Current prostitution laws aren’t sexy

Canadians favour legalizing sex work

It seems some governments are beginning to understand that legalization or the lack thereof has little to do with how people actually behave. Prohibition in 1920s United States is a common example of how outlawing something often fails as a deterrent (the outlawing of alcohol resulted in bootlegging and underground drinking clubs), but often causes people to do that activity more often and under more dangerous circumstances.

 Recently, there have been claims that the war on drugs has completely and utterly failed, as the use of drugs did not decrease and billions were spent on education, law enforcement and the incarceration of “criminals.” The legal system has been absolutely choked with drug charges, yet in some cities, 1 in 100 houses is reported to have a grow-op.

 Many Canadians appear to agree that prostitution laws are equally archaic. A Forum Research Poll shows that 54 per cent of Canadians believe prostitution should be legalized.

The current laws come from the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which criminalizes buying sex, profiting from the sale of sex and third-party advertising.

 In legalizing it, the government would effectively remove a lot of the hazards associated with prostitution, as well as take a clear stance on their support of a feminist and autonomous populace.

 Allowing sex workers to solicit work would greatly improve their working conditions. Not only would they be free to seek out licensed employers and have access to benefits, the rate of violence, crime and rape against sex workers could drop. Currently, it is far more difficult for a sex worker to come forward and report rape if the rape took place while they were working, as the victim could be charged for illegal activity. Additionally the stigma associated with prostitution may sway a court to side with the perpetrator.

 As well, legalizing sex work - a profession that is predominantly female - would be an act of instilling autonomy in a sector of our community that continues to struggle for definition - the female working class. On one hand, women are encouraged to be viewed sexually, but on the other are shamed when they decide to go further than just being viewed and begin to act in autonomous ways that take them off of the magazine page and into bedrooms and brothels.

 It’s comparable to telling a child to be seen and not heard. Stigmatizing prostitution perpetuates the myth that women do not like sex, or that they have sex in order to please men. In this perspective, we are quick to pity or disrespect sex workers, thinking they are just people that didn’t make it into university, couldn’t find a “real job,” or are simply “sluts.” It’s incredibly unfortunate that we would make these assumptions when sex plays such an important part in our society.

 It’s far better to live in a community that allows its residents to express themselves. We would all benefit. Whether you’re the type of person who enjoys going to a strip club, wants to hire an escort, or supports the kind of equality that would result from legalizing sex work, this seemingly niche concern actually affects us all in big way.

Forum Research Poll Results are available at

Published in Volume 69, Number 18 of The Uniter (January 28, 2015)

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