Grand Prix brings increase in sexual exploitation: aid workers
Montreal is gearing up for the excitement and glamour of this weekend's Grand Prix but along with the influx of visitors, a group rallying against sexual exploitation says it also comes an unpleasant phenomenon: an increase in sexual tourism.
The community group CLES, Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle (Dialogue of the fight against sexual exploitation) says the influx of tourists increases the demand for sex workers.
Diane Matte of CLES said it would be naive to believe tourists don't arrive in the city in order to have sex.
She said the demand ramps up during festival season, "whether it's during sporting events, cultural events, or any other type of big events that are happening in Montreal."
Matte said the macho attitudes that surround the F1 race boost the chances that women will be exploited.
Eliane Legault of CLES said Montreal is “definitely seen as a sex tourism hotspot.”
“You even have travel agencies selling package deals for the Grand Prix where you have tickets to the race, but also tickets to Chez Pare and then you then have an escort,” she explained.
CLES said sex workers face many more risks during sporting events. Pimps and escort agencies pressure them to work constantly and they're subjected to more violence because their clients are tourists who can leave town at any time.
“they don't have a sense they can be found after if they do something violent,” said Legault.
They are calling on Mayor Denis Coderre to take action.
"We also clearly want to say to the mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, that we expect more from him and the municipal council to make sure that Montreal stops being a destination for sex tourism," said Matte.
Shortly after being elected in 2013 Coderre said he was going to crack down on massage parlours and sexual tourism -- but that has yet to happen.
“(We want a) new law that states clearly that buying sexual acts is a crime against a person, that that law has to be applied, has to be effective,” said Matte.
Coderre said he trusts in law enforcement to handle it.
“We need awareness, we need prevention but I'm pretty pleased that we have Formula One too, so we'll let the police do their job,” he said.
CLES also suggests that the city and Tourism Montreal invest some of the money they make from the festivals to help women leave prostitution, as well as make visitors aware there's zero tolerance for sex tourism in Montreal.
Meantime Stella, a group that provides support for sex workers that also seeks to educate the public about the realities of sex work, has a different take.
Pointing to a 2011 study, Stella claims there is no evidence sporting events lead to an increase of sex tourism.
The study, from the Global Alliance Againt Traffic in Women said, it “is concerned that international sporting events are being linked with increases in trafficking for prostitution, without evidence. This has been promoted most heavily by prostitution abolitionist groups, who argue that large numbers of men automatically results in a greater demand for commercial sex which can only be met through trafficking women into prostitution.”
The study also concluded that “all the (police and media) attention and resources have failed to turn up any compelling evidence that large sporting events increase trafficking for prostitution.”
The study did not review Grand Prix events in any city, including Montreal.