Sobbing mourners released a cloud of tiny white butterflies as a coffin holding the remains of 14-year-old Diane Angelica Castañeda Fuentes was lowered into the ground, 18 months after she disappeared on her way to a friend’s house in Ecatepec, a dusty suburb on the northern fringes of Mexico City.
Diana’s skull and feet had been found in a plastic bag dredged from a foul-smelling waterway known as the Great Canal, which runs through the State of Mexico – the country’s most densely populated state.
The schoolgirl, a devoted fan of One Direction and Justin Bieber, was the first to be positively identified after the remains of dozens of people were recovered last year from the black waters of the canal.
Her funeral on 26 March was attended by members of several other families whose own missing daughters are among the thousands of young women to have disappeared in the past decade from the state, known in Spanish as Edomex.
The mourners’ sorrow was shot through with anger as they called on the country’s authorities to stop the violence which has made Edomex the most dangerous place in Mexico to be female.
“Enough!” they cried. “Not one more girl!”
A staggering 1,258 girls and women were reported disappeared in Edomex in 2011 and 2012 – of whom 53% were aged between 10 and 17, according to figures obtained by the National Citizens Observatory on Femicides. Over the same period, 448 women were murdered in the state. Many of their mutilated bodies were left displayed in public places like roads, parks and shopping centres – an act which criminologists and feminist scholars say is associated with gender hate crimes.
The violence in Edomex is disconcertingly reminiscent of a previous epidemic of femicides: between 1993 and 2005, 379 women were murdered in Ciudad Juárez, a city in the border state of Chihuahua. Many were sexually assaulted and dismembered before their bodies were left in the desert.
Protests in Juárez prompted media coverage north of the border, which in turn helped galvanise international outrage, multiple inquiries, new legislation and at least two Hollywood movies.
But in the same period, 10 times as many women were murdered in Edomex than in Ciudad Juárez. Most of these killings have gone unreported and unnoticed by the outside world, the victims mourned only by their loved ones.
“Edomex is a poor state, people are anonymous, and there are no campaign groups, so it has remained invisible,” said Galicia.
Activists say there is no single explanation for the wave of violence against women in Edomex. As in Ciudad Juárez, evidence suggests that some girls and women have been trafficked into prostitution, while others have fallen victim to gender hate murders, said Lucia Melgar, a leading culture and gender academic.
“We can also hypothesize the violence is linked to big business owners, corrupt politicians and organised crime just like in Juárez, but we really don’t know as there are no investigations. The impunity in Edomex is brutal,” she said.
But fewer than 5% of murders – and only a handful of trafficking cases – are successfully prosecuted in Mexico, and activists worry that a full reckoning of the Edomex killings may never be possible.
Since 2010, the Observatory – a coalition of 43 groups that documents serious crimes against women – has been petitioning for a gender-based violence alert to be activated in Edomex. The emergency mechanism, introduced into law in 2007 as part of the post-Juárez reforms, would oblige the state government to launch an in-depth investigation into violence against women, and take concrete steps to tackle the problem.
But officials have repeatedly said they need more proof that women in Edomex are being systematically targeted because of their gender, rather than falling victim to the violence of Mexico’s drug wars. Last year, the state governor’s spokesman said there were “more serious issues to deal with” than gender-based violence.
Maria de la Luz Estrada, director of the Observatory, told the Guardian: “The situation in Edomex is grave and desperate. This is an emergency, authorities must start investigating and sanctioning perpetrators. Access to justice for women must be a reality, not just something which exists on paper.”
Children who are taught about preventing sexual abuse at school are more likely than others to tell an adult if they had, or were actually experiencing sexual abuse. This is according to the results of a new Cochrane Review published in the Cochrane Library 16 April 2015. However, the review’s authors say that more research is needed to establish whether school-based programmes intended to prevent sexual abuse actually reduce the incidence of abuse.
