by C. Gwendolyn Landolt.   June 26, 2014.

Criticism of the new prostitution law has mostly steered clear of mentioning one of the main reasons a new prostitution law is necessary:  prostitutes are among the most vulnerable group of people in society. The proposed legislation attempts to protect prostitutes by targeting the purchasers of sexual services (the johns), stop the exploitation of prostitutes, as well as prohibits advertising by the exploiters either online or in the printed media.

The truth is, no matter where prostitution takes place, on the streets, in brothels, massage parlors, strip joints, or with escort services, it always remains an inherently dangerous activity.  How can it be otherwise, as prostitution is not like any other business since it involves a woman (usually) selling her intimate body parts to a strange man for his own use.  Prostitution also, inevitably, involves organized crime and drug and human trafficking.

Those who advocate decriminalizing prostitution claim that this would make the activity safer.  They must live in a fantasy world, far removed from reality.  When Germany decriminalized its prostitution law in 2002, it was expected that prostitutes would be provided with employment contracts, health insurance and pension plans.  It didn’t work out that way.  Germany was flooded with foreign sex workers, mostly from Eastern Europe.  It now has an estimated 700,000 prostitutes, of which only 15% are German citizens.  Only 44 of these thousands of prostitutes have actually applied for benefits. Decriminalization has not translated into safer prostitution, as prostitutes are still being murdered and violence has not decreased.  New Zealand also found this out after it decriminalized prostitution in 2003.  A government report there has concluded that prostitutes experienced increased violence and pressure after decriminalization. In Amsterdam, which had open, legal prostitution, the city decided to shut down one-third of its brothels because of the involvement of criminal organizations and drugs.  It is a hard truth, but far more prostitutes are murdered in countries where prostitution is legal than in countries that have criminalized the purchase of sex.

There is a correlation between legalized prostitution and human trafficking.  It is much easier for a trafficker to go to a country where it is legal to have brothels, and to manage people and the prostitution. It is no accident that Denmark, which decriminalized prostitution in 1999, has four times the number of trafficked victims than its neighbor, Sweden, which made the purchase of sex illegal that same year.  This has occurred, despite the fact that Denmark has half the population of Sweden.

According to Statistics Canada, 156 prostitutes have been murdered since 1991. Many of these deaths occurred on the Robert Picton farm in British Columbia after police created, in effect, a zone in Vancouver for tolerance of prostitution.  This led to Picton arbitrarily picking women off the street, taking them to his farm, and then killing them.  What was there to stop him?

The RCMP has reported 1,181 aboriginal women either missing or victims of homicides. The victimization of aboriginal women is close to three times higher than that of non-aboriginal females.  The percentage of aboriginal women in the sex trade is also higher than that of non-aboriginal women.  These women, whether aboriginal or otherwise, are in need of protection.  Decriminalizing prostitution would not help these vulnerable women.

There is no doubt that the government faced a difficult challenge in creating this new prostitution law which, as stated in the preamble to the Act, is to “protect human dignity and the equality of all Canadians by discouraging prostitution, which has a disproportionate impact on women and children”.

It would, perhaps, have been preferable if the legislation had made prostitution itself illegal so that, when prostitutes are charged with the offence of prostitution, they could be given the option of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, and an escape from the life, by job retraining, etc.  Options are provided to drug addicts in the drug courts.  If the convicted addict takes treatment, the charges are stayed.  If this option for prostitutes had been pursued, it would have addressed the justifiable concerns of protecting and assisting vulnerable prostitutes.  Perhaps such a law may be drafted in the future.

In the meantime, although this new legislation is not perfect, it demonstrates an attempt to meet the challenge of protecting vulnerable women and children.

Source:  REAL Women of Canada