Prostitutes seek change

Legalization 'is not the answer'

Matthew Ramsey

The Province; With a file from Canadian Press

Monday, June 20, 2005

Prostitutes are demanding that the world's oldest profession be decriminalized to protect them from serial killers, violence and exploitation.

CREDIT: The Canadian Press

RCMP Cpl Wayne Oakes says any links between slayings in Kamloops and Edmonton are being sought.

Current laws making it illegal to communicate for the purpose of prostitution or operate a bawdy house are "dangerous," Toronto prostitute Anastasia Kuzyk told a meeting of the Canadian National Coalition of Experiential Women in Vancouver yesterday.

"They do not help us work safely," Kuzyk said.

The communication law means prostitutes can not be as careful as they would like to be in negotiating business, Kuzyk said, and the bawdy-house law forces them to ply their trade in dangerous areas.

Those sections of the Criminal Code should be repealed immediately, said the coalition, which is devoted to the well-being of prostitutes.

The coalition believes that following Australia's example and legalizing prostitution is not the answer.

Legalization quantifies the worker as a commodity, Kuzyk said, and opens the door to fees, taxes and fines.

"I'm not a pack of cigarettes. I'm not a bottle of booze. I want to be seen as somebody who's self-employed."

Michelle Geller, a former prostitute from New Brunswick, said she opposes legalization for the sake of her 15-year-old daughter.

"I would not want my daughter to open the paper and look in my eyes and say, 'I want that job,'" Geller said.

Their comments came as police look for a link between the murders of more than a dozen prostitutes in Edmonton since 1988 and three in Kamloops since 2003.

"If we have sex-trade workers murdered in one community and sex-trade workers murdered in another community -- even if they're provinces apart -- it would be prudent for the investigators to share the information that they're obtaining to see if there are any links or ties between those homicides," RCMP Cpl. Wayne Oakes said in Edmonton.

The Edmonton investigation is part of an Alberta-wide probe into the disappearance of more than 70 high-risk women on the Prairies.

Edmonton police are not saying how many women are on their list of victims of a possible serial killer -- prostitution support groups believe 26 women have been slain -- but they are offering a $100,000 reward.

In Edmonton, as in Vancouver before the arrest of accused serial killer Robert Pickton, friends and relatives complained repeatedly that prostitutes were disappearing, but their warnings were ignored, said Susan Strega, a member of an advocacy group in Winnipeg.

Strega said police don't take violence against prostitutes seriously enough.

"If police took those women seriously, they would probably be able to arrest that serial killer tomorrow," Strega said. "They are ignored. We could solve these crimes. We have expertise. The police aren't interested."

 The Vancouver Province 2005




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