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The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution: Present Before the Court, Outside the Court, and Every Day for Women’s Equality

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For immediate release
June 13, 2013

The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution: Present Before the Court, Outside the Court, and Every Day For Women’s Equality

Ottawa, Ont. — The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution (the Coalition) is an alliance of seven national, provincial and local women’s groups that count prostituted women among their membership, decision-making structures, and participants. Today, as the Supreme Court of Canada hears Bedford v. Canada, the Coalition reaffirms its ongoing commitment to defending women’s equality rights.

This commitment is articulated today by the Coalition’s lawyers, Janine Benedet and Fay Faraday, before the Supreme Court of Canada to argue a third legal avenue. This process calls for the decriminalization of women who are trapped in prostitution and the maintenance of laws criminalizing the men who buy, sell, and exploit women’s bodies: the pimps, johns, and traffickers. “Prostitution is a practice of inequality. Most of the buyers of prostitution in Canada are men, and the majority of those prostituted are women and girls. They are victims, even before arriving in prostitution, of different forms of systemic inequality stemming from, for example,  their Aboriginal background, race, poverty, age, disabilities, and immigrant status,” stated Michèle Audette of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. “So, it is imperative that Canada take a stand to punish those who profit from these types of inequality, and to protect women.” “It is also crucial, adds Jacqueline Gullion from the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, that women in prostitution be provided with strategies and supports to be able to leave prostitution.”

The Coalition’s commitment is also evident in the presence of dozens of its members and supporters who have come from across Canada to the steps of the Supreme Court bearing the message “Criminalize pimps and johns, not women.”  “It’s important to send a clear message to the public and to our elected representatives who will have to legislate after the Court’s ruling. In criminalizing prostituted women, the State is punishing women for their sexual exploitation” remarked Diane Matte, of Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle. “The law must not reinforce or pretend to benignly allow the continued inequality of women, nor the extraordinary degree of danger faced by women who are prostituted. We must decriminalize the women, but never condone the actions of the men who presume to be able to buy and sell women and girls,” stressed Kim Pate, of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.

“We want more than prostitution for women” says Hilla Kerner of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter. “We want safety, equality and liberty for ourselves and for all women and we will keep fighting until we win it”. The Coalition’s commitment to fight for a more just society will not stop today, when the hearing is over. The “We Want More for Women” campaign will carry on after today to raise public awareness and sensitize elected officials. Because women’s poverty, limited options, and lack of genuine choice are important factors with regard to women’s entry into prostitution, and often, obstacles to getting out, the Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution will also continue calling for government investment in communities, a guaranteed liveable income, adequate and affordable housing, and universally accessible health and childcare services.

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 Members of the Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution: Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes, Regroupement québécois des centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions  caractère sexual, and Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle.

http://www.abolitionprostitution.ca/

Media contacts:

Éliane Legault-Roy, 514-692-4762, eliane.legault-roy@lacles.org
Claudette Dumont-Smith, 613-722-3033 extension 223, cdumontsmith@nwac.ca
Hilla Kerner 604-872-8212 hillak@rapereliefshelter.bc.ca
Kim Pate, 613-298-2422, kpate@web.ca

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