Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Gender Inequality: Real or Imagined?

by Michelle Brock on March 8th, 2014

chalkboard

I grew up in a European family where my gender did not hold me back from dreaming.  I had the privilege of going to an English immersion school in Finland, an international school in Ethiopia, and a Christian academy for junior high – each providing me with an excellent education and with it, opportunities. My best friends in Africa were were Jesse and Jakke, two brothers who took me on all their adventures.  We were experts at spotting hyenas in the night and making it around their property without touching the ground once.  “Don’t touch the lava,” we would say as we climbed along window sills and fences, letting our imaginations fly.

I can honestly say that I never even considered gender inequality once as a kid.  Well, maybe a couple times, but only on the soccer field at recess when the guys would hog the ball.

Ethiopian Women 300x207But one day, when my dad I were visiting Blue Nile Falls with some family from Canada, we saw women working hard in a field, carrying huge loads, while the men sat under a shaded tree chewing khat.  Someone in the group made a comment, “oh how typical, the guys watch the women do all the work.”

Typical?

I didn’t get it.  My mom worked hard, and so did my dad.  I was sure the men were just taking a break. And perhaps they were.

It wasn’t until I visited Namibia as an 18 year old that I personally felt gender inequality.  My friend and I were walking on a sandy road in the desert heat, and a truck full of men drove by.  They began to hoot and holler as the truck slowed.  No one else was around.

My heart beat wildly.  We were terrified.  In that moment, my Canadian citizenship, my middle class upbringing, and my academic accomplishments meant nothing.  There was only one reality that remained, pounding in my mind: I am a female.  When the truck finally moved on, we breathed a sigh of relief.

My fear turned to rage.  For the first time I realized that because of my gender, I could not enjoy a peaceful walk alone in the desert, or forest, or mountains without the risk of getting raped, assaulted, or ogled.  How dare they take this joy from me?  Since then, I have always been slightly jealous of my male friends, whose chances of being assaulted on a morning jog are very unlikely.

running

My eyes have been opened to the plight of women around the world.

I recently read an enlightening piece by Molly Edmonds that highlights global gender inequality. According to the UN, women do two thirds of the world’s work, receive 10% of the world’s income, and own 1% of the means of production.  They often get penalized for taking time off work to care for sick children.  Women are at high risk of being physically or sexually abused, and in some areas, rape is used as a weapon of war.  There are about 1.5 billion people living on less the a dollar a day, and most of them are women.  In some countries, women are not allowed to drive a car, or leave the house without their husband’s permission.  Despite making up half the world’s population, women hold only 15.6% of elected representative seats globally.  Then there is female infanticide, child brides, and sex trafficking victims.  Women are overrepresented in prostitution, especially if they are from an ethnic background that is oppressed or marginalized.

I’ve met many women for which some of these experiences ring true.  So you can understand why I am offended when some people say that gender inequality is inconsequential.  For some, the concept of gender equality evokes images of aggressive women taking over a business meeting, trampling men under their stilettos.  Others get stuck in a conversation about how gender equality threatens to water down the family unit.  Those who refuse to explore the world outside of these boundaries clearly misunderstand gender equality altogether.  Equality does not threaten the unique differences between men and women, but rather allows us to celebrate them more fully.

I once read the quote of an activist who was imprisoned in South America.  She said, “I do not seek women’s rights, but human rights for women.”  These words have resonated with me ever since. International Women’s Day is not about women being better than men, or about some secret agenda to take over the world.  It is about acknowledging us as human beings and respecting our worth, our contribution, and our legacy.

Today, take some time to celebrate women in your life, to learn about the plight of those around the world, and to invest in the lives of women who are working hard to survive. My husband and I love to make micro-credit loans through KIVA - which allows us to support the dreams of women in developing countries.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Signature

 

 

 

*

Supreme Court Strikes Down Prostitution Laws…Now What?

by Michelle Brock on December 20th, 2013

Supreme Court of CanadaToday, the Supreme Court ruled on Canada’s prostitution laws.  Until now in Canada, prostitution itself has been legal but everything around it has been illegal.  For example, it has been against the law to communicate for the purposes of prostitution, to operate within a brothel, or for a third party to make money off of someone who is prostituting.

