Sunday, October 3, 2010 | Categories: Episodes
When an Ontario court struck down three key laws on prostitution this week, it set off a discussion that rocketed from one end of the country to the other.
Today we want to talk about the laws on prostitution. Here's what was struck down: the provisions against communication for the purpose of prostitution, living off the avails of prostitution, and keeping a common bawdy house.
Ottawa is appealing the decision. But if the decision stands, prostitution, pimping and brothels could become completely legal in Ontario in 25 days.
Experts say it could set the basis for those laws being struck down in other provinces ...perhaps right across the country.
Some legal analysts and people connected to the sex trade are celebrating a victory, saying it will make it safer for women working in the sex industry. Others say, quite the contrary, that it might make it safer for some organized businesses but it could make things even worse for women and girls working the streets.
In making her decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel looked at the example of the Pickton case in Vancouver where many prostitutes were abused and killed on the Pickton farm, while police failed to investigate. Judge Himel held that it was in part made possible by the underground nature of the sex-trade ...and sex-trade workers ought to be recognized as other Canadian citizens, with the same right to protection and security.
The reaction to the ruling reverberated across the country. Practically every newspaper across Canada carried an editorial either in support ..or in opposition ..or calling attention to the new difficulties presented.
Some said reducing the harm that prostitutes are exposed to is essential. Some said it won't work because right now the legal system is their best bet for getting off the street and off drugs Yet others said prostitution is just plain wrong and the law should not be facillitating it in any way.
I'm Suhana Meharchand ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
Rather than a comment, I have a question: It seems to me that if
"living off the avails" and "keeping a common bawdy house" is made
legal, isn't that good for pimps and others who exploit vulnerable
This industry should be legalized as well as regulated for the protection of the innocent and sex trade workers as well. Marriages would stick together better as temporary boil overs would have a place to be ameliorated. Prices should be posted as well as health checkup certificates. Starve out the gang control. Collect taxes.
Name and location withheld by request.
I agree with law professor Alan Young - legalize it, clean it up, get people off the streets and reap the benefits of another tax stream. Although this is another "complex" human condition, there is a simple solution. People want and need sex and for whatever reason, they are not being satisfied.
Deep River, Ontario
Prostitution might as well be legalised. I've never used a prostitute and don't expect to, yet from what I've heard about the game legalising it could be a significantly empowering move and improve their lot.
Here are my questions: Without men would prostitution exist? So, why are men not taken to task? Why are men not honest? Does the collective male species take any responsibility for their role in the matter? Has that not been totally absent all these centuries? Did I miss something? Is it not extremely sad that women are still stoned after they have been raped? Women are still punished for men's sex drives. Pathetic!
Tamarah Rose Antares
In your discussion, can you please make a distinction between de-criminalization (which is what has happened) and legalization. They are two very different things, and please treat them as such. De-criminalization does NOT necessarily mean that prostitution is now legal.
Moncton, New Brunswick
Succinctly, the decision made by this judge is a monumental step backwards in terms of what needs to happen for the benefit of any and all women who are victimized by the so-called 'prostitution industry'. This is a prime example of pure postmodernism - society is breaking itself apart, and our govenments are accelerating the process. I'd like to know the last time Mr. Harper picked up his bible.
There is a single thought that should be considered when regulating activities such as prostitution: The concept that the human body is the most valuable piece of personal property each person will ever own comes into play.
If you alone have ownership of your own body then it follows that whatever purpose you decide to put your body to is entirely your own right. Unless a cultural, religious, legal or governance institution has an ownership stake in your body then none of these third parties ought to have jurasdiction over how you manage this piece of property.
This simplifies the question from one of who can allow or disallow your own personal activity, to one of does what you do with your body harm any third party in a measureable way? The idea that these activities are to be regulated by third parties who are not party to these activities runs contrary to the concept of freedom to enjoy the use of personal property.
Your question needs to be reworded as prostitution is legal in Canada. You are giving listeners the impression that these women and men are breaking the law by being prostitutes. A better question would be, "should the laws around prostitution be changed"? My answer to the question would be that it's time to follow the Swedish model and make buying sex illegal. Stop criminaliing the men and women who are victims of the sex trade. Make it possible to report a bad date or rape to police and not face incarceration. And, most important, give these people a support network of health services and counsellers to make it possible for them to leave the sex trade.
Prostitution is not a blanket category. The kinds of extreme injustices occurring in prostitution in other parts of the world are a far cry from the experiences of those involved in Canada's sex industry. Having said this, there is ample evidence (as the recent Ontario court ruling illustrates) that Canada's sex industry is in need of reformation. The courts determined that one logical point of reformation needed to be the antiquated prostitution laws. We have a unique opportunity now to engage in a discussion and work together to ensure that the path we take toward continued reformation is one that does not return us to the situation we were in before this ruling. Now is the time for reasoned communication not the creation of moral panics and the call for draconian legislative and policy reformation that sets us even further back and places even more people involved in Canada's sex industry at risk.
