Awareness and prevention key to dealing with sex trade: report

Medha, Vancouver Sun

Increased awareness of sexual exploitation, more available prevention services, better housing options and more support for sex workers are among the priorities suggested in a report going to city council next week on dealing with the city’s sex trade.

The report stems from a 2009 directive from city council asking staff to come up with a strategy to address the negative effects of the survival street sex trade in Vancouver neighbourhoods….

Among those consulted for the report were relatives of Vancouver’s missing and murdered women, first nations groups, police, firefighters, business groups and government agencies.

The report says high rates of child poverty, low income residents, homelessness and unaffordable housing, combined with overstressed or missing legal and social systems result in sections of the population vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

There is an urgent need to address the issue, it says.

The report estimates Vancouver’s sex work population to be between 1,000 to 2,000 individuals, 80 per cent of whom are women….

The report notes the City of Vancouver spends about $2 million a year dealing with the effects of sex work, through such services and programs as the police vice unit and sex industry liaison officer, social services grants aimed at at-risk youth and services to help protect the health and safety of people involved in sex work.

These measures are not adequate, however, says the report, which emphasizes the need to respond to issues in a more coordinated and systematic manner.

The key to solving the problem, it says, is prevention and awareness.

It stresses the need for increasing awareness by working with youth, parents, and educators and the public.

It also focuses on the need to enhance the availability of prevention services for children and families, including aboriginal child care, afterschool programs, and youth services; improving the quality and quantity of housing options for youth, women, and other vulnerable populations in need of housing, and advocates adequate support and exit services for sex workers….