Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Legalize it

The Pickton trial with all of its attendant horrors dominated the news last week. I keep trying to write something about it, but it's so disturbing on so many different levels that whatever bit of creativity I possess is crushed under the weight of my sighs, metaphorically speaking. Although the trial continues, the news has died down somewhat following complaints about the graphic nature of the evidence. I agree, it's horrible, but the fact that people are demanding it be censored is depressing in itself because it's so symptomatic of how the crime happened in the first place. We don't want to hear about ghastly lives any more than we want to hear about ugly deaths.

The women Pickton is charged with murdering basically vanished into thin air; when they were finally reported missing, their disappearances weren't considered a priority to investigate. Supposedly their somewhat transient lifestyles meant it might not be unusual for them to disappear. But there's also an undercurrent of racism, classism and misogyny; they were all desperately poor, many were aboriginal, and most were drug addicts eking out an existence on the shadowy edges of society. Unfortunately it seems that in order to get justice for wrongs committed against you, you must live within the law. Those on the fringe, ironically the ones most likely to be victimized, are shit out of luck.

If anything proves that prostitution should be legalized, it's the Pickton trial. In a regulated, legal environment, sex trade workers would not only be protected from pimps and predators, they could get proper health care, help with their addictions, and job skills training (if they so desired). Most importantly, they wouldn't be so isolated from the rest of society that their disappearances would go unnoticed.

The sex trade has been around forever and isn't going away anytime soon, so it only makes sense to take some steps to protect the people involved in it, and protect society from the spin-off crime related to it.
But this would never happen under the Conservative government. The conservative base, with their bizarre fixation on all things sexual, wouldn't allow it. They'd rather point to bodies stacked up like cordwood, hold their hands over their eyes and say "Do we really have to see that?"