Some sex work laws overturned in Ontario

Selling sex isn’t illegal in Canada. Instead, laws have been enacted which make certain aspects of the activity of selling sex illegal. And now the Supreme Court has ruled that two of these provisions are unacceptable because they endanger sex workers.

In its decision the court said that prostitution is extremely dangerous work where inherent risks are multiplied by laws preventing prostitutes from working together under one roof or hiring security staff.

The decision didn’t strike down the communication law which makes it illegal for sex workers to negotiate with clients.

“The vast majority of all prostitution arrests are under the communication law. The failure to strike down the communication law means that the most vulnerable sex workers will continue to face arrest, police harassment, prosecution and violence.” –Emily van der Muelen, Assistant Professor, in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Ryerson University.

Read “Ontario Court leaves most vulnerable sex workers unprotected”–the response from the Maggies, the Toronto Sex Workers Action Project–here.

I was struck by the contrast in headlines between Canada’s national newspaper which tells the story from the point of the view of the women who challenged the law and MSNBC’s focus. MSNBC headlines the story, “Brothels and pimping legalized in Ontario, Canada” and Canada’s national newspaper puts it this way, “Sex-trade workers hail legalization of brothels as major victory.”

3 thoughts on “Some sex work laws overturned in Ontario

  1. I suspect that the US media doesn’t really grasp the nature of the case. The suit was a Charter Challenge. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the right to pursue a livelihood, and since selling sex is in itself legal, the claim was that the so-called bawdy house laws effectively wholly prevent those who want to pursue a livelihood selling sex from doing so (unless they endangering their lives).

    It is for this reason that the prostitutes interviewed by the Globe and Mail claim that they ‘feel like citizens’.

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