legalized prostition in Canada?

Sex workers scored a huge victory this week when Ontario's Superior Court of justice threw out three key prostitution laws..........or not. It will be interesting to see what happens now that Canada's out-dated and misguided prostitution laws are finally up for discussion. The three laws that were ruled unconstitutional were:
- keeping a bawdy house
- communicating for the purpose of prostitution
- living off the avails of prostitution (pimping, for lack of a better word)

The sex workers and their counsel, who brought the suit, argued that these three laws jeopardize the safety of sex workers, making it illegal to do the necessary things to protect themselves, such as pay security guards or managers, use the same premises for their work on a consistent basis, and contact clients to make arrangements and negotiate terms prior to meeting them.

The thing is, prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada. But these three things are. These laws create a strange legal limbo where it's really difficult to judge exactly what part of the activity breached the law, and those parts of the activity that may actually make it safer and more controlled are the parts that are illegal.
I understand that there are reasons why those laws were put in place - the communication law makes it illegal for people to solicit sex on the street and the pimping law makes it illegal for people to do just that, coerce or force someone into prostitution in order to make money. But they are blanket terms which catch many other activities that, in my opinion, should not be illegal. The laws need to be rewritten to serve the purpose they are intended to serve.

Does this mean prostitution will be formally legalized in Canada? I sincerely doubt that.

I think Stephen Harper is crapping his pants now at the prospect of having to deal with this. This is not something the conservative government wants to get forced into addressing. On the other hand, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's exactly what they want. This gives them yet another easy law and order issue to pontificate on. They know full well that the majority of Canadians don't even know that prostitution is not actually illegal in Canada. They can do what they've done with the statutory release issue - simplify it to a single message that no one can argue with 'The Ontario Superior Court has struck down our prostitution laws. We know Canadians want to protect their children so we are appealing to keep our street safe.' Who could argue with that? No one, except those that know the reality behind it.

REAL women (you have to love REAL women, don't you?) is arguing that de-criminalizing prostition will make Canada a haven for human trafficking. Wow! Let's find the biggest alarm bell we can and push it hard! That's not what this is about. It's about recognizing that prostitution exists and will always exist and having laws that make it more dangerous for sex trade workers is not helping anyone. Striking down these laws doesn't invite human trafficking - we still have many others laws that address all of the different things that happen under that scenario - laws that relate to consent, assault, sexual assault, and unlawful confinement. And as far as the concern about children being led into prostitution, the same thing applies. The Canadian sexual assault laws still apply and having sex with a minor is sex without consent which is sexual assault. Although, to that end, the Ontario court has stated that their decision does not affect any provisions dealing with those under 18.

So the protestations are a smoke screen thrown up by those who don't want to recognize the reality of the sex trade in our country. It's here. It will always be here. Our lack of action on this issue put the men and women that work in the sex trade at risk - not to mention those that use their services. It's time that we either simply legalize it, or replace these laws with some that address the real social and safety concerns instead of the imagined ones.

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