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moving towards safer conditions for Canadian sex workers

September 22, 2012

Victory today for BC sex trade workers! Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV) will have the chance in court to challenge laws which prevent sex workers from having safer work conditions and make them vulnerable to predators.

Particularly at issue are laws which prevent sex workers from working indoors, in community. It is safer when workers can control their work environment (not have to work on the street), negotiate freely with potential clients (without fear of arrest or harassment), watch each other’s backs (write down licence plate numbers) and communicate with each other (about johns to avoid and health info).

How is this relevant to working cross-culturally?

People are experts on their own lives. Given the chance to come together and advocate for themselves, people generally know what they need. Outside “experts” often forget that. Things which are obvious to the people affected can be invisible to outside helpers. If we’re not paying attention, or if we are actively shutting people up, we miss what’s in front of us. If we’re lucky, people may point out our blind spots and let us save a little face as we learn from the real experts.

Conditions which benefit people living on the margins of society, also tend to benefit people living at the centre. What’s good for people with the least privilege is generally good for people with the most privilege. Again, people closer to society’s centre get to benefit from the view from the outside, as we work to develop into more compassionate, inclusive, equitable communities.

Personally, I am grateful for the workers, ex-workers and allies who have come together to articulate these issues, which affect people in remote communities, as well as urban centres. Their voices help me to see what happens right in front of me, here in Nunavut, too – maybe with some differences, definitely with some similarities.

Congratulations, SWUAV! And thank you.

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