PRESS RELEASE: SWWAC Demands an End to Stigmatizing By-laws and “Anti-trafficking” Campaigns – January 26, 2022



Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition demanded an end to Winnipeg’s stigmatizing and inaccessible licensing for “escorts” and “body rub practitioners”, as named by the city, and the removal of the biased anti-trafficking training from the recommendations in the public safety report, and won!

Sex Workers and their allies presented at the Executive Policy Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 19th, 2022, in order to address agenda item #1, the “Doing Business in Winnipeg By-law”. SWWAC asked the City to support removing the “adult-orientated businesses” sections of the by-law and called for an end to the violence of “anti-trafficking” campaigns. SWWAC will present again to City Council on Thursday, January 27th, at 9:30am, via Zoom, in favour of repealing the sections of the by-law that pertain to “escorts” and “body rub practitioners.” The repeal cannot lead to the closure of sex workers’ work places or lead to the enactment of more by-laws or policies that seek to ban sex work from the city. SWWAC demands that sex workers be able to continue to work in Winnipeg–without police involvement and surveillance; this is a workplace safety issue. Sex work is work, and it must be treated like any other business and be supported and protected by labour and human rights.

The by-laws were problematic for a number of reasons:

  1. Inaccessibly expensive for a self-employed person/independent sex worker.
  2. Surveillance by law enforcement – no ability for body rub practitioners to lock doors –
    photos and client lists were required to be provided to police.
  3. Contained authoritarian, restrictive, and paternalistic rules, with dress codes and large
    fines associated with various violations.

Anti-trafficking campaigns often intentionally conflate sex work with human trafficking and aim for the prohibition of sex work. Research consistently shows that prohibition of sex work increases violence, isolation, and other harms. In fact, respecting sex worker’s rights has been shown to protect vulnerable persons.

“The report and recommendations were written with the assumption that sex work is
inherently exploitation and violence against women. The report overwhelmingly favours this
narrative, which removes agency from sex workers-who are consenting adults.” – SWWAC

SWWAC is excited to work with the City of Winnipeg to fight exploitation, not sex workers.