Monday, March 26, 2012

Ontario Court of Appeal says prostitution laws unconstitutional: Thumbs up (kind of)

The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court decision and ruled that several laws that make it all but impossible for "street workers" to ply their trade, is in fact unconstitutional for precisely that reason; although a restraining order has been hoisted for twelve months in order to give the federal government a chance to rewrite the laws.  The five judge panel did uphold the ban on solicitation on the reasoning that by doing business on the street it creates a "nuisance" but that by bringing it indoors it would substantially reduce that threat.

I am not entirely persuaded by that second one.   I think there is a danger whether an exchange of favours happens on or off the street.   But the threat is more caused by those paying for sex than those who sell it.   By decriminalizing the practice one can separate those who consent to sex (even if paid for) from those who use the opportunity to assault a sex worker.    It's incredible that in 2011 many police forces still think the rape shield law does not or should it apply to prostitutes when in fact §277 of the Criminal Code clearly states that "evidence of sexual reputation, whether general or specific, is not admissible for the purpose of challenging or supporting the credibility of the complainant."

The focus should be, should always be, on punishing the predators whether it's a sociopath like Robert Pickton or any given pimp or madam.   That much is clear at least for myself; I actually believe that had the laws which have been around since Victorian times (and which were aimed at deterring premarital sex for both males and females) were reformed some time ago, many if not all of the women who disappeared in Vancouver, Edmonton and a few other cities would not have died.

I happen to know people to have used the services of a prostitute or some women (and on the other side always a woman) who took money for it; but the activity was always of a consenting nature on both sides.    I am not the type of person who would even consider it (I happen to believe that sex is a privilege to be earned, not a right that can be traded for by money or an equivalent form of exchange).   I also believe however that putting the onus on hookers who sell rather than the johns (and their female equivalents) that do is wrong.   The onus should be equally based on all the circumstances at hand (pardon the expression).

As uncomfortable as the ruling makes me it is mostly the right decision; however the Supreme Court of Canada should reverse the solicitation ruling and restore the lower court decision in its entirety -- that all the impugned sections are unconstitutional.     Rather than fight the ruling, the government should tax the trade just as they do for any other legally occupied person.    That alone would get rid of most of the black market quite quickly.

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