A group of sex workers challenged these laws, saying that it made the industry dangerous for those selling sex.  Today the Supreme Court ruled in their favour, striking down these three provisions.  In essence, this means that by this time next year, brothels could be legal across the country. Not only that, but a third party will be able to live off the avails of prostitution, and soliciting will no longer be banned.

I have to say that the Supreme Court was in a tricky position on this one.  Ultimately, their role was to clean up a messy law, and their decision did not come as a surprise.  No one thought the existing prostitution laws made sense, but where we go from here is a roaring debate.  Let’s start with the effects of this ruling on the industry as a whole.

MParlor

The Bad News?

Demand for paid sex will increase as a result of today’s decision, expanding the entire industry.  And based on the examples of other countries that have chosen to decriminalize and regulate prostitution, sex trafficking will increase.  In a context where the buying and selling of sex are both legal, there are never enough people willing to work in the industry to meet the demand, and traffickers are more than willing to step in to fill the supply side.  In legal contexts where living off the avails is permitted, pimps can disguise themselves as bodyguards and managers to avoid getting prosecuted.  Many Canadian police officers have said that striking down these laws would strip them of tools they often use to convict criminals who are exploiting others.

2014The Good News?

Though the Supreme Court has made its decision, they have given Parliament a one year window to amend the law if they wish to do so.  This means that we have 12 months to rewrite the laws on prostitution altogether, as long as they do not violate the Charter.

Canada now has an opportunity to adopt an approach that has been very successful in Sweden.

If there is enough pressure from Canadian citizens, we could – as a country – usher in a preventative approach that criminalizes the purchase of sex while decriminalizing the selling of it.

This law acknowledges that most people who sell sex do so out of a place of vulnerability and inequality, and therefore should not be treated as criminals.  Instead, it places the responsibility on the buyers, who are fueling the industry in the first place.  The model, which is being adopted in several other countries, decreases sex trafficking and makes commercial sexual exploitation difficult and unprofitable for traffickers.  When coupled with exit programs for those who want to leave prostitution, it is an effective way to target the market and protect the most vulnerable.

You can read MP Joy Smith’s press release to learn more about the Nordic Model.  Here is an excerpt:

“Legalizing prostitution is a direct attack on the fundamental rights and freedoms of women, girls and vulnerable people. In the same regard, continuing to criminalize the women and vulnerable populations being prostituted creates barriers that prevent them from escaping prostitution and entrenches inequality. 

Let’s be clear: those who advocate either approach ignore mounting empirical evidence and will find themselves on the wrong side of history and women’s equality. 

As a nation, we must ensure pimps remain severely sanctioned and prostituted women and girls are not criminalized and instead given meaningful escape routes out of sex work. Most importantly, Canada must focus on the real root of prostitution by targeting the buyers of sex.”  

What You Can Do Now:

1. Fill a Petition.  When new legislation is introduced in the House, petition signatures make a significant impact.  If you want a preventative law that reduces demand for paid sex to be adopted in Canada, please download this petition, get as many signatures as you can, and send it in to the address at the bottom of the sheet.  We have collected thousands of signatures already and need more.  We need broad-based democracy!

Download Petition Here!

2. Write a Letter.  Now is the time to contact your Member of Parliament, Justice Minister Peter MacKay (who made this statement in response to the court’s ruling), and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  You can get a sample letter here, (adapted from Defend Dignity), and let your representative know that you want Canada to adopt the Nordic Model.

Letters can be addressed to:

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
313-S Centre Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

The Hon. Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice
Attorney General of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Email: peter.mackay@parl.gc.ca

Name of Your MP 
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

3. Book a Film Screening.  This spring, we are taking our documentary Red Light Green Light on tour across Canada.  It specifically looks at the issue of various prostitution models, and what approaches best prevent sex trafficking.  Check out our tour schedule and sign up to host an event.  

4.  Make a donation.  Support Hope for the Sold as we continue to educate the public about trafficking prevention.  You can make a donation here, or through our Christmas Catalogue!

5.  Follow our Updates. Connecting with us via facebook and twitter will help you keep up to date as Canada’s prostitution laws unfold.

We’re excited to partner with you to prevent commercial sexual exploitation in our country.

Signature5

 

 

 

 

*

Boys & Lollipops: Why The Candy Shop Thrives

by Michelle Brock on September 1st, 2011

I watched and did a review on The Candy Shop already several months ago, but recently saw it again and was so moved that I had to share it once more.  If you want to see a creative yet haunting depiction of how boys can be manipulated and lured to take part in the flesh trade, I would encourage you to watch below.

