This article was originally published at lawdiva.wordpress.com
Guest Blogger: Georgialee Lang is a lawyer who recently presented the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada's arguments before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford case in which Canada's prostitution laws were being challenged.
Prostitution is a practice that arises from the historical subordination of women and the accompanying patriarchal right of men to buy and exchange women as objects for sexual use.
Canadians embrace and respect the worth and dignity of every person and our Courts have confirmed that respect for human dignity is an underlying principle upon which Canada is based. However, the practice of prostitution is an assault on human dignity.
In 1949 Canada signed the United Nations Convention to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking In Persons which included this statement:
“Prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons
for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of
persons and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community.”
While Canada has chosen not to criminalize prostitution itself, our criminal law provides that communication for the purpose of soliciting, living off the avails, and common bawdy houses or brothels are illegal.
The argument to legalize these prostitution offences is based on the notion that, if legal, women will be safer; they will be able to communicate and screen their potential customers; they will be able to hire bodyguards and assistants; and they will move from street soliciting to brothels, which are safer.
The trouble with their argument is that countries that have legalized prostitution for those same reasons have learned the hard way that the gains they hoped to achieve for women in prostitution have been illusory.
The best example is the State of Victoria, Australia, home to capital city Melbourne, where prostitution was legalized in the 1980′s in order to minimize harm to prostitutes.
Their worthy goal was to eradicate the criminal element, guard against unregulated expansion of the practice and combat violence against prostitutes.
Instead, according to noted expert and social scientist Dr. Janice Raymond and others working in the field, legalization led to a massive expansion of prostitution, where ironically, the growth was mainly in the illegal sector where unlicensed brothels proliferated.
The legalization of brothels did not empower women to work as independent businesswomen in their own organized brothels because, not unexpectedly, large brothel operators dominated the brothel industry making it difficult for individual prostitutes or even small groups of women to compete against the huge money and marketing of commercial brothels.
Street prostitution did not disappear simply because women who work outside have a host of social problems including homelessness, addictions, are under-age, or are unwilling to register with the government. Women in these situations were not able to be employed by brothels by the nature of their lifestyle.
The law, while intending to eliminate organized crime, brought with it an explosion of human trafficking by international crime syndicates. Finally, the legalization of brothels legitimized pimps and procurers as business men.
While prostitution will always be with us, do we want our streets, not just the back alleys, to be strolls for working girls, who can linger as long as they choose when the communication law is struck? Do we want our neighbouring homes and apartments to be commercial legal brothels? Do we want to change the social fabric of Canada by endorsing prostitution?
You ask if there is a solution? Many are recommending the approach taken by Sweden where their legislators recognized that prostitution causes serious harm to individuals and society as a whole, that it is associated with crime, violence, and human trafficking, but that at its core it is the victimization and oppression of women.
The Swedish model criminalizes the purchaser of sexual services, but not the women who engage in prostitution. The government reports that street prostitution has been reduced by 50%, but more importantly, the practice of prostitution is not condoned and is seen for what it is: a form of violence against women.