As most of you are aware of by now an organization Sex Professionals of Canada, in which I am a spokesperson for, is launching a lawsuit against the government over Canada’s prostitution laws. Our ultimate wish would be the decriminalization of prostitution, meaning the total removal of ALL existing prostitution laws. Not a lot of people understand quite what decriminalizing prostitution would mean. So below are some questions that I am commonly asked about sex work, and my responses to them.
- Wouldn’t decriminalizing prostitution be a gift to pimps and traffickers?
No, in fact decriminalizing would reduce the numbers of pimps and traffickers as sex workers would have legal protection and would not need “protection” from pimps. Also, sex workers would be more likely to report an abusive pimp (currently in Toronto police claim that only 2% of sex workers report cases of abuse to them) knowing that she herself would not get charged with a prostitution related offence.
- Doesn’t the decriminalization of prostitution promote trafficking?
The only traffic that decriminalizing prostitution would promote is the trafficking of tourism. If prostitution were to become decriminalized then brothels would have to become licensed by the city (like any business), which would mean that they would be monitored by the labour board as well as employment laws, and would be less likely to hire minors or “sex slaves” as they would not want to put their business at risk.
- If prostitution became decriminalized than wouldn’t that mean more women would become prostitutes?
Not necessarily, but if it did than it would prove to all the moral whack jobs (like Janice G. Raymond), that there are women who WANT to be sex workers, and that sex work is a viable, legitimate career choice. Another thing decriminalizing prostitution would do is help women LEAVE the sex industry – as they would no longer be subjected to the barriers that a criminal record, particularly a prostitution record, would carry.
- Wouldn’t decriminalizing prostitution increase street prostitution?
Anyone who has experienced a Canadian winter will know that if a person doesn’t have to be outside, they won’t be outside. Currently sex workers have more to lose legally working indoors than outside on the street. A sex worker found working inside can be charged with a bawdy house offence – which means they can face up to 2 years in jail, have their bank accounts and assets seized and lose their home (an eviction notice gets sent to their landlord—bawdy house laws are the only laws that do this). Working outside could be charged with the communicating law – meaning a 6 month jail sentence and/or a $2000 fine. Decriminalizing prostitution would provide other options to working on the street. As well, street prostitutes who are causing a problem in public could still be charged with causing a public nuisance.
- Would decriminalizing prostitution increase or legalize child prostitution?
Even though the ‘age of consent’ in Canada 16, just like with porn and stripping, sex workers would have to be at least 18 years of age. Don’t forget that prostitution is already partially legal in Canada and the age is legally set at 18. Having sex with minors will still be illegal. As well, decriminalizing prostitution would free up police resources, meaning that the police can focus harder on fighting child exploitation. The man power that went into sting operations and arresting adult prostitutes would be better spent fighting abuses against children, including child prostitution.
- But wouldn’t decriminalizing prostitution increase the violence against sex workers?
What makes sex workers such easy targets for acts of misogynistic violence is that perpetrators have been assured (due to the illegal nature of prostitution), that their victims will not go to police or be listened to by police. Decriminalizing prostitution sends out a clear message to society that sex workers are members of society and that violence will not be tolerated. Sex workers will also feel more comfortable making reports to the police knowing that they will not be charged themselves with a prostitution related offence.
- Why should we legalize something that isn’t moral?
If we made everything that wasn’t moral illegal we wouldn’t be able to consume alcohol, or watch violent movies, among other things. Basically, laws should not be about morality, but rather public safety – and that includes the safety of sex workers. Personally, I think it’s immoral for us as a country to allow these laws that put numerous women at risk to continue for so long.
If you have any more questions or comments please tell me them below.
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