through the need to survive economically. Rape Relief, calling for the criminalization of prostitution does not adequately address these facts.

Actually RR may prefer the current two-tier prostitution, since what they really prefer is the abolition of prostitution. Keeping in place the staus quo, sadly means more on-street prostitutes being brutalized and murdered. This is occurring with increasing intensity across Canada. If you review the missing and murdered women cases, which is the strongest reason of why there should be de-criminalization of prostitution, there isn't one Asian women listed among them. Also if you check with the police, you will find most prostitution related complaints do not involve complaints originating from Asian men or women. This, in itself is an interesting fact.

Of course, organizations such as RR will counter Asian women are being harmed in indoor massage parlours. If this is true, there needs to be an examination of city and police regulated indoor venues. I hope though, Rape Relief will back up their claims with complaints to the Vancouver Police Department.

But lumping immigration issues and human trafficking into the same category as prostitution reform does a great disservice to humanity. It actually promotes the current two tier system of prostitution which has had dire consequences for those involved in the street level sex trade.

Rape Relief discredits itself by attempting to portray all prostitution as Asian based. Its like mixing apples and oranges together and saying they are the same. Making erroneous claims that decriminalization of prostitution will encourage increased trafficking of Asian women is absurd. Moreover, RR articulates that Asian indoor parlour workers are trafficked from third world countries into Canada, which if the case, then this needs to be addressed through immigration policies.

What also needs to be explored is why Asians are engaging in human trafficking of other Asians. There needs to be co-ordinated efforts of various criminal justice branches and immigration departments and within the Asian community itself to properly address this issue which as Rape Relief has corrected pointed out--is occurring solely within the Asian population.

But to equate this unlawful Asian immigration matter into the context of a broader issue such as prostitution reform is wrong. Canadians do not generally engage in human trafficking. Moreover, Citizens of Canada do not typically own or operate these indoor massage parlours which operate in Vancouver and other cities. What the Asian community is doing falls far short of our Canadian value based system and this needs to be corrected.

Prostitution reform must happen so we can prevent the harm which since 1984, has had tragic and dire consequences for our non-immigrant Canadian women.

Jamie Lee Hamilton