This is a victimless crime, other than the trade worker. The state has no business in the bedrooms of this country. The state does have a responsibility for education, medication, protection and policing of the workers. Yes, legalize prostitution.
I wonder if people who are so exercised about this question think about how our peerless leaders lead us deep into involvement with such things as drug use - alcohol and nicotine, and gambling of course. I believe it is unlikely that we will stop prostitution, and i am afraid fear of disease is unlikely to stop it either. Therefore what we do will have to amount to harm reduction by one means or another. There is a deep hypocrisy in our society whereby we have no problem with many harmful practices, but where some activities are involved harm reduction is "a scandal" and "immoral". Running a health service off the avails of gambling is a scandal if ever there was a scandal. Decrying prostitution and turning a blind eye to tobacco use and encouraging alcohol use displays a very interesting moral gymnastic that is in its own way quite remarkable.
Whatever is done about prostitution, it needs to be based on sound public health principles, not on moral principles which are applied so selectively. So i think something should be done, with the good of the people who might be involved foremost. Personally i think it not something to be encouraged, or regulated, and i would be appalled to see it as another tax revenue source alongside alcohol gambling and smoking.
I think it a waste of time to appeal this decision,or worse, a gutless evasion of the problem. Lives are at risk in this business and lives are lost, and even in the aftermath of Picton, how can anyone say that the present regime is a healthy one for anyone? This is the time to do the job better, not to defend the status quo. The court gave the government a hint that something new should be done, and the government should take the hint. Of course, it depends whether the agenda is to do the job, or to look moral.
Kingston, Nova Scotia
Prostitution has always been around, and always will be. Rather than punishing the people in the sex trade, we should legalize aspects that allow them to work in safety. I encourage people to contact their MP and share their opinions.
There seems to be a misunderstanding. The question to your program should be, 'should prostitution be decriminalized?' Certain federal law provisions have been struck, which does not mean legalization is imminent or just occurred. Those communicative acts (e.g. soliciting in a public place) have been decriminalized. That means the discussion is supposed to be asking the public, 'should prostitution be decriminalized?' It's a long way off from a legalization regime. Since an appeal sounds imminent, shouldn't the discussion be focused on decriminalization instead of legalization?
Protecting vulnerable women in the dangerous, sex trade industry promotes the public interest. The criminalization of communicative acts (e.g. talking in a public place to engage in a legal activity) stigmatizes and punishes the sex trade worker, instead of protecting her safety.
It is regrettable that some women have chosen to pursue this profession, but for those that have, it is against the public interest to discriminate against the (mostly) women service providers by not consistently enforce the laws against the johns.
Communicating in a quasi-public or private place is not criminalized. For example, consider the difference between the provision of sexual services through the yellow pages under Escorts. This type of communication is not regulated, not criminalized because it is within the community's tolerance level. However when the soliticting occurs in a public place (e.g. a john inside his car on street and sex trade worker outside the car) the communication for purposes of purchasing and selling sex is criminalized. Those laws that were struck were enforced discriminately against the sex trade worker, consequently relegating her to dangerous environments (e.g. isolated, industrial roads, etc, trying to make her invisible).
It is worth the price of women's lives to re-instate laws enforced in a discriminatory fashion? It clearly is not. Legalization is even worse than decriminalization. It keeps sex trade workers in indentured servitude and effectivly undermines their mobility rights (e.g. restricted to a certain area to work).
As long as there as sleezy, desparate, indecent men around, this trade will never disappear. It is here forever. Therefore, it only makes sense to improve working conditions for women in this industry.
In Europe there are government-owned and operated brothels that are well managed and the women are free to work the hours they want when they want. Judging on the actual situation in Canada, when that field is controlled by criminals, it would be better for all the women and the customers if it is legalized and well managed by professionals.
We must give a chance to people to have freedom in this field.
I notice it is mostly men who want to legalize prostitution, say it will always be there, it's the oldest profession... yadayadayada. I am totally against it.
I want you to pose the question that I aways ask men who start in on that lame justification: Would you want your daughters and granddaughters to take up this legitimate profession?
I always get the same reaction. Their faces get red, they start to bluster and get all flustered saying that wasn't what they meant and then, without exception, they start to verbally attack me for bringing up the suggestion.
I agree with the trafficked woman you talked to. Many of the women involved in prostitution are drug addicts for a reason. The Johns should definitely be the ones who get charged and have their names plastered all over the newspapers like every other criminal. I think that would stop them cold.
Absolutely it should be legalized.
