Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Canadian government decides against decriminalizing prostitution

According to a recent National Post article, the Canadian government will not decriminalize prostitution but will continue "to address prostitution by focusing on reducing its prevalence."

...the government considers prostitution to be "degrading and dehumanizing" and that it is "often committed and controlled by coercive individuals against those who are frequently powerless to protect themselves from abuse and exploitation." ...

It's too bad those in favour of decriminalizing prostitution don't seem to get that this is the reality for the overwhelming majority of women who end up as prostitutes. Only a small minority of women and girls consider prostitution a viable career choice, so you have to wonder who and what is behind this decriminalizing movement.

Unfortunately, the government "stopped short of accepting a committee recommendation to develop educational programs about the costs and risks of getting into prostitution."

Educational programs really are the only hope in neutralizing the damaging effects on impressionable minds of such irresponsible yet influential films as the celluloid Cinderella fantasy popularized by Julia Roberts and Richard Gere... not to mention the wholescale glamourization of the so-called "sex trade" by media and business.

H/T to Ruth at Rootleweb.


Kiki said...

I'm torn on this one, on one hand, we see a huge market for sex services, I don't think there's any argument there. I think most of them are fairly typical and involve men who don't have a woman in their intimate lives.

I have volunteered with several sex worker advocacy groups and there are many women who do consider this a viable career, they probably didn't start out that way but came to see that it worked for them.

On another note I wonder if allowing women who 'want' to sell sex services to do so would reduce people being forced to do it?
Of course the possible argument is that it will only create more markets but I don't know what I believe.

I have leaned towards decriminilizing so that those who want or have to do it can do so in the safest and most supported environment possible.

When it's harshly penalzed you end up pushing the women into dark, secluded areas and exposing them to higher risks, this is a well proven fact as seen by the examples on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

At the end of the day I think it is a question that can only be answered by those who are or were in the, by their own choice or not.

Pawlina said...

It's not illegal to sell your body, just to solicit publicly. So therein is the problem law enforcement faces. All they can do is arrest prostitutes, because the police can never find the pimps.

The problem I see with decriminalizing prostitution is that it won't protect prostitutes anywhere near as much as it will protect pimps.

In an ideal world, yes, the women "in the business" should be the ones to decide whether or not prostitution should be legalized. But in the real world we live in, how likely is it that those who were forced into it will be brave enough to step forward, much less confident enough to advocate for one position or the other?

Annie Temple said...

Actually decriminalization is the best possible solution, and I am at a complete loss how it is not obvious to everyone. It is criminalization that keeps pimps (and other exploiters) safe because sex workers fear coming forward because of the laws they've broken as well as the stigma they are subject to for coming out. Decrim would not only make it possible for sex workers to work in safer places but they would feel safer to report crimes against them as well. Whether sex workers feel dehumanized and degraded or not is moot point because they all feel that the law will not protect them - the law is against them. Those who are fighting for decriminalization are not all sex workers who enjoyed being in the trade (although many do feel that it is a labour and should be regarded as such). The reason they are fighting for decriminalization is so less women are exploited and killed. I recommend these sites for more information: (you can order the book for $25 CDN - it was written and compiled by street based sex workers and addresses the exploitation in the industry) and (go to the documents section and read some of the research and reports that have come out of it, particularly the one on "developing capacity for change."

Pawlina said...

Annie, I just don't agree. As I said to Kiki, prostitution per se is not illegal, solicitation is.

To speak of decriminalizing prostitution when the crime is really solicitation is just throwing out a red herring. (Or perhaps not wanting to face and deal with the problem at its root?)

The reality is that misogyny is as old as the "oldest profession." It doesn't help women forced into the so-called "sex trade" when their sisters become handmaids (unwitting or otherwise) of the misogynists who traffic and/or rape them. I would much rather we work together to cultivate an attitude of respect for women, and sexuality, instead of regarding them as mere commodities in a lucrative new "market."

It is not the laws that are the problem, nor is changing them the solution. The solution to women who are mistreated in the "sex trade" is, in my opinion, the proper enforcement of existing laws. Why isn't anyone asking why it's so hard to convict pimps and patrons who mistreat prostitutes, and why sentences aren't harsher? Could it be because changing a law is easier (and sexier) than applying and obeying it?

Decriminalizing solicitation will only result in more exploitation of women, Annie. It will simply make the buying and selling of women for sex that much easier. It is essentially putting out the welcome mat for traffickers into Canada.

Here's some reading material for you: Victor Malarek's book, The Natashas: The New Global Sex Trade and this blog.