Canada: John Letters Are Dangerous: AIDS Group
October 4, 2007
Some activists are responding angrily to an Ottawa police plan to send warning letters to the homes of men observed seeking commercial sex. The letters will put women "at greater danger by making them even more invisible within our community," said Michelle Ball, coordinator of education and health promotion with the AIDS Committee of Ottawa. "Sending sex trade workers even further underground creates systemic barriers in providing support to women working in the trade, their children, access to health care and community social services."
Under the plan approved Monday, men observed talking with prostitutes or cruising in areas where prostitution is common would be sent "community safety" letters. The letters warn of a "clear correlation" among prostitution, drug use, and diseases like HIV and hepatitis. The letter "is meant to educate the driver who is engaged or attempting to engage in conversation with a sex trade worker," said the department's Superintendent Larochelle.
But Ball said not all sex workers are drug addicts, and "It's not being in the sex trade that puts you at risk. It's how much information you have, how marginalized you are, and what resources you have to protect yourself."
The letter "marginalizes the fundamental issues surrounding the sex trade, including homelessness, racism, violence and poverty," said Colleen Whiteduck of the Elizabeth Fry Society, which advocates for women and girls in the justice system.
The plan has drawn praise, however, from some local people weary of finding condoms and drug paraphernalia in their neighborhoods. All community feedback will be taken into consideration when the program is evaluated at the conclusion of the 12-month trial period, Larochelle said.
10.04.2007; Andrew Seymour