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Queer Ontario Policy Statement on Sex Work

December 17th, 2011 No comments

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In recognition of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (December 17), Queer Ontario has released the following policy statement:

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Queer Ontario

Policy Statement on Sex Work

December 16, 2011
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Preamble

On September 28, 2010, Ontario Superior Court Justice Himel struck down three important sections in Canada’s Criminal Code regulating prostitution. This decision effectively decriminalizes consensual adult sex work in Ontario. These sections include prohibitions against keeping a common bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution, and communicating for the purposes of engaging in prostitution. However, in a December 12, 2010 decision, Justice Rosenberg of the Ontario Court of Appeal stayed Justice Himel’s decision, thus continuing the legal enforcement anti-sex work laws. The stay will remain in place until the Ontario Court of Appeal renders its decision sometime in 2012.

A note about terminology: Queer Ontario follows the sex worker activist communities’ usage in denoting the exchange of erotic services for money as ‘sex work’ highlighting its description as a form of labour. ‘Sex work’ commonly denotes a wide range of sexual labour that may or may not include prostitution, such as stripping, phone sex, porn modeling, Internet sex and live-stream nude modeling/acting. The use of the term ‘prostitution’, generally deemed pejorative today, refers largely to legal definitions of the exchange of sexual acts for money.

Why Does Queer Ontario Support Sex Worker Rights?

We would like the public to consider sex workers’ rights and social, legal, political and economic justice for sex workers, as follows:

1.   Queer Ontario supports Justice Himel’s legal decision and the perspectives put forward by sex worker rights’ advocates. They argued that the laws regulating aspects of sex work are contrary to fundamental principles of liberty and security of the person, producing unsafe working conditions for sex workers.

2.   Queer Ontario advocates for the decriminalization of sex work, and for the right for sex workers to organize and conduct their business under the legal rights and obligations of any other legitimate business enterprise. Calls to “legalize” sex work or prostitution often place sex workers under onerous regulations by government authorities, raising questions about whose interests are being prioritized.

3.  Queer Ontario accords dignity and respect to sex workers and their clients and opposes the considerable stigma and sex-negativity that surrounds sex work.

4.  Queer Ontario opposes attempts to demonize and criminalize the consumers of sex work services and supports safe, consensual and autonomous conditions for sex workers to conduct their business.

5.   Queer Ontario calls for an end to all forms of gender-based discrimination that affect people working in the sex trade.

6.   Queer Ontario supports policies, community-based efforts and social justice movements that work to alleviate and eliminate all forms of systemic oppression including class, racial, colonial, age, gender, sexuality and ableist forms of discrimination.

7.   Queer Ontario stands with the 20 organizations who have pulled out of the British Columbia’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, complaining of  inadequate levels of funding available for the victims’ side. We urge the B.C. Attorney General to heed these complaints and to ensure appropriate funding, representation and equitable access to the Commission’s legal process for the victims’ families.

8.   All labour, including the sex trade, should be free from coercion and violence. Queer Ontario supports sex workers efforts to work autonomously, and to implement greater health and safety provisions for their work.

9.   Queer Ontario opposes any form of sex work that is the result of direct coercion or manipulation and for distinctions to be made between migrant sex work and the notion of “trafficking” in individuals for the sex trade. The use of “trafficking” prioritizes an overarching criminalization approach and serves to obscure how sex workers encounter labour conditions, poverty, and immigration/citizenship issues as the major barriers to their work and livelihood. Queer Ontario supports an expanded critical dialogue on legal and immigration issues that affect the lives of migrant and undocumented sex workers in Canada.

10.  Queer Ontario advocates for greater social and economic justice for youth working in the sex trade, and recognizes that they must become an active part of the decision- and policy-making process that affects their lives.

11.  Queer Ontario calls for the participation of sex workers in the development of public policies, community-based research initiatives and public education at all levels of government.

12.  Queer Ontario supports publicly funded services for sex workers whose marginalization is compounded by violence, poverty and addiction. Such programs, preferably staffed by sex workers themselves, should be guided by a philosophy of care that places the needs, voices and experiences of sex workers first and which encourages them to take control of their own lives as they see fit.

