As a labour organization, our members are on the front lines supporting sex workers (particularly those who are marginalized because of their gender, race, age, disability, class, and immigration status) dealing with a broad spectrum of abuse and violence. We witness the injustices in workplaces, including those experienced by people who work in the sex industry. We see how criminalization, stigmatization and consequential discrimination perpetuate and compound human rights violations against migrant communities working in the sex industry.
We write this statement in solidarity with and as part of the struggle for the recognition of sex workers’ rights. We recognize the value of the labour sex workers do and recognize sex work as work. Sex workers should be afforded all labour and human rights and legal protections. We oppose the criminalization of all sex work and call for the full decriminalization of sex work in addition to other necessary reforms outlined below. We believe in creating opportunity and promoting the health, human and labour rights of sex workers (including migrant sex workers). We believe that the agency and decisions of sex workers should be respected. The most effective strategy for achieving this uses a “rights not rescue” approach that prioritizes the rights of sex workers and support for those who seek supports, rather than criminalization or “rescue” models that seek to remove workers from the sex industry or eradicate the industry itself.
A wide range of human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women and the Center for Health and Gender Equity, United Nations bodies such as the UN Development Programme, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Global Commission on HIV and the Law have recognized the harm of punitive laws and policies against sex work (including criminalization of some or all aspects of sex work), lead to violations of sex workers’ human rights and they call for the decriminalization of sex work.
We believe it is our responsibility to support all sex workers (particularly those who are oppressed and marginalized ) in their struggle against exploitation in the workplace, discriminatory treatment from potential employers and other institutions, racial and social profiling at the border and in workplaces, discrimination and abuse from law enforcement, overregulation, over-policing and over-surveillance.
CGEU calls for the following key changes* to protect the human and labour rights of all sex workers.
- Full decriminalization of sex work and related activities – which requires the repeal of all sex work-specific criminal laws;
- Elimination of immigration regulations prohibiting migrants from engaging in sex work and related industries;
- An end to racial and social profiling and the use of criminalization or rescue models to address exploitation in the sex industry;
- An end to the use of anti-human trafficking initiatives to justify the intrusion of law enforcement in places where sex work takes place, including indoor sex work businesses;
- Review of existing anti-human trafficking policies and programs that equate sex work with human trafficking, to remove assumptions that sex work — absent coercion — is a form of trafficking or sexual exploitation;
- Ensure that the Canada Border Services Agency is never involved in anti-human trafficking investigations; and
- Provide support for Access without Fear/Sanctuary City policies that allow migrants to receive essential services and supports such as health care and victim supports without fear of deportation.