by REAL Women of Canada. June 5, 2014.

The Conservative government’s new prostitution law reflects the challenges created by the Supreme Court decision last December in the Bedford case which struck down the previous law; the need to protect vulnerable individuals from risks and exploitation inherent in prostitution wherever it takes place, and especially, to protect those under 18 years of age from this activity.

No law on prostitution, whether to legalize it or to decriminalize (regulate) it, makes it a safe activity, and ultimately results in higher rates of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and violence. Because of this, and the need to protect vulnerable individuals, such as aboriginal women, the government had to search for a solution to the problem. It did so by choosing to target the purchasers of sex (the johns), but not the prostitute her/himself for selling sex.

As a result, this legislation attempts to protect prostitutes who are usually involved with the activity because of past abuse, addiction, extortion, intimidation, human trafficking or poverty. and bends over backwards to protect children from prostitution.

The key provisions in the legislation include:

· Targeting the purchasers of sexual services (the johns) with penalties from a $500 fine to 5 years in prison or 10 years if the prostitute is under 18 years of age;

· Criminalizing those who benefit financially from the exploitation of prostitutes, i.e. pimps, sex traffickers and others such as escort agencies, massage parlors, or strip clubs, who procure others for the purpose of prostitution. It exempts, however, such individuals as physicians, pharmacists, accountants or bodyguards, etc. who receive payment for providing their specific services to prostitutes in circumstances that do not involve exploitation.

· Prohibits advertising whether online (websites) or in the print media for sexual services, with imprisonment penalties from 18 months to 5 years maximum; It is not clear, however, whether prostitutes themselves may advertise their own services;

· Prohibits the selling of sexual services in public places where a child, eighteen years or younger, may be expected to be present, such as malls, school grounds, recreation centers, pools, parks, religious institutions and residential streets. According to Justice Minister Peter McKay, a “public place” will be determined on a case by case basis;

· Increases the penalties related to child prostitution from 5 years to 10 years maximum;

· Provide $20 million dollars to fund programs to help sex workers get out of prostitution;

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

This legislation, although not perfect, seems to have met that challenge.

Source: REAL Women of Canada