If you want to see what Hope for the Sold is doing to help reduce demand for paid sex, check out our new project.  And for those of you in the greater Toronto Area, don’t forget that Ignite the Road to Justice is coming to town this weekend! I will be at the Friday night event and would love to meet you. There will be a way for people to contribute to a blog post there, so come on out!

Michelle Brock

*

This Week in ON Courts: Appeal to Re-Examine Prostitution Laws

by Michelle Brock on June 16th, 2011

01 canadian gavel 300x210For those of you who have been following Ontario’s journey with prostitution law over the past year, this week has been a heavy one for abolitionists and anti-trafficking advocates.  For those of you who are just now getting into the debate, get some background on Ontario’s court decision from last summer here.

The government’s appeal regarding last summer’s decision is taking place all this week. The hearings started on Monday and will conclude Friday.  I personally know some abolitionists who are part of the hearings, including Trisha Baptie from EVE (Formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating). From the sounds of it, this will likely end up being a Supreme Court case.

To keep you up-to-date on what is going on, I have decided to round up some articles I have read this past week:

As you may know, I am against the legalization of prostitution and for the Nordic (Swedish) Model which reduces prostitution and sex trafficking.  Here are some articles and posts you can read on why I feel this way:

Trisha Baptie and others are making their voices heard today, hoping that the courts will hear their message and respond.  Legalization of prostitution has a dark underbelly that will hurt significantly more people than it will protect, and that is why it is crucial that we stand up for the abolition of prostitution and for the adoption of the Nordic Model.

UPDATE:  Read this article about today’s hearing, and check out this press release regarding  Friday’s press conference:  Press Release Regarding Ontario Prostitution Case.

Michelle Brock

*

Vistas Ahead: Confessions of an Abolitionist

by Michelle Brock on June 8th, 2011

“But I have discovered that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.” -Nelson Mandela

229357roukq19ob1As an abolitionist, I find myself in a very strange position.  It is the same position that development workers, aid workers, human rights activists, and NGO volunteers face. I am trying to work myself out of a job.

I am currently reading Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which talks about turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide.  The stories of brave women around the world who stare down fear, resist hopelessness, and overcome suffering leave me speechless. What would I do in their situation? Would I be willing to stand up for what is right without the security blanket of being a white, middle class North-American?

I don’t know.  I long for the answer to be yes.

What I do know is that the world is changing.  It is changing one story, one woman, one bold action at a time.  I hear of men standing up for women, teenagers fighting for their sisters, and mothers saving their daughters.  I hear about how communities that used to live in fear due to widespread and normalized sexual exploitation are now flourishing because women have been empowered.

To be sure, we have a tough road ahead before exploitation and sex trafficking come to an end. However I can’t help but feel hope when I hear of changed hearts and shifting cultural attitudes in regions around the world.  In the midst of being overwhelmed by the darkness and suffering that surrounds the topic of human trafficking, these moments of hope allow a somewhat selfish question to flash through my mind. Maybe some of you have experienced it too:

Once we deal with this issue, then what? What will I write about?  Will I be like a soldier coming home from war only to find that his skills are no longer needed?

Such thoughts remind me that my life is more than a cause to fight for.  I cannot define my purpose and worth solely by the injustice I am trying to eradicate.  If this were the case, I would not be willing to give the fight my all, because by seeking to save my purpose I will compromise their freedom.  If I truly want modern day slavery to end, I have to long for the day when I am no longer needed.

Though there is more than enough work to be done before we even get close to eradicating exploitation and trafficking of human beings, we must be willing to examine ourselves along the way. The process purifies our motives and forms us into more effective abolitionists.  It allows us to celebrate victories and move onto the next project as need arises.

We can be sure of one thing – no matter how many vistas we reach, there are always more hills to climb. Let us always move ahead with courage.

Have you ever wrestled with these thoughts?

Michelle Brock

photo credit Evgeni Dinev

*

Uproar in Italy: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Trial for Underaged Sex Scandal

by Michelle Brock on February 23rd, 2011

berlusconi1

The past two weeks I have been following events unfolding in Italy concerning Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.  There is reportedly evidence that he paid for sex with a young woman named Karima el Mahroug when she was under 18 years of age, and even phoned a police station to release her when she was being held there for allegations of theft.  His trial is in April.  Thousands of women have taken to the streets in protest, urging Berlusconi to step down.

