On March 6th, in the Vanier auditorium, Jenn Clamen & Marlène from Stella, l’aime de Maimie gave a presentation that shone the spotlight on patriarchal and systemic oppression against sex workers and how it is misplaced, inappropriate and, I concur, just downright right unnecessary.
Marlène began by giving an in-depth description of Stella, the organization and all about the important work they do and the challenges they face with unwanted intervention and stigma that plagues sex work and sex workers here in Montreal. She made it very clear that all of the representatives of Stella were, or are sex workers themselves and so have that valuable experience and knowledge of the industry to advocate for the rights and needs of Montreal’s sex workers. They offer a lot of services and resources to those who need it, and even deploy “street crews” who will go out and supply sex workers with “crack packs”, condoms and medical assistance to help limit the many dangerous risks involved with sex work. The list of services they offer is incredibly but in short they look out for themselves in a way the government resists to.
Stella marches, they print and distribute newsletters and editorials informing the public about current issues, notifications and events that supports and advocates for the rights of sex workers. Migrant sex workers are specifically at risk as they can be deported if charged with sex work crimes. And because sex work isn’t a recognized source of income, sex workers have a difficult time finding “legitimate” employment, housing and other types of benefits. They are often criminalized and more likely to be approached or harassed by law enforcement officers.
The stigma that follows sex workers is despicable and incredibly closed minded. To quote one of the presenters “Sex work itself, isn’t dangerous – the environment of sex work is dangerous.” The state needs to make more of an effort to create safer working conditions for all people, including those who choose to have sex in exchange for money. Autonomy is important to retain and stripping sex workers of theirs is unfair and unjust.