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Major Quebec women's group continues to lose members over sex worker resolution

MONTREAL — Quebec’s most prominent women’s group continues to lose members after it passed a resolution last month recognizing that women can freely choose to become sex workers.

The resolution approved by members of the Federation des femmes du Quebec has split the organization between prostitution abolitionists and those who believe women can consent to sexual activity in exchange for money.

Diane Matte, founder of the group CLES, which works with current and former sex workers, said the federation’s position is “incompatible with the work we’ve done over the past 18 years to fight sexual exploitation.”

Whether there are women who believe they can enter freely into the sex industry is the wrong question to ask, said Matte, whose organization was among three groups that announced Wednesday they are leaving the federation.

“The question is rather, as a society that believes in equality of all women, do we support an industry that is sustained by poverty, social inequality and the violence that women face in it?”

MCVI, a group that advocates on behalf of sexual assault victims, as well as the Maison d’Haiti, a prominent organization in Montreal’s Haitian community, also quit the federation yesterday.

Matte said at least two branches of the Confederation of National Trade Unions previously announced they will no longer be part of the women’s federation.

Messages seeking comment from federation president Gabrielle Bouchard were not returned Wednesday afternoon.

Bouchard told The Canadian Press in late October the “large majority” of voters at the group’s general assembly supported the motion,”but some people were upset.”

Matte said she is “pessimistic” about the future of the federation, which was formed in 1966.

“We weren’t the first to leave and we won’t be the last,” she said in an interview. “I hope the members who stay apply pressure to the board of directors to return to its central purpose … to fight for the equality of all women.”

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press