It is estimated that, worldwide, at least 1 in 10 girls and 1 in 20 boys experience some form of sexual abuse in childhood. Those who are sexually abused as children are more susceptible to depression, eating disorders, suicidal behaviour, and drug and alcohol problems later in life, and are more likely to become victims of sexual assault as adults. In many countries, children are taught how to recognize, react to, and report abuse situations through school-based programmes designed to help prevent sexual abuse.
The Cochrane researchers reviewed data from 24 trials in which a total of 5,802 children took part in school-based prevention programmes in the US, Canada, China, Germany, Spain, Taiwan, and Turkey. Schools involved in the trials used a variety of methods to teach children about sexual abuse, including teaching of safety rules, body ownership, and who to tell through films, plays, songs, puppets, books, and games. In children who did not receive the intervention, around 4 in 1,000 children disclosed some form of sexual abuse. This contrasts with 14 in 1,000 children in the intervention groups, who disclosed some form of sexual abuse.
Studies also suggested that programmes were effective in increasing children’s knowledge about sexual abuse. Four trials assessed children’s knowledge again up to six months after, and showed that they remembered much of what they were taught. Children who participated in programmes were also more likely than other children to try to protect themselves in a simulated abuse scenario in which they were asked to leave the school and go with someone they did not know.
The researchers suggest that there are many reasons why it is difficult to prove that children have learned the skills considered necessary for recognizing and reporting sexual abuse. “Even if a child demonstrates that they know how to behave in a certain scenario, it doesn’t mean they will behave the same in a real situation where there is potential for abuse,” said lead author Kerryann Walsh of the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. “Tests cannot mimic real abuse situations very well. For example, we know that most sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the child whereas in the test situations, unfamiliar actors or research assistants were used.”
There was little evidence to show that children experienced unnecessary worry as a result of sexual abuse prevention education, nor were there any other reported adverse effects.
“This review supports the need to inform and protect children against sexual abuse,” said Walsh. “But ongoing research is needed to evaluate school-based prevention programmes, and to investigate the links between participation and the actual prevention of child sexual abuse. To really know whether these programmes are working, we need to see larger studies with follow-up all the way to adulthood.”
Without doubt, acceptance and belonging are critical to mental health, and supporting sexual diversity has a key role to play. But is the focus on gender really helping children? While ending discrimination is an important factor for their health, there is no consensus when it comes to children and gender nonconformity from the mental health profession.
In decades gone by, there was less worry over the concept of gender. Even basic products like toys were less gendered in the past. In fact, the very term “gender” was largely absent from public debate until recent decades – and when it did rear its head, it was largely confined to discussions within the social sciences.
So why does this intense focus on gender now belong in primary schools?
Those who subscribe to queer theory would argue that this simply represents progress. From this perspective, gender is inherently fluid and exists in multiple permutations. Queer theory has now gone mainstream, ushered in from the fringes of the academic world to the core of the childhood education system.
For example, Safe Schools utilises definitions like this: “sex is your physical aspects (i.e. your wibbly wobbly bits) and gender is how you feel in your mind in terms of masculine and feminine.” Quite apart from the incorrect description of genitals – one that is advised against by health professionals – the idea that gender is a feeling is highly questionable. In fact, the idea of feminine or masculine thinking has long been disputed in the research.
Other topics to which children will be inducted through Safe Schools materials include the use of plastic surgery and hormone treatments to change gendered appearance, as well as how girls should bind their breasts if they aren’t comfortable about them. Not only does this promote dangerous practices, but it also has the potential to normalise body dissatisfaction within an already vulnerable demographic – all in the guise of “progress.”
Far from being progressive, such campaigns seem somewhat counter-productive. If gender neutrality really is progress, why the focus on classifying gender? How can such programs neutralise gender and yet simultaneously name, categorise and even medicalise it?
Gender itself is a sociological category, a concept designed to examine broad trends between the sexes. Yet it is now erroneously applied to children who are expected to understand and embody a theory usually only the purview of researchers. Suddenly we must scrutinise, analyse and even pathologise natural child behaviour as “gendered.”
