May 27 – 31, 2019 is Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness in Edmonton. I checked to see if it was a national initiative and unfortunately, it appears not. Sexual exploitation is certainly an insidious concern. Vulnerable women and youth are targeted by traffickers in every country and society around the world to be sold in the so-called “sex trade.” The consumers, roughly estimated at 15% of the male population, for the most part remain hidden and we know from talking with survivors that powerful men, as well as pathetic, are included in their midst. Exploitation is fueled by an epidemic of pornography which creates unrealistic expectations of what women seem to enjoy or will endure.
I am reminded of my neighbor’s dandelions, hidden from public by his garage, but capable of infiltrating into my yard through the chain link fence. Just as I am happy to believe there are few if any sexual consumers / pimps/ traffickers in my acquaintance, I know there are several hidden in plain sight, indulging in what I consider to be to be abusive and abhorrent behavior.
I did not attend the Proclamation because I was tired and could not handle any more awareness. Sometimes it feels as if we, the anti-exploitation lobby, are speaking to the already converted. And yet we must continue to speak – if only for that one more person who may think differently, the one legislator who may create new protection, the one citizen who will commit to education themselves further and work for greater freedom and dignity, the one politician who will recognize the severity of concern.
Since 2014 Canada has legislation which criminalizes the PURCHASE of sexual services.* Yet provinces and cities across our land, for the most part, have not yet chosen to enforce or prosecute that simple concept. Instead, they opt for status quo, coming up with mumbo jumbo bylaws that offer protection to users and “harm reduction” to providers. *The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act was assented to November 6, 2014. This was a turning point for Canada in keeping with changing attitudes around the world.
There may be token efforts to offer services to women wishing to exit but what is being done to prevent or minimize the demand? I’m thinking maybe add consent and equality to school curriculum. Of course, there are a number of more proactive interventions possible. I am grateful to see many people coming forward and will continue to honor them on my Facebook page. Community safety and protection of the vulnerable are addressed in many ways. Keep posted. And please support agencies who support our women.