Why so much outrage? Perhaps because this is not the first time the Prime Minister has demonstrated his lack of respect for women.  In addition to having sex parties at his villa, in 2009, after a series of rape cases in Italy, Berlusconi stated that the country’s women are so beautiful that they needed escorts to avoid being raped.  Beauty, in his opinion, was the cause for the increased levels of rape. In an attempt to redeem himself, he stated later that his comments should be received with levity and good humour.

It scares me that there are leaders in our world who set such poor examples of what it means to respect women.  Sudan’s Bashir was quoted as saying that Darfurian women should be honoured if a man from northern Sudan rapes them.  If leaders of nations have such attitudes toward women, how is it possible to pass laws that protect victims of human trafficking, sexual violence, and domestic abuse?

leadership by example 300x221I believe that those who are in positions of leadership have a responsibility to set a good example.  Cheating on his wife is one thing. Making insensitive comments about rape and breaking the law by paying for sex with a teenager take it to a whole other level.  If Berlusconi is indeed found guilty, it is time for him to wave goodbye to the Prime Minister’s office.  May this be a reminder for all of us to elect leaders with integrity.

Michelle Brock

*

Upcoming Anti-Trafficking Events: Freedom Week 2011 & International Women’s Day

by Michelle Brock on February 20th, 2011

freedom week3 300x149It is my pleasure to announce Freedom Week 2011, organized by Miss Canada Tara Teng and an amazing team of devoted abolitionists!

DETAILS:

  • When: March 6-13, 2011
  • Where: Vancouver BC area

Who can come? The various events provide an opportunity for students, churches, parents, government leaders, women’s groups, journalists, bloggers, artists, and anyone else who is interested in abolishing slavery to learn, network, and take action.  There is something for everyone.

schedule 300x267FREEDOM WEEK SCHEDULE:

  • Sunday, March 6- Prayer Gathering, 7-10pm, Northside Foursquare Church,1477 Lougheed HWY, Coquitlam ($FREE)
  • Thursday, March 10- “Through Their Eyes” Dance/Drama/Music Performance telling the stories of trafficking victims in Canada, 7-9pm, Chandos Pattison Theatre, 10238 168th Street, Surrey($FREE)
  • Friday, March 11- “Limbo” Play about Trafficking, 7:30-9:30pm, Christian Life Assembly Centre- Room 340, 21277- 56 Ave, Langley ($FREE)
  • Saturday, March 12- Freedom Rally and March to end Human Trafficking, Registration begins at 9:30am in Douglas Park, Langley City. March begins at 11am. Rally begins at 1pm. ($FREE)

donations accepted 300x203**All events are FREE admission. However, donations will be collected to benefit local and international organizations that are fighting Human Trafficking/ Modern Day Slavery around the world. Awareness AND Action.

Want to volunteer?

Email volunteer.fw@gmail.com.  They are specifically requesting volunteers for the Freedom March on March 12, to direct crowds and help with set-up and take-down in Douglas Park.  Time commitment for volunteers is from 9-5, or for half the day.

Join the Freedom Week 2011 Facebook group and check out the event page here for updates and announcements.  If you wish to help fund Freedom Week, you can make a donation here.

International Womens Day 300x300

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY EVENTS:

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, REED (Resist Exploitation Embrace Dignity) and EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating) present: Prostitution and Women’s Equality-Imagining More for Women.

Join them as they host Gunilla Ekberg, Swedish-Canadian lawyer and expert on the international human rights of women and girls, presenting on the Nordic Model of law and policy; an alternative to complete decriminalization that enshrines the dignity of women and addresses the male demand for paid sex. Guest panellists from the community will also be present.  This is a great opportunity to learn more about why prostitution should not be legalized in Canada.

DETAILS:

  • westcoastcanada2 300x234Tuesday March 8: 6-8pm, Victoria Public Library’s Central Branch.  Featuring Gunilla Ekberg, Trisha Baptie (EVE), and Lee Lakeman (Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres)
  • Thursday March 10: 7-9pm, Vancouver Downtown Library’s Alice Mackay Room. Featuring Gunilla Ekberg,  Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, and Trisha Baptie (EVE)

For more information contact Michelle Miller at 604.725.3838, or Trisha Baptie at 604.518.4798. Get the International Women’s Day Events PDF poster to spread the word.