While this focus on gender appears to be celebrating diversity, it may actually be doing the opposite.
“Anti-sex puritanism” is a criticism that comes up time and time again. Self-proclaimed “sex positive” feminists and progressives alike criticize “prudish” conservatives. But it doesn’t take conservative politics to be labeled a prude today. Don’t like porn? Prude. Don’t support commercialized sex trade? Prude. Don’t think children being sexually exploited constitutes “sex work?” Prude. Like porn but not the really “kinky” stuff? Prude. Right-wing political views? Prude. Don’t like street harassment? Prude. Part of the anti-trafficking movement? Prude. Don’t believe strip clubs are sites of female liberation? Prude. Don’t have sex everyday? Prude. Do have much sex but don’t practice BDSM? Vanilla. Which on the continuum of prudery is definitely on the very prudish end.
Luckily, the “sex-positive movement” is hitting back against all this prudery. From Herself.com to Free the Nipple to Slutwalk to FEMEN, there is no shortage of women getting their kits off in the name of reclaiming women’s rights. In what could be dubbed the decade of the anti-prude, it would seem that sexualized images are no longer sexist but are, instead, the very foundations of feminist revolution.
On face value, overt sexuality seems a transgression from conservative notions of femininity. Women can reclaim their sexuality without being shamed, or so the story goes. But in order to understand how a sexualized femininity is actually neither dissident nor transgressive, one must look beyond the rhetoric.
Consider Brazil, the home of the sex-positive fiesta. It’s the country where Sunday afternoon family TV classics include wet t-shirt competitions, women stripping and the ever popular “prova da banheira” bikini bath wrestling. Where children’s TV shows taught tiny tots the “garrafa” (bottle) dance – to “get low” and twerk over a bottle. The bottle represents a penis, in case that wasn’t clear. Though, it’s not all that shocking when just about all entertainment shows include a background of young female dancers in underwear, with camera’s panning and zooming in on women’s body parts.
It’s also a country where Viagra is just as widely available as the New Testament. Brazilian hotels, frequently used for sexy times, still come with bibles. In fact around 85 per cent of Brazilian’s count themselves as Christian or Protestant. Perhaps these facts seem somewhat contradictory to the outsider. To better understand all this, Carnaval is a good place to start.
Carnaval marks the beginning of lent — a Christian tradition with roots in both religious organizing as well as Portuguese “entrado” parties and more recently samba schools. It is increasingly also a celebration of everything pornographic. Female dancers and the famous “Globeleza” are commonly adorned in no more than paint, feathers and silicone enhancements. Songs rejoice in God and, more recently, God’s hand in plastic surgery too, “Giving men value with his chisel … The image and likeness of the Lord …The light of heaven conducts his scalpel.” Carnaval promotes Christianity alongside group sex parties and pornographic films.
Children are welcome at Carnaval too; if they miss the parade there is always the “Globeleza” who dances naked on TV every half hour for the entire month of Carnaval. The Globeleza is always a woman of colour, whether this is symbolism, an attempt at diversity, or merely the ongoing commodification of Afro-Brazilian women is unclear. There is rarely any outcry about children being fed these supposed “sex positive” ideals early on. In fact, the most significant uproar about Carnaval’s imagery occurred when a mascot had likeness to the Devil. Images of the Devil were deemed too offensive and the public was relieved when later the Devil caught on fire — God’s work.
By progressive standards, the overt sexuality of events like Carnaval presents a call for celebration. What could be more liberating than turning a previously repressed “prudish” sexuality into a public festivity? What better way to neutralize the anti-sex puritans than a good “sex positive” shindig?
In Brazil, these “sex positive” shenanigans manifest in a variety of ways: employment discrimination with many service level jobs mandating “good physique” for women, some of the highest rates of body shame in the world, the highest uptake of diet pills and plastic surgery in the world, a spike in violence against women during Carnaval along with an increase in child sex exploitation, especially at the hands of tourists who flock to the sex positivity. The Brazilian Health Ministry reports that between 2009 and 2012 the rate of rape has skyrocketed by 157 percent, explained largely by the culture of machismo.
