Vive les prostitutes libres!

“How am I going to celebrate? I’m going to spank some ass.” -Terri Jean-Bradford

Terri has a lot to celebrate. She is a dominatrix, and last week the Ontario Superior Court of Justice struck down three provisions of the Criminal Code related to the operation of a “bawdy house” (a brothel), “living on the avails of prostitution,” and “communicating for the purposes of the trade.”

Personally, I find the sex industry disgusting; my principles scream against it. The purpose of prostitution is to turn a woman (or man) into a sexual object: a thing to be used like a common toy. It turns an intimate act into a cheap one. No one involved in the sex industry is free from this taint. The pimps and bawdy house landlords are profiting from it. While some prostitutes are subjecting themselves to it, far too many of them are doing so to pay for drugs, or because they were forced into it. As for the so-called “johns” who solicit, many of whom have wives and kids at home, they are buying sexual gratification at the expense of another human life.

Legally, however, prostitution can be a victimless crime. Between two consenting adults, sex can sometimes be sold without serious harm. I’m comfortable with the ruling on bawdy houses—the more this industry can be removed from streets, the better. Prostitution won’t go away—it’s called the world’s oldest career for a reason. Let’s give it a legal space, controlled by the prostitutes themselves, where it can occur safely.

I am also comfortable striking down the section regarding “living on the avails of prostitution.” It will allow prostitutes to hire bodyguards, and this is also a positive outcome.

However, removing the section on “communicating for the purposes of the trade” is a slap in the face to every community with a sex industry problem. To allow prostitutes to wander the streets and sell sex as openly as they please will do nothing but harm public space. I don’t want our families to wander downtown knowing that others are legally permitted to sell sex there. I especially don’t want anyone’s children to have to do that. If prostitutes want to work, they should have to do it privately, not in a public space where we all have to live.

The ruling raises serious policy questions. If brothels are allowed to operate they need to be regulated and zoned. They cannot exist in any suburb or downtown neighbourhood, that would be unfair to those communities. The industry will need to be constrained to small areas and kept separate from residential or commercial centres.

Additionally, we need to find a way to deal with the huge problem posed by human trafficking in the sex industry. Any brothel owner hosting trafficked prostitutes should face the same 14-year sentence faced by those who prostitute minors. If the questions surrounding human trafficking are not answered, legalized prostitution isn’t an experiment we should be undertaking. Canada also needs study whether the violence endemic to prostitution will be lessened by these changes or if they will only worsen.

In the end, our courts should not be answering these questions. The House of Commons should strike a royal commission on the topic so we can formulate a solution to prostitution’s many vices, legal or otherwise.

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