Trust Us, Don't Bust Us [Being Heard: The Experiences of Young Women in Prostitution]

Article excerpt

Voluntary programs like safe houses that provide health, education, and unconditional support are more desirable than child welfare programs or lock-up legislation to help young girls get off the streets.

That is the conclusion of the editors of Being Heard: The Experiences of Young Women in Prostitution (Ferwoood Books and Resolve, 2003). The book is based on a four-year research project undertaken by RESOLVE, a tri-provincial network in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Women involved in sex trade work as youth and those who provide programming for them were consulted extensively.

"When we talked to kids on the street, we found that a lot of them didn't really want to be saved, or if they did want to be helped, they didn't want to be helped in the format of legislation being developed," says co-editor Kelly Gorkoff.

In Alberta, the Protection of Children in Prostitution Act enables authorities to detain children suspected of engaging in prostitution for five days with a possible extension of 21 days, to perform unwarranted searches, and to conduct involuntary physical examinations.

Alberta places the onus on the state to recognize child prostitution as a form of sexual abuse, thereby granting authorities the right to apprehend, hold and examine children suspected of involvement in the sex trade. In British Columbia, similar legislation was passed in 2000 but never implemented. The government is considering new legislation with a `safe care' focus.

Cherry Kingsley, an Aboriginal woman, a former sex trade worker and a participant in two international summits on child prostitution, is pleased BC didn't implement the bill.

"We either have to say openly and honestly that we're creating a system that strips young people of their rights even though we know that they're victims, or we've got to get serious about how we protect the rights of young people and intervene," according to Kingsley, who works with the B. …