Unfortunately, public health campaigns that hand out condoms, anti-violence and anti-trafficking pamphlets are not enough to mitigate the 24/7 frenzy of cameras panning across women’s breasts and buttocks as if they were gleaming pieces of meat up for purchase. The picture is perfectly clear: this is not female sexuality being expressed, its commodification.
Could it be that all this revolutionary “sex positivity” is not liberating women but actually reinforcing the same conservative male supremacist dynamic? Yes. It could.
Not to be misconstrued as criticism of Brazilians or Carnaval participants, this is a societal level issue rather than a critique of individual women. The Brazilian context offers a case in point that sexualization does not counteract conservative norms. The case of Brazil uncovers what “sex positivity” means for women. “People might think this is liberty for women to have sex, but really the liberty is for men to have women’s bodies” as one of my Brazilian friends put it. Of course none of these issues are exclusive to Brazil, with the same effects of sexual objectification occurring across the globe.
In most countries women are free to be pornified as they wish, ironically, women are often not free to be anything other than pornographic. This is illustrated by Facebook’s ban on breastfeeding images whilst pornographic advertising runs rampant. Or the fact that “leaking” women’s naked images has become a go-to solution for disgruntled and rejected men. Women remain represented as objects for possession, whether it’s in the puritan yesteryear or today’s porn culture, neither offer true freedom.
An interesting programme on women in the (British) police force has just aired this evening on BBC Radio 4; it focuses on those women who started out in the ’80’s and ’90’s, and it’s worth a listen (regardless of where you may stand on ‘law and order’/’criminal justice’ issues).
What I want to talk about here is how male officers used pornography to harass and intimidate female officers. One woman had ‘dominatrix porn’ magazines pushed through her letter box in the middle of the night, and another woman was told to go and lock herself in the ladies toilet, because the men had been watching pornography and she was the only woman in the building.
In the latter account it’s easy to understand what was going on, but the former needs a bit of analysis, as it’s obvious that she was not being complimented by the comparison to a dominatrix.
The pornography was meant to humiliate her, the use of ‘dominatrix porn’ was to let her know what they (the male officers) thought of her, that she was a ‘ball breaker’, a ‘bad woman’ who didn’t know her place – that is the most superficial analysis, and (I’m willing to bet) what was going through those men’s heads when they chose that particular pornography.
So then, does this ‘prove’ in some way that BDSM is empowering for women blah blah blah? No, it was sexually explicit material, which was meant to offend because it was never supposed to be consumed by a woman. Also, on the less obvious, surface level, they were telling her that she has no place in the real world, that ‘powerful’ women only belong in men’s sexual fantasies – in other words, fully under male control.
In the real world, no man is really afraid of or intimidated by a dominatrix, if they are not a source of arousal, they are a dirty joke that leaves the real (male) power, in the real (male dominated) world, completely unaffected.
On the eve of a speech Ruchira Gupta was to give on International Women’s Day in New York as the recipient of a Woman of Distinction award, she got a strange email. Gupta, who has collected numerous awards for her work against sex slavery in India — including an Emmy for her 1996 documentary, “The Selling of Innocents” — was asked in the message not to speak on prostitution “or put UN Women on the spot.”
The email came from the organization that had chosen Gupta for its highest award, the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGO CSW/NY), which supports the work of UN Women and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, whose annual session was about to begin on March 9. The NGO Committee had itself used the word prostitution in its announcement of the award in January.
“I was surprised that the UN was trying to censor an NGO, and that they should tell me not to speak on prostitution, when my work was with victims of prostitution,” Gupta said in an email interview to PassBlue. She is the founder of Apne Aap (meaning “self empowerment” in Hindi), a multifaceted support group for women trafficked into sex slavery in Mumbai and other South Asian cities. Apne Aap now has international reach.
