Honouring Tammy Le
Remembering and Honouring Tammy LeJan 29, 2016 -- Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network) mourns the death and honours the memory of Tammy Le, fellow woman working in the sex industry in Hamilton. Tammy Le was found dead early morning on January 23rd at a hotel in Hamilton.
Tammy Le’s death is not an isolated incident. Following the murders of Jiali Zhang and Evelyn Bumatay Castillo, she is the third Asian sex worker in Hamilton and Mississauga to be murdered within the past two years.
Violence against Asian sex workers is a direct result of repressive laws and a climate of hatred towards sex workers and sex work. Because Asian sex workers avoid detection from police and larger societal stigma and discrimination, Asian sex workers are at once both isolated and targeted for violence.
Repressive laws and anti-trafficking campaigns target, marginalize and isolate Asian migrant sex workers -- sex workers can neither seek protection nor respect for their rights from government for fear of being arrested, detained and deported. This creates a climate of fear for sex workers – they choose to work in locations that are less visible and with fewer safety protections.
In December 2013 in Bedford v. Canada the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the harms and unconstitutionality of laws that criminalize sex workers and their workplaces. Six months later a more rigid and repressive set of laws knows as the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act was introduced. These new laws target women assumed to be exploited – namely racialized and migrant women in the sex industry. To accompany these new laws, the federal government has allocated millions of dollars for “human trafficking” while neglecting to support the development of safety measures for women working in the sex industry. Much of this government funding has been allocated to police and law enforcement and used to conduct periodic investigations and raids on sex work establishments in the name of anti-trafficking. Asian sex workers are often the targets of these investigations and are subjected to surveillance, arrest, harassment, detainment and deportation.
Since December 2015, six sex workers – also members of Butterfly – have been arrested, detained or deported. Sex workers with legal immigration status have been charged and harassed arbitrarily by city police. These conditions encourage sex workers to work and live in isolation and to avoid mainstream services and protections. They encourage a targeting of migrant sex workers and create a climate of impunity for predators who are aware of the vulnerabilities migrant sex workers face because of criminalization and their risk of deportation.
We urge the public to pay close attention to the ways that anti-trafficking measures and repressive legal policies impact sex workers. We encourage creative responses that provide sex workers an opportunity to create safe and secure measures for their work and their lives. We wait with impatience for an end to a climate of hatred of sex workers that encourages people to violate and prey on sex workers.
We honour and remember – Tammy Le, and the other workers who have survived and lost their lives to violent ends. May they live on in our hearts and provide us with great strength and integrity as we stand up for human dignity and the right for all sex workers to live free from violence, racism, and discrimination.
Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network)
Contact: Elene Lam