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Turn on the nightly news, and chances are you won’t see a story about an abused prostitute, a tortured call girl, or an abducted escort, though the epidemic of violent acts against them is ongoing. With few laws to protect them and fewer sympathizers in their corner, sex workers ride a strange line of being physically exposed and socially invisible.
The West Coast Co-operative of Sex Industry Professionals (WCCSIP) in Vancouver, Canada, is taking the safety of sex workers into its own hands, reports Joanna Chiu in Herizons.
The WCCSIP, made up of women, men, and trans-individuals, is one of several successful sex-worker organizations around the world. (In India, the group Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee has 65,000 members.) In an ambitious new proposal aimed to reduce violence against sex workers, the WCCSIP is lobbying to start a co-op brothel in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Writes Chiu:
The WCCSIP is offering the City of Vancouver detailed plans on how it intends to create a place where sex workers can bring their clients and rent affordable rooms, starting at two dollars, for the amount of time they need, rather than paying for expensive hotel rooms. The co-op brothel would offer safety features such as emergency buttons in each room, 24-hour security and front desk reception.
Currently, Susan Davis, head of the WCCSIP and herself an escort, brings clients to her apartment, where the bedroom is reserved for business. (She and her boyfriend sleep in the living room.) “If something goes wrong, I’m hoping that my neighbors will hear me,” she tells Chiu. “But if you’re working in a brothel, then people are all around you.”
Although, technically, prostitution isn’t a crime in Canada, many aspects of the trade—such as owning a brothel or communicating for the purposes of prostitution—are. By renting private rooms, workers at the co-op brothel would avoid breaking laws and ending up in jail.
Beyond increased levels of physical and legal protection, the co-op would provide additional benefits, such as micro-loans for small businesses, school scholarships, and employment counseling for those who want to leave the sex industry.
“We will keep pushing our plans for the co-op brothel forward,” Davis says. “This project could really transform our community and build momentum for all efforts to improve sex workers’ rights.”
Source: Herizons (article not available online)