Jasmin, 32, has been a sex worker for a third of his life.
For them, it’s a way to pay for medication and medical expenses. According to a new groundbreaking report released this week, Jasmin was one of 73 percent of sex workers surveyed with a disability.
“Like I shouldn’t be doing that. I shouldn’t be doing sex work to pay for medical bills,” Jasmin said in a phone interview. Black Press Media chose to use a pseudonym to protect Jasmin’s identity.
Jasmin joins more than 200 other sex workers in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island in a collective call urging the federal government to decriminalize sex work, among other recommendations.
The “by us, for us” research project, released Wednesday (April 12), details the recommendations, including: increasing disability assistance rates to match the Canada Emergency Benefit implemented at the height of the pandemic, delivering on promises to protect the murdered and Justice for Missing Aboriginal Women and Girls provides long-term funding, funding for frontline workers supporting sex workers and increasing access to public restroom facilities.
The research project took place against the backdrop of a pandemic, the criminalization of sex work, and against the backdrop of truth and reconciliation efforts, the MMIWG investigation, and the ongoing toxic drug poisoning crisis.
Jasmin said decriminalization is a “big deal” for Canada. On the Midtown East, they noticed a “de facto” culture of decriminalization that had existed for as long as she could remember.
About a year after Jasmin started working as a sex worker, Vancouver police adopted her sex work enforcement guidelinewhich means that when responding to sex work-related calls or situations, officers’ first priority is ensuring the safety and security of sex workers.
But it doesn’t look like the police are “too much concerned,” Jasmin said, which could also be a problem.
“The police rarely investigate or care. Sometimes it’s hard to get them to care. We really need to have a better relationship with the police.”
The By Us, For Us report noted that the police reforms that participants surveyed most supported (over 50 percent each) were redirecting police funding to community service and publicly condemning police harm.
The report also examines the experiences of sex workers who identify as dual or non-binary, as well as cisgender men.
Taylor, who has been involved with the research project since its inception, told Black Press Media that the report helped them “really feel part of the community.”
The report notes that gender-diverse sex workers face unique needs and risks and are sometimes compelled to engage in sex work due to limited alternative employment opportunities. Meanwhile, those who are cisgender — or described as cisgender — fear stigma and the loss of family relationships and jobs if they share their experiences with friends and others.
Taylor said they joined the project to share male voices in a profession that is sometimes considered female only.
“I hope men don’t feel ashamed of being sex workers.”
Asked why they think men might be left out of these discussions, Taylor said society has done it that men shouldn’t talk about their feelings.
“We’re supposed to be the caregivers of the family and all that.”
Taylor started working as a sex worker in Vancouver about 20 years ago and eventually turned to providing her services online.
The report noted that gender-diverse sex workers were the only group that solicited work “primarily” online, with 42 percent saying they had sex work over the phone or online in the past year.
But when it came to decriminalization, Taylor described it as a “work in progress” that is still ongoing.
“It would be great if it started to come to the forefront and people took it more seriously, like the government should. When that happens, I’ll be really excited because they’re really listening,” Taylor said. explain.
“I hope they will listen because it shouldn’t be a problem for us. We should be able to live a normal life.”
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