Prepared by: Robert Teixeira and members of Queer Ontario’s Research & Education Committee

Recommended Links: Organizations and Research

Maggies’

An organization in Toronto run for and by sex workers. Their mission is to assist sex workers in their efforts to live and work with safety and dignity. They are founded on the belief that in order to improve their circumstances, sex workers must control their lives and destinies.

http://maggiestoronto.ca/

SPOC: Sex Professionals of Canada

SPOC is a political and social group whose main objective is to work towards the decriminalization of sex work through political activism, community building, and public awareness.

http://www.spoc.ca/

Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work, Educate and Resist (POWER)

POWER is a non-profit, voluntary organization founded in 2008. Membership is open to individuals of all genders who self-identify as former or current sex workers.

http://www.powerottawa.ca/

Big Susie’s

Big Susie’s is a working group by and for sex workers in Hamilton and the surrounding areas.

http://www.bigsusies.com/articles.html

Stella

A Montreal-based organization run for and by sex workers that links to community partners and public health researchers to promote health, safety and legal advocacy for sex workers.

http://www.chezstella.org/

John Lowman’s Research Page

John Lowman is a professor in the Simon Fraser University School of Criminology and is a recognized Canadian authority on prostitution.

http://users.uniserve.com/~lowman/

Sex Trade Advocacy and Research (STAR)

Connecting community partners, researchers and students together to promote the health, safety and well-being of sex workers.

http://web2.uwindsor.ca/courses/sociology/maticka/star/index.html

Commercial Sex Information Service (CSIS)

A clearinghouse of information related to laws, sexual health, commercial sex and culture.

http://www.walnet.org/csis/
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Categories: Policy Tags: ,

Queer Ontario’s Non-Monogamy Policy Statement

November 24th, 2011 No comments

November 2011
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Queer Ontario Supports Non-Monogamous Relationships

Queer Ontario’s work towards queer liberation includes advocating for people in non-monogamous romantic and sexual relationships. We call upon all supporters of non-monogamous relationships to join Queer Ontario in creating a freer and more pluralistic society.
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What is non-monogamy?

Non-monogamy is the practice of casual or ongoing commitments to more than one person at any given time.  Some forms of non-monogamy are:

  • Open relationship: Any relationship where the partners have agreed to allow romantic or sexual involvement with individuals outside of the relationship. The term is widely used by people of all orientations.
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  • Open marriage: A married couple that has an open relationship.
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  • Swinging: Couples having casual sex with other people. The term usually refers to heterosexual or bisexual people who are emotionally monogamous, but have recreational sex with other couples or individuals.
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  • Polyamory: Having many partners simultaneously, in ongoing relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners. The term refers to egalitarian relationships between people of all genders, orientations and religions, in structures such as triads, Vees, quads, and networks. Some polyamorous relationships are marriage-like unions, formalized with a ceremony or agreement.
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  • Polyfidelity: A form of polyamory in which three or more people have a sexually-exclusive relationship.
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  • Polygamy: In sociology and anthropology, polygamy refers to any marriage-like relationship involving more than two partners of any gender, practiced in various cultures. In popular North American speech, polygamy usually refers to one man married to multiple women, within patriarchal and/or religious cultures, with the women’s knowledge but not necessarily their consent.
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  • Polyandry: A form of polygamy with one woman married to multiple men.
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  • Polygyny: A form of polygamy with one man married to multiple women.
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  • Bigamy: The criminal act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another. The spouses may be unaware of each other.
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What kinds of relationships do we support?

Any kind of consensual relationship between any number of people, including monogamous and non-monogamous relationships. They need not be recognized under the law.

  • We support non-monogamy when practiced honestly and consensually, meaning that all partners:
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    1. Are aware of and understand the conditions of the relationship;
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    2. Are able to negotiate the originally-accepted terms as a key member of the
    relationship;  and
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    3. Are free to leave the relationship whenever they wish, for whatever reason.
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  •  This includes talking about and practicing safer consensual sex, and respecting the sexual, sensual, and emotional boundaries of all partners.
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  • We vehemently oppose coercion, oppression, and abuse in any form of relationship.
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Why do we support non-monogamous relationships?

