The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform is made of sex worker rights groups across Canada. Our objective is to create a unified and cohesive response to law reform, and to strengthening the capacity of our communities to engage with legislative processes that impact on our lives. Together we represent a diverse group of sex workers and allies that have come together around law reform: some of the groups provide front-line service provision to sex workers in their region, and others are grassroots advocacy organizations. The member groups of the Alliance operate differently in their approach and every day work with sex workers. We come together with a unified voice for sex work law reform.
Decriminalization is one part of our larger struggle for the recognition and actualization of sex workers’ rights — including the rights to autonomy and self-determination, security of the person, freedom of expression and association, equality and non-discrimination, self-determination, work (and safe, healthy, just working conditions), health and dignity. Beyond the criminalization of sex work, laws and policies contribute and reinforce inequality, disadvantage and discrimination based on various biological, social and cultural categories such as race, gender, class, ability, citizenship status, mobility, and physical and mental health status, among others. Decriminalization alone cannot overcome all of the other injustices and structural barriers that many of us face, but it is a necessary step to ensure the protection of sex workers’ rights.
Some members of our communities face police harassment regardless of their participation in sex work, particularly Indigenous women and youth, people who are im/migrants (particularly racialized women) and trans folk (especially trans women). The criminalization of the sale or exchange of sexual services gravely exacerbates their stigmatization and marginalization.
Decriminalization is an important first step towards addressing the dangers that come with being criminalized and/or working in a criminalized industry. The criminalization of our work comes with a constant police presence, social and racial profiling, harassment, surveillance, arrest, detention and deportation — all of which contribute to our isolation and vulnerability to violence.