This September, Ontario Justice Susan Himel struck down three sections of the criminal code related to prostitution. It was a landmark decision and a victory for street workers across Canada, as this paves the way for judges in other provinces to follow Himel’s example and overturn laws disallowing public solicitation, pimping and the operation of a common bawdy house and essentially making almost all aspects of the “world’s oldest profession” legal.
The federal government had 30 days to appeal this decision and restore the status quo. The sex workers, though victorious, have accepted that the laws only go into effect in February.
Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute supports Himel’s decision because of the increased security this will bring to sex workers in Canada, but all signs point to Ottawa appealing the ruling. Whatever the outcome, the issue will continue to be debated for years.
What will the decriminalization of the laws mean for Canada? What will they mean for sex workers, clients and communities? Should they be decriminalized, legalized, institutionalized?
What do you think? Send your thoughts to the editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s the big deal? Legalized prostitution would help sex workers and economy
By Jacob Roberts
Ottawa has made an appeal to stay the decision made by the Ontario Superior Court to decriminalize certain aspects of prostitution. What that means is that the decision will spend the next few years making its way through the legal system and causing uncertainty around the debate.
NDP MP Libby Davies, a long-time advocate of sex-trade workers, criticized the appeal saying the process will take money away from helping communities. She went on to say that the laws struck down by the Superior Court don’t protect society and are harmful to communities.
I agree with Davies. The appeal is going to be long, complicated and divert money away from other areas that need it. And it’s not even about legalizing prostitution, it’s about decriminalizing certain aspects, thus making prostitution slightly less illegal. All this trouble over something that isn’t really doing anything.
Prostitution should be legalized in Canada. The fact that it isn’t points to the ideology that sex-trade workers are less than human. They don’t have the same rights as other “productive” members of society.
The question that should be asked is this: who is being hurt by prostitution? Primarily it’s the prostitutes themselves. The communities are slightly affected by increased crime rates as a result of prostitution. But the catch is that if the sex trade was legal, there wouldn’t be a criminal element.
With no criminal element involved, it would mean safer, government-regulated working conditions for the sex-trade workers themselves. There would be programs to help the workers with drug addictions and daycare services to take care of their children while they are at work.
What’s more, there wouldn’t be prostitutes walking the street in scattered areas around the city. Instead, all of the sex trade could happen in a red-light district. People who disagree with it or who do not want be confronted by it don’t have to go there.
And here’s the big one: the economy is in tough times right now. The end of prohibition aided a great deal in ending the great depression of the 1930s. Legalizing prostitution would mean that it would be taxed. Right now, a prostitute receives a small percentage of her earnings while her pimp gets most of her money. Instead, a prostitute could receive most of the money she earned while the government took its cut; this would help pull the economy out of the rut it’s in.
The government should stay out of the pimping business
By Chris Hanna
Prostitution is an ugly business and legalizing it will not make it any prettier. While prostitution is legal in Canada, certain aspects of it are not.
Making it legal for women and men to roam our streets and solicit customers reflects poorly on Canadians as a whole. By decriminalizing soliciting, pimping or running a brothel, we send the message that it is acceptable and that prostitution can be a legitimate career choice.
It also reflects poorly on the way we deal with problems. For prostitution, the argument goes that it has been around for centuries, will never go away and does not really affect anyone other than those involved. So, let’s make it legal? Whenever the country faces a problem that is too expensive or complicated to fix or control, arguments emerge to legalize that activity, thereby removing the criminal aspect from it (like the ongoing debate about the decriminalization of marijuana). Nonetheless, the problem remains.
There are also some serious drug abuse problems among sex workers. These are unlikely to go away if the sections of the criminal code in question are struck down. The sad truth is that some people who are in this line of work must be high in order to get through their transactions with their johns, and some are even forced into the business because of their addictions.
There is no doubt that Canada’s prostitution laws need some tweaking. Let’s not follow Sweden’s lead, where the selling of sex is legal but the buying is not, making the client the criminal (it takes two to tango!). The suggested laws may help to better protect the ladies and gentlemen of the night, but the clientele is likely to remain the same.
And who’s to say that women and men in this line of work want to register and be easily identified by their profession? A black market for prostitution would surely emerge (one, for example, where sex workers do not get taxed on their earnings, or where clients do not have to register or go through background checks) and may be so attractive that it outweighs the risk of not following the rules. This ugly business’ secrecy, danger and violence make it unwise for the government to support it, and impossible to regulate it successfully and safely for those involved.
Decriminalization could lead to the full legalization, which will undoubtedly lead to the institutionalization of prostitution, because it would be hypocritical of a government to allow and legislate an activity and not set up organizations to protect the people who take part in it. Arguably, prostitutes would begin being taxed on their proceeds, in many ways turning our government into a pimp.