The recent construction of the Woodward’s Building and surrounding condos in downtown Vancouver is a start in the goal of phasing out the long-term home of marginalized communities struggling to live in the Downtown Eastside, many of which are prostitutes. As an SFU student I was excited for a new campus but didn’t realize how we were just ignoring the ongoing issue of prostitution in the Downtown Eastside and that for many if not all of these women, prostitution was not a choice. The fact is that they may not have had a choice at all. With a lack of social programs and laws to help single mothers or those living in poverty, prostitution is a last resort.
Our Lives to Fight For is an organization whose mission is to create awareness that will lead to the abolition of prostitution in Canada. They believe that the ideologies surrounding prostitution and human trafficking need to be changed and this change is rooted in policy and law. Our Lives to Fight For released an amazing and thought-provoking documentary on this issue with a local perspective featuring organizations such as the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN) and Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution (AWCEP). They heavily advocate for the Swedish/Nordic model of prostitution that criminalizes men (pimps and johns) rather than women and challenges the normative view of prostitution as a choice.
The norm is to blame women for getting themselves into such sticky situations where they resort to prostitution. Why not support single mothers who probably have one of the most challenging jobs? Our Lives to Fight For hopes for a platform to give the most vulnerable citizens a voice. Their opinions are disregarded when looking for a solution to the high numbers of prostitution in the Lower Mainland. Locally, everything that has been tried has failed. After trying to clear out the numbers of prostitutes near Knight and Kingsway, they just relocated somewhere else. As of right now, the city is trying to rebuild the Mount Pleasant area pushing more women to East Hastings. We can’t just force these women to leave and ignore the real issue here. There isn’t enough money or opportunities for those on welfare and for some, prostitution is seen as a legitimate business with the term “escort” and the booming online sex-work industry. Current laws are just protecting men who feel entitled to purchase sex and the pimps who control their sex workers and leaving women in the dark to deal with poverty and abuse.