I agree with many of the other arguments made for legalization. My argument for it would be for the men. Perhaps once we have legitimate houses of prostitution many of the inadequate men who feel inferior in the sexual department might have a place in which they could be schooled in their sexual activity and gain confidence. Perhaps they would gain respect for women.
I believe many men feel inadequate and perpetuate sexual crimes because of their feelings of inadequacy. I believe that we have A dire need for a school for Johns to learn how to use their equipment and to learn a bit of sexual psychology.
New Westminster, BC
Right now, prostitution is illegal. How well is that working to keep girls safe and off the streets? Obviously not anywhere near well enough. Legalizing it has worked for the Netherlands, so why not try it? My issue with the righteous individuals who are phoning in and saying that it should stay illegal is that none of them make a case for how well the current system is working, and that's because it's simply impossible to do so.
This is the second time that I have heard discussions on the CBC about prostitution where disabled people are characterized as needing the service, because they cannot find sex in loving relationships.
The implied belief that disabled people and fellow Canadians, are so unattractive that they can't find fulfilling relationships and therefore must turn to sex trade workers, is a prejudiced and oppressive assumption. Should a person with a disability choose to find sex in the sex trade, then that is an issue of choice, whether one thinks it is a positive choice or not. The CBC should definitely intervene when callers suggest that people with disabilities would, by virtue of their differences obviously need to purchase sex. It is an offensive assumption.
I'd just like to point out that this has turned into a very emotional program. Most of the callers are basing their opinions on their life experiences, or the lack of, in this area. I too could tell you about dismal sexual experiences but this is about the law. The law is a process, a result of research, facts, studies and, sadly, some arbitrary acts that sqeaked into the books.
I look forward to hearing from someone who has some expertise on the law side of things on your program today.
Medicine Hat, Alberta
Please stop making reference to prostitutes as "sex trade workers" and prostitution as the "sex trade."
Is there such a thing as an apprentice prostitute, a journeyman or jorneywomen prostitute or a master prostitute? This is not a trade. Those in the electrical, masonry, plumbing trades etc. are largely honest, hardworking individuals pursuing a decent living. The "sex trade" as media and others call it is a form of slavery.
In all honesty, would YOU want a whorehouse established in your neighbourhood like so many Starbucks operations? I doubt it. I don't either.
This is a continuation of a forced march through a sewer that began in the 1960s.
I think it would be a good idea to have a guest on the show from one of the countries where prostitution has been legalized (Netherlands, Amsterdam, for example) to hear their point of view of how this is working there. What have been the issues, both pro and con, from their experience and what can Canada learn from it? This would be more useful than listening to Canadian people who have opinions based on fear and biases.
Hay River, Northwest Territories
Prostitution should definitely not be legalized. Having said that, it should not be the prostitutes who pay the legal price, it should be the Johns and pimps. In the prostitution world, it is the buyers and pimps that cause all the problems. They are the ones who commit the violence. They demand sex for hire which in turn drives the supply which directly causes human trafficking. Why is this so hard for people to see?
It makes me think that many of the law makers and law enforcers must be sex buyers themselves. It reinforces to me that the old boys club is alive and well, and these boys protect each other at all cost out of an arrogant, selfish sense of entitlement, and very deep-seeded, often well-hidden hatred and contempt of the female gender in general. As long as there is no punishment for the Johns, aLL women, children, and homosexual men (not just prostutes) will continue to be regarded as prey for men.
At what point would a prostitute be able to claim employment insurance? The thought of legalizing this "profession" and this "industry" sickens me. How far will we go pretending that wrong is right?
South Stuckely, Quebec
I take objection to your question this week. Prostitution is legal in this country, and asking if it should be legalized is shaping the message in a way which distorts peoples view of the laws. The real question ought to be 'What stance should we take towards prostitution.'
Today in the Guardian, a column is devoted to the re-emergence of slavery around the world, in industries such as fishing, agriculture and manufacturing. Shall we outlaw these industries as well as prostitution? Surely, it would be better to focus on fighting human trafficking in all situations rather than on outlawing particular areas of trade.
Galiano Island, BC
My main comment is that your moderator is doing a great job! I thought I knew the answer to your question but now I am not sure. My only experience was in Paris in 1960. The negotiation took place on the street and the transaction in a hotel room inside. It seemed open and not degrading, and safe for the young woman.
Campbell River, BC
I didn't hear anyone mention the main reason they want to legalize prostitution: they want to tax the hell out of it. Our government hasn't got a clue how to manage money and they look everywhere they can to take more money from the hard working public, no matter what their profession may be.
Also, no one will ever be able to eradicate this "job". People (mostly men) have the need for sex. It is the most basic primal need. Sex is not dirty nor are the people who traffic in it. If it is done safely for the workers and clients there is nothing wrong with it. So yes, legalize it but keep the government out of it.
No, I am not a sex worker. Thank you.