Prostitution itself has never been illegal in Canada. How can it be illegal to discuss the price of a legal transaction in public? The hypocrisy of this is undeniable.
Beyond hypocritical, it is life endangering. One of the primary causes of conflict in a prostitute-client transaction is a dispute over prices. If that is not agreed upon in advance problems are sure to follow. If one can’t “communicate” (s213(1c) about this because they are in public, they are put in harm’s way. Being able to assess a potential client is critical. This law limits that ability.
After 1985 when the “communicating” law was created the amount of violent victimization of street workers dramatically increased.
All three applicants in the court challenge were street workers in their pasts. All three moved indoors from there. Indoor work is safer but it is also illegal under the bawdy house provision (s210). We need to be able to work together indoors without threat of arrest.
Prior to Himel’s decision (and until the stay is over on April 29/11) the only way in which one can legally prostitute in Canada is to work in absolute isolation. That is dangerous. That is why people work together. And when people “work” they need to be paid. It is illegal to have security or to work with others. No one else can “live wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution”(s212.1j).
Section 212.1j (living on the avails) is one tiny element of the procuring law that was challenged because it is so vague as to include any adult who benefits financially from your sexwork. This can include support staff, offspring, relatives, significant others or any adult you may live with. If the law means to target coercive “pimps” it should do so instead of having this undefined, open to interpretation clause that leaves us at the mercy of an individual police officer’s discretion. Justice Himel explains that there are many other legal remedies available to deal with such exploitation and she lists them.
Sex work is work. It is not inherently violent. Dangerous situations are created by criminalizing workers and driving us underground. Problems associated with prostitution are far more easily addressed when there are rights and standards.
As consensual adult sexworkers we must be afforded the same rights as other workers. We must have our autonomy respected. Our security has been compromised simply because many see this work as unworthy and unwanted. We beg to differ.
This decision moves towards protection and equality and away from punishment.
We are delighted.
The Con, by C. Gwendolyn Landolt
As one of the interveners in the legal challenge to Canada's prostitution laws, REAL Women of Canada believes that prostitution has many harmful effects on the prostitutes themselves, clients and their families, the business milieu in which this occurs, and society as a whole.
Allowing the customer to buy the right to treat another person as an object demeans the dignity of women and men. Studies have shown that prostitutes, the majority of whom want to exit the trade, are most frequently victims of drug addiction, violence and post-traumatic stress syndrome. We therefore support the present laws against keeping a common bawdy house, communicating and living off prostitution. In fact, we believe present laws should be strengthened to make prostitution itself illegal since it is inherently harmful to women, men and their families.
Attempts to remove prostitution from the Criminal Code by Parliament has had very little support from elected representatives. Changing legislation by way of court challenges is a more attractive option since it bypasses the extensive public debate by concerned Canadians required in the democratic process.
Using the vague language of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as an instrument in making national social policy, one single Judge, Madam Justice Susan Himel, struck down Canada's prostitution laws in September. Her decision was deeply flawed because her conclusion was reached solely on uncertain and often contradictory social science evidence. Using this evidence, Himel claimed there was more “harm” to prostitutes working on the streets than those working in brothels. She also ignored a previous 1992 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada stating that prostitution was a complex social problem requiring criminal code prohibitions to protect Canadians, and not a mere “social nuisance,” as Himel claimed.
In countries which liberalized their prostitution laws in the 1990s, such as the Netherlands and Sweden, legal as well as illegal prostitution increased, as did the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable women from third world countries, and child prostitution. Both countries subsequently increased restrictions against prostitution. In Spain, it is estimated that less than 10% of prostitutes are Spanish and the rest are victims of cross-border human trafficking.
On one hand, drug trafficking brings in a profit from approximately $10,000 to $40,000 per kilo, whereas human trafficking brings in a profit for criminals, who face little jail time, of approximately $280,000 per year, per victim. Human trafficking is such a lucrative business that legalized prostitution will only exacerbate this problem.
The sheer profitability of human trafficking (and of its byproduct prostitution) is why Canada has joined most other civilized countries in signing United Nations conventions to end the practice. We should continue to honor these international agreements.
A better solution to what has been called a modern form of slavery, would be to help women and men exit this way of life through safe houses to protect them from their pimps, provide drug addiction treatment, skills training and counseling.