In 2016, 30-year-old Ontario lawyer Azmat Ramal-Shah met KJ, an 18-year-old student, on “Seeking Arrangements” – a website to connect sugar babies and sugar daddies. For a year, KJ would meet with Ramal-Shah virtually, listen to him talk about his stressors, and provide emotional support. In return, Ramal-Shah would provide her with financial assistance. Over the course of the relationship, Ramal-Shah provided KJ with $20,000 in return for her virtual companionship. Overtime, Ramal-Shah began to push KJ’s boundaries, act possessively towards her, and interrogate her.
In summer of 2017, KJ first told Ramal-Shah that she didn’t want to talk to him anymore. He responded by calling her harsh names such as “wh**e” and threatening to ruin her reputation by disclosing their relationship publically. Due to the anxiety resulting from the threats, KJ used other means to avoid Ramal-Shah, and didn’t try to break off contact again until March 2018, at which point she told Ramal-Shah she was done communicating with him and blocked him on all social media accounts.
In return, Ramal-Shah made a variety of social media accounts so he could continue to harass her. Ramal-Shah contacted KJ’s friends, her family, her mother’s professional colleagues and clients, and KJ’s new boyfriend. He ignored any requests by KJ or her lawyer to cease contacting her, and ultimately filed a lawsuit again KJ and her family seeking $226 million in damages. The application was set aside and deemed an “abuse of process”.
As frivolous as the lawsuit was, it provides a good opportunity to discuss the stigma surrounding sugar babies, escorts, and sex workers, and how the law fails to protect them.
With no regulations in place to protect sex workers or sugar babies from circumstances such as the one created by Ramal-Shah, society has placed sugar babies and sex workers in an extremely vulnerable position. In many ways, they cannot set legally enforceable boundaries with their sugar daddies or clients, and when they try to set such boundaries personally, they face threats of harm, defamation, and like the case of Ramal-Shah and KJ, are forced to defend vexatious (but still very expensive) lawsuits.
It is abundantly clear that Ramal-Shah’s threats, followed by the lawsuit, were intended to intimidate KJ and to force her to continue a relationship she no longer wished to engage in. While KJ was able to afford counsel, this is not the case for every person who has been exploited through the threat of legal proceedings.
By decriminalizing sex work and the exchange of companionship for compensation, legislators can allow sugar babies, escorts, and sex workers to set clear boundaries through written contract and prevent being taken advantage of or being threatened. These contracts could set out the boundaries of the engagement and the compensation agreed to, include non-disclosure provisions to protect privacy, establish that all gifts given during the transaction were in fact, gifts, and include a multitude of other terms that provide protections to sugar babies, escorts, and sex workers. Sugar babies, escorts, and sex workers should be able to participate in and end engagements without fear of reprisal.
At macushlaw, we look forward to a future where we can assist sugar babies, escorts, and sex workers with drafting their agreements and we can advise them of their legal rights and protections. Without significant action by legislature, we can only provide band aid solutions such as non-disclosure agreements, release agreements, and gift deeds.
If you want to protect your privacy and yourself from litigation, contact Naz at macushlaw at 604 612-8024 or [email protected].