In her speech at New York’s iconic Apollo Theater, where UN Women’s executive director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa, was also on the program, Gupta ignored the request and chose to speak forcefully “to represent the voices of victims and survivors of prostitution” in her own organization and others around the world. In late 2013, UN Women, in a note on the issue of terminology, had said it would use the terms “sex work” and “sex workers” and “recognize the right of all sex workers to choose their work or leave it and to have access to other employment opportunities.”
UN Women’s decision and recommendation not to “conflate sex work, sexual exploitation and trafficking” sounds outrageous if not ludicrous to people like Gupta, who work in the squalid brothel quarters of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and other cities, to which young girls from around South Asia are lured by traffickers — or sold by poor families — into a life of miserable bondage, with no chance to make choices. In her speech on International Women’s Day on March 8, Gupta said the youngest girl trafficked into bonded labor she has met was just 7 years old.
“The pimps would hand over these little girls to the brothel keepers . . . and these girls were locked up for the next five years,” she said. “Raped repeatedly by eight or ten customers every night.” By their 20s, Gupta said, their youth is gone and bodies are broken, and they are “thrown out on the sidewalk to die a very difficult death because they were no longer commercially viable.”
In January 2014, 61 South Asian victims and survivors of prostitution as well as women’s groups representing communities marginalized by caste, class and ethnicity and antitrafficking organizations helping girls and women “trapped in bonded labour and other forms of servitude” wrote to Mlambo-Ngcuka to protest the new UN Women policy of avoiding the word prostitution.
“We do not want to be called ‘sex workers’ but prostituted women and children, as we can never accept our exploitation as ‘work,’ ” the letter signers wrote. “We think that the attempts in UN documents to call us ‘sex workers’ legitimizes violence against women, especially women of discriminated caste, poor men and women and women and men from minority groups, who are the majority of the prostituted.”
They are still awaiting an answer from UN Women, Gupta said.
Groups working with victims of sexual slavery in developing countries often see a widening gap between Western women — particularly “academic feminists,” in Gupta’s view — and the women working to help the most exploited girls at street level in some of the world’s most dangerous slums, where pimps and brothel owners may be not only slave masters but also killers. Gupta had a knife held to her neck on one occasion when she was filming her award-winning documentary. Women rushed to surround her, separating her from her would-be attacker, and saved her life.
The women working with victims and survivors of sex trafficking and bonded prostitution who signed the letter to UN Women fear that campaigns in richer nations, almost all of them in North America and northern Europe, will lead to more moves to decriminalize pimps and brothel keepers — making not only sex workers but all aspects of the sex industry legal.
This is not the only issue that has opened fissures between the richer, progressive nations or societies where women construct views of social change based on their own advanced social and legal environment or well-intentioned views of developing nations’ cultures. They do not always reflect what most poor women — the majority of women in the world — who lack power over their lives really need and want.
QotD: “One of the things I hate the most about the sex positive movement is this irrational, iron-hard insistence on severing any relationship between sex & love/intimacy”
One of the things I hate the most about the sex positive movement is this irrational, iron-hard insistence on severing any relationship between sex & love/intimacy. There’s just so much focus on how to fuck & how to get off & the biggest problem for these people is not being ashamed about it. You can’t talk about the pressure to participate in hookup culture or male entitlement to casual sex with women without sex pox idiots screeching about “slut shaming.” It’s exhausting. God forbid we acknowledge that having sex actually affects you emotionally, that someone treating your body like a toy to play with & cast aside when they’re bored is potentially deeply hurtful & psychologically distressing. But nah, if you even suggest that being in a loving relationship enriches sex, you’re a grim, conservative puritan brainwashed by religious prudery. Sex pozzies want to introduce BDSM in sex education & encourage teenagers to watch porn because tying up & beating your partner (& being unashamed!!!) is more important than stupid love & feelings. Sex pozzies are garbage & I hate them all.
