no-one really cares about the prostitutes
more interested in building fiefdoms and resumes than helping the women and men
Saskatoon isn't New York or LA.
myth ...wealthy white businessmen in flashy new cars preying on poor young aboriginal girls
the creation of a safe house to help get younger women off the street
unable to work legally, and unable to claim welfare, there was little alternative when she left
November 6, 1998
By: Jacob Zunti
A lot of media attention has been devoted to Saskatoon's prostitution problem in the last two months. Much of it has concerned the merits of two outreach van services that ply the city's mean streets providing needles, warm coffee, and Aids tests to workers in the trade. Much of the criticism has come from Francis Petite, a former Saskatoon citizen of the year renowned for her participation in progressive causes. In raising her criticisms, Petite observed that "no-one really cares about the prostitutes."
The criticism is a harsh one, but it seems to have the ring of truth. Saskatoon Community Health, and the members of Communities for Children, the main supporters of the van services, appear to be more interested in building fiefdoms and resumes than helping the women and men who end up on the street. In response to vocal criticism of the outreach vans, these organizations conducted and then released the results of a survey of Pleasant Hill area residents living near the strip. The expectation was that the media and public would treat the results of the study as "unbiased research." Not surprisingly, the survey found little opposition to and much support for, the outreach vans. .
These people are constantly reminding us of the number of young girls and women working the streets... and doing their utmost to bring scorn to the johns and boyfriends of the women, whom they derisively refer to as pimps. There may be pimps in Saskatoon, but I have yet to meet one... Saskatoon isn't New York or LA. What I have met are men who are supported by the women in their lives, since the men have been completely marginalized from society as a result of their own interactions with Saskatchewan's Criminal Justice system.
In "tackling the prostitution problem" these organizations have also propagated the myth that street prostitution in the city is all about wealthy white businessmen in flashy new cars preying on poor young aboriginal girls. While the majority of women working the street are of aboriginal ancestry is unfortunately and undoubtedly true, anyone can drive down the stroll any time to see the falsity of the myth. While the occasional new vehicle may be seen, most of the vehicles that cruise 21st Street West give rise to the inference that their owners are quite down on their luck... headlights and tail-lights missing, beat up old pick-ups, and what not.
Recently, Communities for Children even proposed the impounding of the vehicles of suspected johns, as if our society hasn't already become draconian enough in the last two decades. While such a practice will undoubtedly inconvenience the errant johns and their families, how it will be of any assistance to the people working the street is beyond me. It also proposed and is now participating in the creation of a safe house to help get younger women off the street. This has considerable merit. Unfortunately, the helping hand will only extend to sex workers under the age of sixteen, and to only six at a time.
What Communities for Children and Community Health haven't done is provide answers to the following pertinent questions:
|a)||why are so many people working the streets - is Social Services spending too much time working with the police and provincial (in)justice system to vilify johns and too little time in child protection work?|
||does it make sense to maintain existing welfare laws or should they be changed to allow people who are at risk of becoming involved in the sex trade to receive welfare before attaining the age of 16? Due to child labour laws, people under 16 can't be legally employed in legitimate businesses; and|
|c)||why is there no "safe house" for children to go to before they become involved with the sex trade.|
I have had within my circle of friends and acquaintances, several persons who
ended up in the trade. One left home due to sexual abuse and a courageous but probably
incorrect decision to protect her mother's feelings and her father's liberty interest
and reputation. What she found was that being unable to work legally, and unable
to claim welfare, there was little alternative when she left, other than to work
illegally... by selling her body on the street. The other friend ended up selling
herself because she couldn't make the income she needed to feed her two small children
on the income she made as a waitress.
Solving Saskatoon's prostitution problem isn't about enacting harsher laws, seizing vehicles, printing names in the local paper, or passing out condoms and needles. Its about legalization and economic justice. Don't the people of Saskatchewan care... or are they just asleep at the switch?