Montreal’s community has a great deal to gain by observing Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
The year 2020 has barely begun and yet it feels like there’s a special day for just about everything. We have Labour Day, Earth Day, Suicide Prevention Day, Mental Health Awareness Day… and let’s not forget about Groundhog Day!
These events, which sometimes seem to us as repetitive as they are numerous, briefly keep our attention, as we skim through an article in an effort to stay up to date with current events. Some of these subjects interest us, while others bore us, as we feel bombarded by their glorious fifteen minutes of fame that have been so nobly granted to them.
Each individual is different. Your own personal experiences are unique to you, and the events of your life that have marked you somewhat dictate the facet of your humanity that is most significant to you; your soft spot. This is why certain subjects hit home harder than others. They pull on our heartstrings as we relate to them through our past, our culture, our environment, or even through the experiences of a loved one.
My grandmother was the first woman to drive a car in her hometown. Women’s Day therefore brings me great joy. I am deeply proud to be a woman and I think it’s important that we commend one another for the work we have done to make the Western world evolve and grant us more rights. I would like to believe that one day, we will see equality between men and women. I cling to an optimistic mindset and believe that things will continue to progress step by step, provided we play our part.
If we look back throughout history, we clearly see the improvement in several areas when it comes to women, their rights and their place in the world. For example, we have obtained the right to vote. We are still working on equal pay, and maybe one day, through hope and tenacity, we will achieve this. This progress has also been expressed through the #MeToo movement by bringing to light and exposing those who don’t respect a women’s body, those who harass, rape, grope and project a so-called animal instinct onto their victims. All this is fed by a notion of having sexual needs, when in fact, their lack of a capacity to live in a society is the real problem.
Or for Worse
In contrast to the joy I feel on Women’s Day, I also feel a deep sadness that awakens in me all the stupor one can possibly handle in light of disturbing current affairs. Notably, I think of the dismissal and violation of the rights of women in certain countries, where in this era we dare to call “modern”, forced marriage is still practiced between men and young girls who are barely 13 years old. A 2016 UNICEF study revealed that in Ivory Coast, 40-60% of girls under the age of 15 are already married.
It is the responsibility of Montrealers to understand the magnitude of the problem in and around their city
As a Montrealer, I believe that certain subjects are close to the heart of our community. Sexual exploitation is a subject that both disturbs and troubles us… We must come to grips that in our area, where prostitution is widespread, the sex industry is an institution. I’m sure it’s not news to you when I write that you simply have to wander around downtown Montreal, or put in a couple words into an online search engine to come across a massage parlour that offers XXX services, an escort agency, a strip club, a brothel… Go ahead and type “Montreal Escorts” in your search bar; in private mode of course, lest you get mistaken as a client. You will come across a multitude of sexual offers; so many, in fact, that it seems like we trivialize prostitution and all the other prostitutional services related to it.
Is it possible to imagine Montreal as a sexual exploitation-free city?
It seems as if we’re accustomed to seeing the many small establishments, not to mention the biggest names in the sex industry: Chez Parée, Cinéma L’Amour, Nuru Massage, to name but a few.
I encourage you to change how you view these places that populate our urban landscape with their playful facades; these places that exist outside of your imagination, outside of fantasy, and see them for what they actually are: the dark playground of organized crime and pimps. The neon lights of these establishments lure passers-by, without ever revealing what’s going on behind the scenes; human misery juxtaposed with an outwardly happy atmosphere in order to mask its appearance for the purpose of boosting sales.
Underground crime rings have a way of keeping their most hainous dealings away from the public eye. I remind you that it is estimated that the average age of initiation into prostitution in Montreal is 14 years old.
On this day of February 22, I invite you to see Montreal and the entire province of Quebec differently, because at each one of these establishments, there are exploited human beings behind the fake smiles they put on.
On behalf of all victims of sexual exploitation, I invite you to spread the word, and remember the cold, hard facts; that 90% of girls and women in the sex industry want to get out of prostitution.
Together, it is time to take a stand and initiate change.
Together, let’s give them a Way Out.