Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sex workers are us

Why we fight alongside hookers
PERSONAL POLITICAL / The state has no place in our bedrooms

Ariel Troster / Xtra.ca / Thursday, February 21, 2008

Maybe it was her blue dreadlocks that caught my attention. Standing in a park in Montreal's Plateau district in 1998, I was struck by how my first Take Back the Night march had veered off in a direction I had never expected. On a damp night in November, I had run to catch up with a group of 100 women who tromped around the streets of Montreal that night, pointing out the dark corners where women had been raped or assaulted.

It filled me with a sense of foreboding, but also a feeling of incredible power and sisterhood. And then we reached the park where the speeches took place and Anna-Louise Crago took the stage. Decked out in leggings and combat boots, her long hair a mess of the afore-mentioned dreadlocks, she looked like many of the activist kids I'd met in my first few weeks of school. But as soon as she opened her mouth, I was hooked.

She spit fire at the assembled group of women, railing against them for having jeered at the strip clubs on St Catherine St in the midst of their march. A member of the Coalition for the Rights of Sex Workers, Anna was the first self-acknowledged sex worker I ever met, and she forever changed my view of women in the trade.

Since then I have met lots of sex workers, and count several among my closest friends. So that's why it's been so infuriating to see the misinformation being spread in the media by Ottawa city councillors and the chief of police.

Dozens of arrests have been made since November as part of a city-wide crackdown on street level prostitution and drug use. Police have begun sending letters to the owners of vehicles suspected of idling in areas populated by sex workers. The letters make false statements about sex workers, claiming that they are all drug users responsible for spreading HIV/AIDS. And this is not to mention the obvious civil liberties violations associated with this type of surveillance tactic.

The struggle for sex workers' rights is our struggle. Here's why. (Read the rest over at xtra.ca)