Eight hundred thousand people -- most are women and girls -- are bought and sold each year. If it weren't for prostitution, this modern slave trade wouldn't exist.
They are sold for as little as $500 to traffickers and pimps who earn up to $250,000 a year on each person.
If it weren't for the Internet, the demand for women and girls would not be growing exponentially. And if it weren't for the "patriarchal, misogynistic nature of virtually every society in the world, this couldn't be happening."
Those aren't my words. Those are Victor Malarek's. Malarek is one Canada's early crusaders against human trafficking. His book, The Natashas, documents the lives of women from some of the the world's poorest countries who were enticed or coerced into sex slavery.
"You don't need a doctorate or a master's degree or even a bachelor of arts to know that it [trafficking] is a combination of extreme poverty, criminal greed and the perverted sex drives of men," Malarek said last week in Vancouver at a two-day conference on trafficking.
Far from prostitution being the world's oldest profession, Malarek calls it "the world's oldest oppression." Far from being a career choice, he says it is "the ultimate act of desperation."
Prostitution and trafficking are daily realities in Vancouver. And given the experiences of other host cities for international sporting events, we should brace for an explosion in both in 2010 unless our governments do something about it now.
There are some -- including MP Libby Davies and the Pivot Legal Society -- who believe legalization is the way to go. Davies is supporting a plan to open a brothel in time for the Olympics that would be run as a co-operative by women.
Pivot has launched a legal challenge to Canada's laws. Prostitution isn't illegal, but communicating or soliciting is.
Legalization is no answer to prostitution. There is no parallel to be drawn between it and the prohibition of alcohol. Prostituted women are not commodities. The only appropriate parallel is to slavery.
Legalization does nothing to restore dignity to the work of performing sex acts on strangers. If it did then the majority of women in legal brothels in Germany, the Netherlands and Australia would not be women from the poorest countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.
Far from eliminating illegal trafficking, it has either stabilized or increased since legalization.
No matter how people -- including members of the B.C. Teachers' Federation -- try to dress it up, prostitution isn't a career choice. At a recent BCTF meeting, teachers were asked if they opposed legalization. Most did not. I wonder how many female teachers considered prostitution as an option. How many teachers plan to invite prostitutes to speak at their school's next career day or would suggest to their own daughters or wives that it might be a good career choice?
Prostitution should be abolished, not decriminalized or legalized.
As UBC law professor Benjamin Perrin says, "The Olympics is not a time to test a social experiment like this that has already failed in other countries."
Perrin's recent report on trafficking, prostitution and the 2010 Games for the Calgary-based, anti-trafficking Future Group concluded that putting sex on sale during the Olympics will only increase exploitation of Canadian women and increase trafficking from abroad.
He recommends deterring sex users during the Olympics. Both Perrin and Malarek warned that Vancouver will be a sex-slave destination unless the Canadian Border Service increases its vigilance now and the government and courts send a strong message to organized criminals that trafficking women won't be tolerated. The B.C. government has an Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons. But there's a long way to go.
The same week that Perrin's report was released, the Lower Mainland's most notorious madam, 42-year-old Zhe Nai Xu (who goes by the screenplay-ready name of Pinky) pleaded guilty to one count of living off the avails of prostitution and one count of keeping a common bawdy house. She had originally been charged with seven counts, but the Crown would have had difficulty making those stick.
The women, who earned Pinky more than $1 million a year, were Koreans. They may have been willing to testify. But who knows? They were deported. Even though the maximum penalty for living off the avails of prostitution is 10 years, the Crown will reportedly seek little more than a slap on Pinky's wrist when she's sentenced Dec. 13 -- 18 months of house arrest and forfeiture of one of two homes.
Still, it's not just the governments that need to act. We all need to make it clear to men and boys that all forms of exploitation, humiliation and degradation of women is shameful and unacceptable in our society.
Source: The Vancouver Sun