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News Views: Safety first
New federal legislation on prostitution seeks to penalize, with jail time and fines, those who buy sex and profit from the sale of it, but not those who sell it. Nor should they be.
The Conservative government’s bill comes in response to the striking down of the existing law on prostitution late last year by the Supreme Court of Canada.
In a 9-0 decision, the court decided that laws prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating in public with clients were over-broad. It ruled that Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes.
It noted that selling sex is not a crime in Canada.
Nor is it under the new legislation, in all instances.
Those to be targeted by police under the new law include pimps and others who exploit sex workers, even those who advertise the sale of sex in print or online. It’s not yet clear if that leniency will extend to bodyguards hired by sex workers for security.
The bill would criminalize the act of selling sex in public places or where children could be expected to be present. Fines might range from $1,000 to $4,000 and jail time could be up to five years in jail for an offender who pays for sex – double that if it involves a minor.
The federal government has pledged $20 million to help sex trade workers exit that lifestyle.
But, as SFU criminology professor John Lowman says, such laws will only again drive the sex trade into out-of-sight places, where women will be more vulnerable to predators like serial killer Robert Pickton. They do nothing to make the work safer, such as creating safe houses or brothels, with body guards, or issuing condoms.
It makes no sense to say someone has the right to sell a service or product, but that someone else doesn’t have the right to buy it.
What the government should do is follow what the court ruled, and that is to protect those involved in the sex trade.
It can through decriminalization and regulation.
– The News