Dr. Meredith Ralston has been a part of the Mount community since 1993 and has been an integral player in advocating for social justice and women’s rights during her time here. Chair of the Women’s Studies department (from 1998 to 2016), she is also cross-appointed with the department of Political Studies with academic interests in prostitution and sex tourism in South East Asia and Canada, feminist epistemology, women in politics and women’s rights as human rights.
Her work consists of a series of documentaries including most recently a 2007 documentary called “Hope in Heaven,” which examines the lucrative sex tourism industry in the Philippines. “Selling Sex Globally” is Dr. Ralston’s current film in pre-production that examines the prostitution industry on a more global level, incorporating the good, bad and ugly of sex work.
“Hope in Heaven represents the worst of the sex trade, but after the film came out I received feedback from higher end escorts indicating that the documentary did not represent their personal stories,” says Dr. Ralston. “I decided to create a second documentary incorporating those perspectives.”
Dr. Ralston completed her BA in Political Science at the University of Toronto, her MA in International Relations at the University of Sussex, UK and finally her PhD in Political Science at Dalhousie University.
It was during her research for her PhD that Dr. Ralston developed an interest in researching the buying and selling of sex on local, national and international levels.
While conducting research on homeless women in Halifax, Dr. Ralston noted that a significant number of these women practiced prostitution on the side. Her research sparked an interest to explore further the ins and the outs of prostitution.
Recently Dr. Ralston has partnered with Stepping Stone, a support organization based in Halifax for sex workers, to establish a community education forum on the decriminalization of sex work in Canada. Green Light, Red Light: Regulating Sex Work in Halifax, is a community education session and forum on the regulation of sex work within Canada.
What partially sparked this initiative was that on September 28th 2010, Canada’s prostitution laws were declared invalid by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The decision was stayed and an appeal is scheduled to be heard in June 2011. If the appeals are unsuccessful, sex work could be decriminalized in Canada and the responsibility for the regulation of sex work would fall under municipal jurisdiction.
“If the decriminalization of sex work proceeds, municipalities will have to take on an extra role in the governing of sex work that they may not be prepared for,” says Dr. Ralston. “The forum is for politicians, representatives from law enforcement, businesses, community advocates as well as former and current sex workers to share knowledge on what works and what doesn’t when regulating sex work.”
Alan Young, who was the lead counsel for the Charter Challenge, will give the keynote address.
When asked why this project is so important to Nova Scotians and Canadians Dr. Ralston highlights the importance of community education and power in knowledge.
“It’s important to use your academic knowledge in a way to benefit the community,” she says.
The forum is designed to educate the community, explore community concerns and to alleviate misconceptions of the sex industry. Several international models for regulating prostitution as well as knowledge gaps in the area of sex work and public policy will be explored by a diverse group of Maritime activists and academics.
“It’s about looking at the most marginalized, disadvantaged individuals in our society and the way we treat them,” indicates Dr. Ralston. “For all our differences as people across this world, we have more similarities, and those similarities need to be emphasized more than they usually are today.”
Green Light, Red Light: Regulating Sex Work in Halifax
Where: Atlantica Hotel – The Guild Room
When: Friday, May 27, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Price: $35 (includes lunch buffet)
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 902-420-0103