VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Dozens of sex workers, many dressed in Victorian-era finery, are marching through the streets of Vancouver’s historic Gastown district today as they take part in the sixth annual Red Umbrella March.
The red umbrella is the internationally-recognized symbol of sex worker rights. “…That’s great in a city like Vancouver where it often rains,” says Kerry Porth with the Pivot Legal Society, one of the organizers.
“This year the march is focused on sort of 130 years of resistance against Canada’s [prostitution] laws, [but] the stigma around sex work goes back hundreds of years. It’s nothing new. Sex workers have always resisted and they will continue to resist.”
She adds some things have changed over the years, however, the fight continues.
“There’s a whole lot of sex workers out there who are really interested in sort of advancing their rights, particularly their labour rights, and… we just want to be seen and heard for the vibrant and diverse people that we are.”
In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s anti-prostitution laws in a unanimous decision and, at the time, gave Parliament one year to come up with new legislation if it wanted to.
The move struck down laws banning brothels, allowing people to live off of prostitution and any communication in public with clients. Canada’s top court ruled the laws were too broad and “grossly disproportionate.”
Six months after the law was slapped down, Ottawa came up with a new one following a rare summer sitting to discuss Bill C-36, as it’s known. The law outlined criminalizing buying sex, defined what a “sexual service” was explained the penalties sex trade workers could potentially face under the new bill. The bill also declared sex trade workers were allowed to advertise the sale of sex in this country.
Anyone taking part is encouraged to have a red umbrella. Marches like this take place nation-wide.
The march goes from Victory Square, which is around Cambie and Hastings Streets, to CRAB Park, ending with a group photo and refreshments.