Prostitution laws could be changed further under Liberals

The Conservatives rewrote the laws two years ago, but critics say the changes put sex workers at increased risk of violence.

A sex trade worker is pictured in downtown Vancouver, onJune, 3, 2014. A new report by the Canadian Public Health Association calls on the government to regulate the sex industry as a business. (JONATHAN HAYWARD/CP)

A sex trade worker is pictured in downtown Vancouver, on June, 3, 2014. A new report by the Canadian Public Health Association calls on the government to regulate the sex industry as a business. (JONATHAN HAYWARD/CP)

Canada’s recently updated prostitution laws might see more changes under the Liberals, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says.

The Supreme Court struck down the old law almost two years ago on the grounds it put sex workers at increased risk. The Conservatives proposed C-36 in response, although many of the experts who addressed the House and Senate committees dealing with the bill said it could make the work even less safe. The Liberals said last year they shared those concerns.

Wilson-Raybould said in an interview with Maclean’s that she was briefed on the matter last Thursday.

“It’s definitely something that we will be looking at, and [I] look forward to having more discussions and advising [about] our next steps,” she said, recognizing that “the safety of the workers is fundamentally important.”

Wilson-Raybould says the Liberals will “proceed in a way that is open and engages with people,” including substantive discussions about the law.

In December 2013, the court struck down the laws against street soliciting, living on the avails of prostitution and keeping a brothel. It gave the then-Conservative government a year to write a new law. In response, the government criminalized the purchase of sex, starting last December. But sex workers and researchers said the new legislation would make the work more dangerous by driving it further underground and limiting the amount of time a sex worker has to try to determine whether the client could turn out to be a bad date. Then-justice minister Peter MacKay insisted the new law would protect sex workers, and said the bill’s ultimate goal was to end prostitution.

One supposes that, had he succeeded, Wilson-Raybould wouldn’t need to worry about it.

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Prostitution laws could be changed further under Liberals

  1. The Nordic Model which targets johns and pimps makes things safer for women overall because it dramatically decreases human trafficking compared to countries which have pursued legalization.

    One cannot separate the sex trade industry from the human trafficking industry. They are one and the same.

    • I think the reason this debate results in people talking past each other so much is because each side of the debate is arguing about a very different thing from the other. Decrim advocates, including current sex workers, sex worker advocacy groups, the World Health Organization, and Amnesty International argue from a policy position that makes sex worker safety and well-being primary. The result is arguments against what are seen as threats to safety and well-being: criminalization; stigma; and treating sex workers as if, uniformly, they are victims and have no agency, which reinforces the paternalism with which they are treated and allows prohibitionists to displace them in public discourse.

      Prostitution prohibitionists’ focus is on social message and political statement and the role of prostitution in the cultural reproduction of a) patriarchical exploitation (for feminists), or b) debasing immorality (for the religious right), or c) capitalist exploitation (for certain ahistorical leftists who seem unaware that prostitution has existed in every political and economic system ever established).
      So the argument really boils down to what you think is more important to pursue as a matter of public policy. From the perspective of decrim advocates, such as myself, the point is that criminalization causes additional harms specific to sex workers.

      The politics and morality that put abstract political ideals and personal morals ahead of the human rights of actual people is what gave us the Nordic model of criminalization. This can be seen in the statements of the originators of the Nordic model, for whom negative effects on sex workers was seen as a good thing and part of the strategy to eliminate prostitution, to drive women from the trade. It’s intended to send a message to society, no matter the collateral damage to sex workers evicted by landlords ensnared as pimps because they derive economic benefit from prostitution, sex workers forced to work alone who working together for security and support would be deemed guilty of operating a brothel, sex workers unable to hire drivers and security who would also be considered pimps, migrant sex workers deported back to the desperate situations they fled, sex workers who have to pick from a more dangerous smaller set of potential clients because only the better safer clients are scared off by threat of arrest, and have to negotiate transactions with them more quickly, more furtively, more dangerously. It is a narcissistic morality and politics that values its projection of the virtue of the holder over the harm caused by it to others. It’s a morality and politics pursued against reason, toward the elimination of prostitution — like its kindred movements alcohol prohibition and the drug war.

      • Decriminalization for johns and pimps doesn’t reduce or eliminate harm. It just shifts it by increasing human trafficking. Studies have shown this.