What an exciting week for the West Coast!

photo credit wiccked

Michelle Brock

*

A Christmas Wish From Trafficking Survivor Timea Nagy

by Michelle Brock on December 8th, 2010

timea nagy

This is Timea Nagy.  You may have seen her story in the newspaper or heard it in our documentary. Timea has a heart for victims of human trafficking in Canada because she knows first hand what it is like to be one, and this has led her to train law enforcement officers, coordinate with Parliament, and provide help to victims who have no one to turn to.  It’s tough work. And this year Timea is making a Christmas Wish, which I’d like to pass onto you:

wish 300x183Dear Friends,

Seasons greetings!  I hope this finds you well and excited for the upcoming holidays. As we come to the end of another successful year, I want to thank those who have contributed to our success and ask if you will help us once again.

Currently, the Walk With Me organization has 19 victims of human trafficking who will not be celebrating the holidays this year with their family and friends. For these victims, there will be no Christmas tree and no presents. I can recall through personal experience how difficult the holidays were for me. It was a solemn reminder that I would be celebrating the holidays alone and without my family.

timmies xmasOver the years I was able to establish my own holiday traditions such as grabbing a coffee from Tim Hortons and taking a walk around the city of Toronto admiring the pretty Christmas lights and decorations. I am hoping to help these victims establish new traditions of their own for these upcoming holidays and to provide them with presents so they know they are not forgotten.

However, I require your help. We have both male and female victims between the ages of 20 to 60 years old. Walk With Me would like to provide them with any of the following gifts listed below to help them get through this holiday season.

  • Phone Vi International Phone Cards: These cards do not charge any connection fee and will help our victims to touch base with loved ones at home during the holidays.
  • Tim Hortons, Wal Mart, Shoppers Drug Mart Gift Cards: To help them obtain basic necessities and enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning.
  • MasterCard/ Visa Gift Cards: These can be purchased at any gas station or major superstore. This item is strongly encouraged as the victims would be able to purchase what ever it is that they require this holiday season.

If you are unable to purchase one of these gift cards before December 18, 2010 a donation of any amount will also be greatly appreciated. We do need these funds however, by December 18th in order to carry out our Christmas promise.

merry christmas1We hope you will consider supporting Walk With Me. To make a donation, make a cheque out to Courage to Cope, memo: Walk With Me and send it to:

126 Hughson Street North

Hamilton, Ontario L8R 1G6

Attention: Timea Nagy

Thank you in advance for your consideration of our request. I wish peace, joy and love to you and your families during this coming Christmas season. Happy Holidays!

Timea Nagy, Program Director/Victim Care & The Walk With Me Team

Click here for more information on Timea’s organization and her new book as well!

Michelle Brock

*

When Old Fat Perverts Have Cold Hard Cash

by Michelle Brock on March 31st, 2010

IMG 06981 300x225

Last night Jay and I had our friend Bry and her mom, Renee (above),  stay over at our place in Costa Rica. We were having a lovely candle-light conversation (power was out!) about their vacation in the Capos region of the country, and soon the topic turned to human trafficking and prostitution.

One day they had gone to eat at beach restaurant, and saw a bunch of beautiful local women rubbing lotion on some 400 lb. American men on the beach.  The men were groping and stripping the women right in public, not heeding any attention to the fact that there were kids around.  All the people in the restaurant were disgusted, but the restaurant would not do anything because the men were buying tons of beer from them.

Here is my question: how arrogant do these guys have to be to believe that these young women want to do this?  That rubbing lotion and giving sexual favours to rude, 400lb. foreign men is somehow appleaing to them?

It all comes down to cold, hard cash.  As Victor Malarek says, money is the ultimate conscience-pacifier.

On another day, Bry and Renee saw the same local girls with their blue-haired pimp, waiting for customers.  Yes, sexual exploitation is thriving here indeed.

What would you do if you saw this happening? Tell the restaurant you were no longer going to give them business as long as they were serving the guys on the beach? Confront the men personally? Talk to the girls? Issues of safety come into play if traffickers are involved.  These are tricky situations, and we must learn how to address them and handle them properly if we are to make a difference in the lives of exploited girls.

Michelle Brock

*

  • Follow Hope For the Sold

  • Latest Articles

  • TOPICS

  • archives