The lives and voices of Indigenous sex workers are obscured by discourses of victimization that, on the surface, aim to draw attention to marginalization and colonial violence but fail to provide a space for Indigenous sex workers to speak for themselves and define their own struggles.

Sarah Hunt, “Decolonizing Sex Work: Developing an Intersectional Indigenous Approach,” in Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy, and Research on Sex Work in Canada, 2013, 89.


Most broadly, sex work involves the exchange of erotic or sexual services, performances, or products for material compensation such as money or goods, either regularly or occasionally. Sex work only refers to voluntary sexual transactions between consenting adults who are of the legal age and mental capacity to consent and must take place without any methods of coercion. Thus, the term does not refer to human trafficking and other coerced or nonconsensual sexual transactions such as child prostitution. The word “work” in the term “sex work” recognizes that sex work is work and emphasizes the labor and economic implications. However, there is a lack of understanding sex work and the laws surrounding it, which helps perpetuate myths and stereotypes and, in turn, leads to stigma, discrimination, and violence. Furthermore, the criminalization of sex work compromises sex workers’ health and safety and makes it difficult for sex workers to report rights violations, especially by the police, because they are vulnerable to incarceration, further abuse, and retribution.

In this module, we explore the controversial topic of sex work. We’ll consider the legal ramifications for sex work to be considered illegal and interrogate the ways in which sex work fits into the frame of settle colonialism.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Identify the difference between various legal approaches to sex work.
  • Recognize the relationship among settler colonialism, sex work, and contemporary issues facing Indigenous women.
  • Describe the distinction between sex work and human trafficking.
  • Explain the logic and implications of Bill C-36.

Moving Forward

Each module contains a big idea + lesson, assigned resources, and a summary page. Visit each section below by clicking or tapping the images.