Vice Squad
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Call for Prostitution Regulation Reform in Canada

Prostitution per se is legal in Canada, but related activities, such as soliciting or operating a bawdy house, remain criminalized. As a result, many or most Canadian prostitutes work in violation of the law. Yesterday, a report (available here) on Canadian prostitution policy was issued by the Pivot Legal Society of Vancouver. The report, written from a harm reduction viewpoint, argues for the repeal of most of the laws that criminalize aspects of the adult sex trade. The general argument is that these laws, that prevent sex workers from engaging in the legitimate economy, contribute to many of the problems that they face, particularly the violence directed at sex workers. (There have been many murders and disappearances of sex workers in Vancouver in recent years.)

The report is largely based on interviews (which took the form of legal affidavits) with low income prostitutes, those who are most marginalized. The close connection between such sex work and alcohol and other drug addiction is brought out clearly. (One sex worker even described giving up prostitution in favor of cocaine selling because of police pressure on prostitutes!) Even for those who do not support the regulatory changes that are suggested -- I do support them -- the report makes for fascinating (if often depressing) reading. It is a very high quality report, one that should be influential in future debates over prostitution policy in Canada.

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