Three of your Shameless staff attended the Women’s Worlds conference held in Ottawa on July 3-7. You can find notes from the first day here, and more will be forthcoming; we need to debrief about our experiences after the first day and will then share our thoughts with you.
In the meantime, check out this article from Xtra Ottawa about the strong anti-sex work agenda that emerged at the conference. This anti-sex work bias alienated and disturbed us and many others, although our experiences varied.
The week’s schedule included numerous panels arguing, from various angles, to end global prostitution. This movement, more commonly associated with an earlier generation of anti-pornography, anti-sex work feminism argues that sex work is inherently exploitative of women, further entrenching patriarchal structures.
In comparison, the pro sex work groups at Women’s World were small in number. Groups like Prostitutes of Ottawa/Gatineau Work, Educate and Resist (POWER), Toronto’s Maggie’s and Montreal’s Stella work as sex worker advocacy groups arguing for the option to choose their occupation, safer working conditions and harm reduction strategies. Together they support groups like Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC), which has made significant grounds in arguing for decriminalization in Canada.
The chasm between the two groups became obvious at the Women’s World multi-media exhibit, “Flesh Mapping: Prostitution in a Globalized World” which attracted much attention among media and conference delegates and marked a strong prohibitionist ideology throughout the conference.