  • Because people should be free to love whomever they please.
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  •  Because people should be free to engage in any consensual sexual activity.
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  • Because people should be free to live with whomever they please.
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  • Because people should be free to establish whichever relationship they please.
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  • Because no-one should be forced to hide their love for a partner, or the nature of their relationships, or the conditions of their living arrangements, from anyone.
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  • Because monogamy is an unnecessary restriction that limits people’s lives and liberties.
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Why is non-monogamy important to queer people?

  • Because queers have historically been able to witness, experience, and articulate social inequalities; and have historically challenged and broken social conventions.
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  • Because queer communities commonly accept open relationships and non-monogamous casual sex.
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  • Because non-monogamous relationships often involve queer people.
    That is: even when all participants are heterosexual, they may be subject to homophobia or bi-phobia.
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Why do we support relationships of more than two people?

  • Because we see no logical reason for government of society to privilege monogamous relationships above all others.
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  • Because we believe that the individual should be the basic social unit in a fair and democratic society. Meaning that people should not be required to get married, or live with a partner, to obtain the rights, recognitions, and benefits afforded to married couples.
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  • Because everyone should have their relationships recognized by government and society, including those individuals living in  multi-partner and same-sex or same-gender relationships.
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What legislative changes do we demand?

Among the demands outlined in our We (Still) Demand statement are:

  • The decriminalization of consensual conjugal unions involving multiple partners, by striking down Section 293 of the Criminal Code (the anti-polygamy law).
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  • The amendment, by all levels of government, of Human Rights Codes to establish ‘relationship status’ and ‘living arrangement’ as prohibited grounds for discrimination.
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  • The recognition of multi-partner relationships for purposes of spousal rights and benefits.  For example: so that a polyamorous triad can adopt a child together, and claim life insurance benefits when a member of the triad dies.
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  • The adoption of all the recommendations put forward  by the Law Commission of Canada in 2001  to find more equitable ways of supporting dependents in any family structure.
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  • The extension of universal health benefits to all essential medical care, including prescriptions, dental care, and vision care.  Employer-paid health plans are unavailable to many Canadians, and discriminate in favour of people with one spouse.
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What societal changes do we advocate for?

  • That health care practitioners be supportive of non-monogamous people and be aware of their physical, mental and sexual health needs.
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  • That landlords not discriminate against groups of more than two adults applying for rental accommodation.
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  • That multi-partner relationships be recognized by society’s institutions, such as in government forms, school curricula, and research studies.
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  • That society should recognize non-monogamous options in everything from dating websites to wedding invitations.
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For more information about non-monogamy, please see:

Law Commission of Canada report Beyond Conjugality:  Recognizing and supporting close personal adult relationships, 2001
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The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association
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Frequently asked questions
about polyamory from Loving More, a US-based organization supporting polyamory and relationship choice
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The book The Lesbian Polyamory Reader: Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Casual Sex
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Kevin Alderson’s article citing many studies about the open relationships of gay men.
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The Couples Study of gay men in open relationships
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Serolynne explains Polyamory vs. Polygamy and Polyamory vs. Swinging

Categories: Policy Tags: ,

Queer Ontario

January 30th, 2010 No comments

Arts & Culture – To urge continued and strengthened support for the arts and culture sectors, with particular emphasis on the development of queer culture, and its appreciation rather than it being targeted for censorship or prosecution.

Inclusion of ‘Gender Identity’ in the Ontario Human Rights Code – In Ontario, trans people have no explicit legislative human rights protections. Queer Ontario supports the Ontario Trans Human Rights Campaign in calling for the inclusion of ‘gender identity’ in the Ontario Human Rights Code as recognized prohibited grounds against discrimination and harassment.

Poverty/Employment Issues – Address issues of poverty in all its forms and continued workplace discrimination and harassment based on gender identity and sexual orientation with government, human rights commissions, labour boards, labour unions, etc.