        Why should the prostitution industry be the one industry where men cannot be prosecuted for abusing and discriminating against women?

        Why should this industry be exempt from the equality provisions of the charter of rights?

        • @Peter thank you for your incredible comment. There is hope for the world because people like you exist.

          @WHYSHOULDISELLYOURWHEAT …….. hunny I don’t know what to tell you. He laid out everything for you and your response is SWERFy and gross.
          I’m going to give you the condensed version of your interaction.
          You: The womens don’t know better and need to be saved from the evil mens who exploit them and I don’t know the difference between consent and coercion but RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!
          Him: Well I mean the people who support full decrim of legal sex work are concerned with the health and safety of workers in the industry. Anti’s have a purely moral opposition and it has been shown to cause harm.
          You: Respect my authoritah! I obviously know better than sex worker and world health organizations.


          1. It is virtually impossible to get accurate statistics about sex work. It is a stigmatized underground industry. People in the industry will not come out for fear of persecution, both social and legal.
          2. Sex trafficking and consensual sex work are not the same. When I use the word prostitute I use it as a legal term, much like Naomi Sayers.
          3. Both full and partial criminalization contribute to the violence, abuse, and stigmatization the prostitutes and their clients face. Full stop. For the prostitutes this is especially dangerous. You create dangerous conditions with these laws and then condemn our inability to protect ourselves. You advocate for policies that put the lives of sex workers in the hands of the police, who are one of the primary perpetrators of violence against them. (IE it is common, and sometimes encouraged, for them to rape sex workers before arresting them. They pose as clients, have sex, and then arrest them. The girls don’t get paid, the have sex with these cops under false pretenses. Misleading someone to get their consent is rape.

          I know this is months later but jeus, can you anti’s at least attempt to try?

  2. A perfect LIBERAL solution:

    Legalize pot, but only hookers are allowed to sell it.

    That being said…they are not “sex trade workers”

    they’re just hookers and whore’s trying to dress up an old ugly, and degrading “profession”

    If in doubt, how would you feel if your daughter wanted to become one? Or…is your wife looking for a part time job?

    If it was just another “profession” who would be opposed to it?

    • Women are the victims of the crime of prostitution. They are not criminals. The criminals are the johns and the pimps.

      The old law was stupid. The new law, based on the Nordic Model, is on the right track.

      The decriminalization advocates have forgotten 50 years of feminist theory. They are saying that a price can be put on the abuse of some women, the most vulnerable women in society, and that they are not entitled to equal protection of the charter.

    • I would tell my daughter to do whatever she wants with her body and not let prohibitionists shaming her.

      And, as a sex worker, I want Labour rights and full decriminalisation!

      • 99.9% of prostitution is not a matter of free unencumbered choice. There is no free choice when there is an imbalance of power in the relationship. No “contract” is possible.

        Feminist theory 101. Contract Law 101.

        Society has a responsibility to protect those unable to protect themselves from predators.

        • “99.9% of prostitution is not a matter of free unencumbered choice”

          Pretty sure you’re going to need a citation for that.

          ” There is no free choice when there is an imbalance of power in the relationship. ”

          New to capitalism, are you?

          • “New to capitalism, are you?”
            Is the greatest comeback I have seen in a long time gods bless your sweet little heart I can’t stop laughing.

            Really though,
            Sex work is no more exploitative than other forms of labour; the abuses just present differently, and are supported by ineffective laws.

  3. 1. If all prostitution was between consenting adults, who freely chose to engage in it, without compulsion and with other options open to them, then I would be all for decriminalization or legalization. Despite the fact that pro decriminalization/ legalization advocates make this assumption, it is far from the truth.
    The majority of those involved in prostitution:
    began as minors, belong to vulnerable groups such as native peoples, were abused as children, were wards of the state, economically disadvantaged or some combination of the above.

    2. Despite what this article suggests there is no empirical evidence to suggest that having more time leads to higher safety or that the new laws have resulted in the industry going further underground.

    It makes no sense to enact laws that benefit the minority who have choices and options at the expense of the minority who are vulnerable and subject to horrific human rights abuses.

    • It makes no sense to enact laws that cause less trouble for the most privileged workers than it does for the most vulnerable.*****

      Fixed it for you @LITTLEJO . You’re welcome.

      The people that abolitionist claim to want to help the most are also the people that are hurt the most by your partial crim laws.

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