New report from Pivot Legal Society finds that legislation introduced two years ago threatens the physical and economic security of sex workers, fails to protect women from violenceRead more
Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Fails to Respect Sex Workers’ Rights
This week, Canada is presenting its eighth and ninth periodic reports to the United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).Read more
Yesterday, Amnesty International published its policy supporting decriminalization of sex work to protect sex workers from human rights violations and abuses. The policy sends a clear message to the Canadian government: change this country’s sex work laws to abide by the state obligations Amnesty’s policy lays out.Read more
Pivot Legal Society and the Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women have made submissions on the design on the national inquiry.Read more
Pivot's Brenda Belak with members of Sex Workers United Against Violence at the Women's Memorial March.
I’ve walked in the Women’s Memorial March most years since I moved back to Vancouver in 2003.
I’ve learned to anticipate a number of things: the drums and voices joined in the Woman Warrior Song as the crowd gathers at the intersection of Main and Hastings Streets; the smell of burning sage wafting from the medicine ceremonies at the sites where women were last seen; the cold that seeps through your clothes by mid-afternoon; the moment when someone spots the eagles soaring high overhead; the sombre determination in the voices and faces of the women activists who have been demanding justice for missing and murdered women in Vancouver for close to three decades.
This year — the 26th march — was different.
For the first time, a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women is becoming a reality. Not only that, the federal government is actively soliciting input from women’s and community organizations, as well as loved ones of the missing and murdered, about how to make this inquiry work.Read more
Brenda first became involved in advocating for sex workers’ human rights almost two decades ago in Southeast Asia, documenting working conditions of migrants. As a human rights activist, she has conducted research and international advocacy in the context Myanmar’s civil war, on child soldiers, forced labour, women’s human rights and CEDAW, and the ties between violations of Indigenous peoples’ rights and large-scale resource extraction projects.
As a lawyer in Vancouver, working in Aboriginal law and on the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, Brenda has seen strong parallels between struggles in the global South and the experiences of Canada’s First Nations and communities marginalized by poverty. She believes strongly that effective social change must begin and end with those most affected by injustice.
Brenda tries to spend as much of her free time as possible outdoors, hiking, cycling, and kayaking.
e-mail brenda [at] pivotlegal [dot] org
Pivot’s work is grounded in the belief that poverty and social exclusion are not inevitable. Through our campaigns, our team focuses on making the possibility of a more just and compassionate society a reality. Our projects evolve from year to year, but our central mandate, to use legal tools and political advocacy to challenge laws and policies that intensify poverty and social exclusion, remains the same.
The federal government introduced Bill C-36 in early June 2014 in response to the 2013 Supreme Court of Canada unanimous decision that several parts of Canada’s Criminal Code dealing with prostitution are unconstitutional because they violate the rights of sex workers by undermining their health and safety.Read more
In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada held that three criminal laws that prohibit various aspects of adult prostitution create unacceptable harms for sex workers.
Canada now has a unique opportunity to envision a legal framework that reflects expert evidence, global best practices, human rights and the expertise of sex workers themselves. In order to ensure that our laws support the safety and well-being of sex workers and address the concerns of Canadians as a whole, Canada must reform our approach to sex work. It is time to recognize the decades worth of evidence and experience from Canada and throughout the world that has made one thing clear: Criminalization of sex work has failed to achieve its goals, and has instead created egregious violence against sex workers throughout the country.