Communiqué: Striking down the Prostitution Laws – Striking down our Voices

Ottawa, September 29, 2010 – The ruling by Justice Susan Himel to strike down the prostitution laws is another example of the disregard of the impacts of colonization on the lives of Aboriginal women and children: racism, sexism, poverty and violence.

Violence also takes the form of victimization at the hands of the judicial system. Canadian laws have not always worked for Aboriginal women and have been painfully slow to respond to our needs for life, liberty and dignity. Unfortunately, Canadian laws are the laws that Aboriginal women have been forced to deal with. The ruling by Justice Himel takes away what little protection women had from johns, pimps, and brothel owners and instead allows these very men the legal right to abuse women and benefit from women’s inequality. Yesterday’s decision to strike down the prostitution laws eliminates laws that could have been revised and advanced for women’s protection by decriminalizing the selling of sex and criminalizing the buying of sex.

We have been outraged that the suffering of our sisters in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver has been appropriated and used as a tactic by pro-decriminalization advocates for their pro-“sex industry” agenda. As Aboriginal women, we are disheartened to see the “horrific and shocking” conditions many of our Aboriginal sisters face on a daily basis. We are also disheartened to see that once again, our historic and current experiences, and our knowledge, dignity, and safety have been ignored to benefit the interests of predatory men. Of course we want women to be safer; but let’s work toward securing life conditions and work that is safe.

The living conditions and status of Aboriginal women must be elevated to the same level as our Canadian counterparts, people who are not burdened with the additional layers of the sexist and racist discrimination of the Indian Act. This legislation limits our freedom to live and thrive and takes away any real choices we may have. Most prostituted women want out (close to 90% in various studies) and do not want this experience for their daughters. Prostitution is inherently unsafe and instead of moving towards the normalization of paid rape we should work toward abolishing it altogether. We want safe, not “safer”. We want harm elimination, not harm reduction. These things are possible, and the Nordic model of prostitution law serves as an example of a move in the right direction. By decriminalizing the selling of sex and criminalizing the buying of sex, this model values and respects women. As Aboriginal women, we see the introduction of the Nordic model as a step toward the restoration of our rightful traditional places of respect.


Aboriginal Women Action Network (AWAN),