05 October 2015

#65 Another Hard-fought Loss

Another round in the war against the health of “undesirables” (in the eyes of the outgoing government): anti-prostitution laws. And yet another loss for the government in front of the Supreme Court of Canada. You would think they might learn something from the court decisions that keep going against them, or at least get tired of losing, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. And they have stacks of our tax dollars that they are ready to throw away on each attempt to justify their badly-conceived laws.

Prostitution is not illegal in Canada. However, all sorts of activities around it — brothels, living from the “avails” of prostitution, communicating in public with clients — have been criminalized over the years. In the Bedford case, Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin wrote that “Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes." The decision was 9-0.

I think it’s important to underline that this is not about being soft on the sexual exploitation of unwilling people. There are other laws that deal with that problem. And while some would argue that the very act of exchanging sexual services for money or other considerations is in itself exploitation, I would suggest that you really have to set that aside a bit to consider the impact of the laws on the health and safety of those involved in sex work. The more the laws push people into dark corners and make their every move illegal, the more they are exposed to danger and distanced from the services that could help them.

If it’s illegal to run a “brothel” and any place where you exchange sex for money is considered a “brothel”, then you can’t have any control over your environment and have to practice your trade on the street. If it’s illegal to “live off the avails of prostitution”, then a sex worker can’t hire anyone to assure her/his security. If it’s illegal to talk to your client before getting into the car, you can’t assess the level of danger you might be getting into.

So once again, the federal government has run head on into the question of protecting people’s health — or endangering it — through the application of the law and has been found wanting. Their only answer is to demonize the people whose health and safety they would like to put back in danger.

Further reading here

When the law “protects”
by putting you in danger
the law is just wrong

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