Prostitution advocates won a successful legal battle in Toronto, Canada this week after a judge struck the country’s anti-prostitution laws. Sex workers who brought the case to court said that the laws made their profession more dangerous and would do little to stop underground brothels from filling in the void.
The bans on operating a brothel, street solicitation and wages paid to prostitutes were all apart of the controversial measure that was struck down by a Canadian judge Friday. For now Canadian officials say the law will remain in place and will give Parliament up to a year to propose new legislation. Until then, sex workers will have to work within the confines of the legal arrangement.
Observers claim that the laws against prostitution in Canada do little to ensure safety for those involved in the trade, and that an overhaul of regulations on the business of sex may be needed.
A law professor at McGill University, Robert Leckey says that the current laws actually do the opposite of protecting sex workers.
“Some of the (current) provisions actually limit sex workers’ ability to protect themselves,” said Leckey.
Many analysts and researchers, concluding data from a variety of countries, show that sex related crimes are actually lower in those countries where prostitution is legal and available. Other critics of anti-prostitution laws say that the legalization of prostitution protects these sex workers who would continue practicing their profession on the streets if it were illegal. Regulated and monitored by the government, sex workers are more safe, critics argue.
By taking the role of “pimp” away from common street criminals, and putting it in the hands of licensed managers and businessmen, the threat of danger and abuse for sex workers is significantly decreased according to studies. Still, others argue that prostitution is amoral, and promotes promiscuity.
Canada’s court concluded that by restricting a woman’s right to make a living from prostitution violates the “guarantee to life, liberty, and security of the person.”
Meanwhile in France, a debate continues on the place for prostitution in society. France’s lower house of parliament passed a bill decriminalizing the sex trade and lowering the fine for those who solicit prostitutes. Critics argue this will only encourage the sex trade to flourish.
In countries where prostitution is illegal, street prostitutes are routinely the victims of abuse and sometimes murder by depraved individuals.
The push for safer working conditions in Canada follows the slaying of several sex workers by serial killer Robert Pickton in British Colombia. In 2007 Pickton was convicted of killing six prostitutes. The bodies of the women were found buried on his farm near Vancouver. Critics claim the slaying followed the closing of a Vancouver brothel just down the road, once a place for work for several of the victims. Without the legal business, the sex workers were forced onto the streets where Pickton would scope out his next victim.
Street pimps often assault and violently abuse their own sex workers, exploiting them for their own profit. Observers say by legalizing prostitution, sex workers can be protected under law from such abuse.
The battle in Canada’s court continues, with observers arguing that by closing down brothels, prostitution won’t be limited, only pushed to the underground black market, where conditions are unsafe and sometimes deadly.
by John Amaruso