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International Women’s Day: London Abused Women’s Centre releases prostitution legislation report

Protesters march, in support of the Women's March on Washington, in Toronto on Saturday, January 21, 2017.
Protesters march, in support of the Women's March on Washington, in Toronto on Saturday, January 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

The achievements of women past and present will be celebrated Wednesday for International Women’s Day.

As people pay tribute to the contributions of women in all aspects of life, the London Abused Women’s Centre is releasing the results of its research project on prostitution legislation.

There are many ways for women to mark the occasion including wearing red to show solidarity, taking the day off from work and housework, donating to a women’s charity of choice, or not spending money in hopes of showing the economic strength and impact of women in society.

READ MORE: Women’s March organizers ask women to take day off, not spend money on International Women’s Day

Kate Graham, director of Community and Economic Innovation at the City of London, kicked off International Women’s Week by speaking at the Women Who Inspire event downtown, organized by Women and Politics.

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“One of the things that came up in the discussion was that sometimes to get women involved, sometimes it does require a little bit of extra encouragement so the campaign is about asking women to run for office, but it can also mean encouraging a woman to seek leadership positions, encouraging a woman to speak up on a issue that matters in the community,” said Graham.

She feels the best version of London is one where every single resident has an opportunity to contribute.

“You know, a young mother that cares about a transit system, for example, that perspective is absolutely vital as we move forward on designing transit plans or plans on any other issues, so it’s really all about making sure that we appreciate that hearing from women is important on everything that we do, and taking the appropriate efforts to making sure that happens,” Graham said.

Given that Canada’s theme for this year’s edition for International Women’s Day is Equality Matters, the London Abused Women’s Centre chose Wednesday to release the key findings and recommendations of their research report into prostitution legislation.

The organization has been gathering research since June 2015 on the three most prevalent approaches to prostitution legislation: the Nordic Model, decriminalization and legalization.

The LAWC believes prostitution is a women’s equality and human rights issue, and has previously supported the Nordic model. It decriminalizes prostituted women, criminalizes sex purchasers, and mandates robust funding for services for women to exit the sex industry.

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The report found that compared to both decriminalization and legalization, the Nordic Model results in a significant reduction in the demand for prostitution, in the number of women and girls prostituted, and in the number of instances of violence. LAWC executive director Megan Walker noted that Canada’s current prostitution legislation, introduced in 2014, is not a true example of the Nordic Model.

“It had an additional provision, which was known as section 213, which actually did criminalize women under certain circumstances: if they were soliciting for the purposes of prostitution around daycare centres, playgrounds, and schools. And that provision actually made the legislation in Canada not consistent with what is known as the Nordic model, which was developed in Sweden,” said Walker.

The report makes four recommendations to the federal government.

“First would be to repeal section 213 in the legislation. We’ve asked that the government work with police departments across the country to make sure that they are enforcing the legislation. We’ve recommended increased funding to agencies working with prostituted women and girls, and increasing funding to train police officers. And finally, our most important recommendation is that we’ve asked the government to ensure that women’s equality rights are actually achievable.”

The full report can be found online here.

With files from Jacquelyn LeBel.

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