July 6th, 2011
“As Indigenous women living on occupied territories now known as Canada, who have survived over 500 years of attempted genocide, we declare:
1. We, Indigenous women, will not allow anyone or anything to break the ties that bind us. Despite the impacts of colonialism – the racism, sexism, poverty and violence that pervade our lives and communities, working to divide us both inside and out – we are profoundly aware of our connectedness to each other as women, to our ancestors, and to our lands. No man, men, or external force will ever ultimately sever these ties.
2. Our analysis of prostitution as a form of violence against women and as a system of colonialism is the result of over five centuries of resistance stories, stories told to us by our Grandmothers, who have retold the stories of their Grandmothers, who have retold the stories of their Grandmothers. This analysis is based on our own life experiences, on the life experiences of our mothers, our sisters, and all our relations. It is based on theory and knowledge constructed collectively by Indigenous women.
3. Purposeful legal tolerance of prostitution and pornography, as with the Indian Act and the residential school system, was and is an external colonial system imposed on Indigenous women and girls in continued attempts to harm and destroy us.
4. We, Indigenous women, reject the racist assumption that prostitution was ever part of our traditional practices. We denounce the idea that we are objects to be bought and sold.
5. We, Indigenous women, reject the capitalism that has resulted in the theft and destruction of our homelands and our environment. We reject the International capitalism and greed that also drives the “sex industry”, an industry that regards Indigenous women and girls as objects to be sold at the highest price, should we survive the transaction. We reject the colonial terminology of “sex work”, as it hides the racist, sexist, and classist realities of prostitution. “Sex work” masks the violence that our sisters struggle against on a daily basis and repackages that violence as a form of freely chosen labour.
6. We, Indigenous women, reject the imposition of patriarchy, which has had devastating and deadly effects for Indigenous women and girls. We face male violence within our own families and communities, and often we are pushed out of these very communities seeking safety. We are forced to migrate into cities where we continue to face physical, emotional, and sexual violence at the hands of men, including at the hands of johns, pimps, brothel owners, and traffickers. We demand a return to our traditional values that place women and girls in high esteem.
7. The Nordic model of state policy will give Indigenous women and girls the best chance of not only survival, but life. This model includes law reform that criminalizes the male demand for paid sex and decriminalizes prostituted women, offers comprehensive social programs to all women and girls, and educates the public about prostitution as a form of male violence against women and girls. We, Indigenous women, believe this model encourages true social change that works in our interest.
8. We, Indigenous women, reject the total decriminalization and/or legalization of prostitution as an acceptable solution to sexual violence. The total decriminalization and/or legalization of prostitution only encourages the racist and deadly male demand for access to the bodies of women and girls, with Indigenous women and girls being disproportionately targeted.
9. We, Indigenous women, reject the patriarchal, colonial, and capitalist male perception that our sole worth is as sexual objects. We recognize that prostitution and pornography, incest, physical and sexual assault, and murder exist on a continuum of male violence and hatred toward Indigenous women and girls. The tragic outcome of that hatred is the over 580 documented cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
10. We, Indigenous women and girls, have survived over 500 years of attacks on our cultures, our bodies, our lands, and our lives. We refuse to abandon our future generations to the colonial sexist violence that is prostitution and we demand an immediate end to the male demand for paid sex.
*All Indigenous Women – First Nations, Inuit, Metis – who are in agreement with this Declaration are invited to sign on as individual endorsers or organizations. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to do so.
**Update: Due to demand we are compiling a solidarity list for non native women and orgs to sign in support of the declaration**”
The Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN) was established in 1995 in response to a pressing need for an Aboriginal women’s group to provide a much needed voice for Aboriginal women’s concerns regarding governance, policy making, women’s rights, employment rights, violence against women, Indian Act membership and status, and many other issues affecting Aboriginal women in contemporary society. The founding members of AWAN conceived of themselves as salmon swimming upstream with determined vision to create new life, and therefore, renewed hope and possibilities for our children. For members of AWAN the Salmon Nation’s legacy of survival depends on an unwavering commitment to future generations, a commitment which serves to guide AWAN in our political involvement and quest for social justice for Aboriginal women and children.