An Ontario court’s decision to decriminalize prostitution may mean better safety for sex trade workers, but in Prince Albert, local organizations say there are bigger concerns.
On Sept. 29, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice struck down laws associated with prostitution, effectively decriminalizing the practice.
Supporters laud the move for making prostitution safer, allowing the government to tax it and generally freeing the courts for time better spent elsewhere.
In Prince Albert however, the feeling is different. Organizations who deal with sex workers said the move is double edged sword.
Peggy Rueben, who runs a mobile outreach program, said the new decriminalization would probably help people who consciously choose prostitution as a profession.
However, she said the reality was that in Prince Albert, that was seldom the case.
“Women we deal with don’t want to be on the street,” she said. “They’re only there because of their situations and their barriers.
“A lot of times, they’re involved (as prostitutes) because they don’t have any money, they’re in poverty they don’t have jobs or employment. You need to look at the issues of why people are in the sex trade.”
She said the majority of workers on the street had issues with family, substance abuse, or physical abuse.
The biggest problem, she said, was that workers in the city often begin as minors. When that happens, they’ve often run away from home and using sex to secure food or shelter.
“A lot of young girls they do it to have a place to sleep, they do it to have food. It’s a survival sex thing, it’s not just prostitution for money,” she said.
Rueben said that while decriminalizing prostitution would help sex workers have access to police if they are beaten up, for instance, she said there were more urgent needs.
“We’re asking the government to help because we don’t have enough that are on the street working directly with the kids on the street.”
She said the community needed to be more aware of the situation and work towards finding solutions.
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