QotD: “the presence of social conservatives … needs to be identified and assertively ousted if radical feminism is to maintain its integrity as a movement”
See women as women. Not as objects.
This is interesting. Hopefully it will serve as an object lesson in dangers facing radical feminism.
‘Fighting The New Drug’ is not advertised as such, but it is an anti-porn campaign by Mormons which explicitly seeks to target radical feminist niche and inject its own ideas. It’s worked, I’ve seen radical feminists reblog from it without investigating the source, which makes sense considering how fast this site moves and how ideas tend to be judged by how they appear on the surface.
Isn’t that interesting? The fucking Mormon church, which specifically preaches and practices the subservience of women, trying to disguise its agenda with platitudes against objectifying women.
No Mormon input on the topic of porn is needed. We know who it harms and how they are harmed, unless we have bought the porn industry’s PR. We know it is to be opposed and to be opposed on our own terms as radical feminists. Yet it’s clear that social conservatives have caught on and seek to stake their claim in this debate.
Notice the framing of this piece. What is ‘nofap’? It’s a redditor term originally. A lot of the redditor boys believed that they would unlock latent sexual prowess by permanently ceasing masturbation. ‘Nofap’ was the name of the challenge where they would stop masturbation for a while and preach about how much healthier and happier it made them.
So, from what I’m guessing here, some Mormon social media strategist fucks saw the term somewhere on the Internet, and had a eureka moment. They can package their social conservative agenda along with their anti-porn stance, using hip, trendy internet terms! There is absolutely nothing to suggest that masturbation leads to an increase in sexist attitudes or that it has harmful health effects. Pornography is not essential to masturbation any more than it is essential to sex. The only motivation for suggesting an essential connection between the two is that the Mormons fucking hate sex. They aren’t interested in healthy sexual boundaries and an end to harmful and coercive sex and the idea of sex as compulsory. They just think that sex needs to be strictly for procreation, between men and women only.
Honestly, the presence of social conservatives, envoys from patriarchal institutions like the Mormon church, needs to be identified and assertively ousted if radical feminism is to maintain its integrity as a movement. Eliminating the industries and practices that thrive off of the abuse and exploitation of women is our goal. Raising the next generations to hate themselves and be ashamed of their sexuality is not. Allying with virulent homophobes and transphobes is not.
Denounce ‘em where you see ‘em. That’s all I have to say.
A man in northern Spain has been sentenced to three years in prison for branding the first initial of his nickname on his girlfriend while she slept, causing her to suffer first- and second-degree burns.
Handing down the sentence, the judge in A Coruña said the branding was “in the image and likeness of what is done with livestock, and how one would treat an animal”, according to regional daily La Voz de Galicia.
The events date to 2013, when 49-year-old Antonio Ricardo Lema Sanjurjo, who goes by the nickname of Kaito, went out for a night of drinking with the victim, his girlfriend at the time. They returned to his house in the small municipality of Brens at about 3am, where he gave her a glass of orange juice and another of water before she fell asleep.
It was not until the next day that she realised what had happened, the court heard. While in the shower she felt a stinging pain and noticed that her skin was peeling. It was then that she discovered a scar in the shape of a K at the base of her spine.
It was the same kind of mark, she told the court, that Lema Sanjurjo had suggested putting on her previously. He had even shown her the cattle iron he wanted to use, but she had vehemently refused.
She alleged that he had resorted to drugging her to get his way, saying that the next day she felt as though she had been anaesthetised. While her allegations were not tested by the court, they correlated with that of the forensic doctor who told the judge it was unusual for a person to have slept through such an incident, noting that it was “obvious … that a person should realise what’s happening” when being burned in this way.
Lema Sanjurjo told the court his then-girlfriend had not spent the night at his place, an argument the judge dismissed as “ridiculous”.
In addition to the three-year prison sentence, the court ordered Lema Sanjurjo to stay at least 200 metres from the victim and forbade him from communicating with her. He was also ordered to pay her more than €16,000 (£12,000) in damages as well as reimburse the region for her healthcare costs as a result of the incident.
Both parties have appealed against the sentence. The victim has asked that Lema Sanjurjo, in addition to being tried for an offence causing injury, also be tried for an offence against moral integrity, noting that while “she was the first to seek charges against him, there are others”. Lema Sanjurjo, who maintains his innocence, has also appealed against the judgment in an attempt to clear his name.
In 2014, Canada made history by creating prostitution legislation that recognizes prostituted people are not criminals, but that those who exploit them are. Previous laws treated prostitution as a public nuisance instead of an issue of violence against women. This new approach signifies a major victory for women’s equality as it will teach generations of men that women’s bodies are not for sale.
Of course, whenever there is an advancement towards women’s equality, there is a backlash; and this case is no different.
Over the last few months the conversation about Bill C-36 has been widely publicized by the media, though that coverage has been largely one-sided. Therefore the public has heard from those who oppose the law far more than from supporters. As a result, ordinary Canadians whose only knowledge about prostitution comes from the news articles they read with their morning coffee have been led to believe myths and lies about who created this law, how, and why.
Canada’s new prostitution law is not a religious conservative attempt to limit women’s autonomy, as the bill’s opponents would have us believe. The sex industry does not consist of morally-neutral transactions between consenting adults, and sex trafficking is not a separate issue from prostitution. Rather, these are myths, presented as indisputable truth, perpetuated intentionally by those who want to (continue to) profit from exploitation.
The truth is that the driving force behind Bill C-36 was a combination of the testimonies of women who have direct experience in prostitution, research from Canada and around the world on prostitution laws, and the lobbying efforts of women’s groups who seek an end to violence against women. This law stands as proof that what Canadian women want is equality, not exploitation.
It has been implied by opponents that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who heard testimonies, studied, and evaluated the bill, was full of Evangelicals and Conservatives who sought to impose Christian morality on Canadians and who refused to listen to women in prostitution. Although there were some Evangelicals who testified in the hearings, they were far outnumbered by secular lawyers, academics, and women with no particular religious affiliation who testified about their own experience in the sex trade. These accusations against the committee were part of a strategy to discredit Bill C-36 in the eyes of Liberals and the left. And it seems to have worked — the Liberals and the NDP unanimously voted against the bill, despite testimony and research supporting it. In a strange turn of events, Conservatives helped pass feminist legislation, while the Liberals and the NDP attempted to stop it. Although this raises interesting questions about what it means to be on the political right or the left in Canada these days, there’s no real reason why prostitution should be a partisan issue — ending violence against women should be a no-brainer for any political party.
Considering the level of contradictory information put forth about the issue of prostitution, it’s no surprise that so many people have difficulty separating fact from fiction.
The pro-prostitution lobby, with the support of many Canadian media outlets, has successfully reached and convinced much of the public that there is an entire sex industry made up of consenting adults and that exists in isolation from human trafficking and underage prostitution.
This lobby is represented most-notably by Terri-Jean Bedford, who has featured in much of the coverage of prostitution in Canada over the last few years. Media outlets love titillating their readers with images of Bedford, clad in black leather and brandishing her riding crop, delivering snappy banter in her best dominatrix voice. “Prime Minister Harper called me again,” she declared in the committee hearing for Bill C-36. “He wanted to appoint me to the Senate… as a government whip!” What is rarely mentioned in the media, however, is that it was not Bedford who sought out a lawyer to help her overturn Canada’s previous prostitution law – it was lawyer Alan Young who initiated the case. He stated on camera that he recruited Bedford to act as an applicant, despite the fact that the media frames the case as one “led by sex workers.” Another fact rarely mentioned in articles about Canada’s most famous dominatrix is that she was first prostituted before the age of 18. For all her talk about “consenting adults,” she was not yet an adult when she first learned that her sexuality was for sale.
But while the pomp and spectacle of the sex trade lobby carries on, the women affected by prostitution do the unglamorous – but necessary – work of healing themselves and helping others.