Fixing prostitution laws is about men, too
MONDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — The federal government is reportedly poised to introduce legislation to change the country’s laws on prostitution.
The changes will be in response to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year that struck down Canada’s prostitution laws. Those laws have been based largely on outlawing communication for the purposes of prostitution rather than prostitution itself.
It’s a practical approach, since it’s easier to prove communication for the purposes of than it is the act. However, the Supreme Court found in December in favour of a challenge that contended the laws as written endanger prostitutes.
Parliament was given a year to come up with a better law. Striking down the old one wasn’t universally popular.
“It’s a sad day that we’ve now had confirmed that it’s OK to buy and sell women and girls in this country,” said Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
“I think generations to come — our daughters, their granddaughters and on, will look back and say, ‘What were they thinking?’”
The debate on prostitution is fraught with complexity, confusion and contradiction. One the one hand, prostitution is regarded as exploitation while, on the other, some argue the right of women to engage safely in it.
As a society, if not by consensus then at least by majority, we’ve decided that sex-trade workers should be regarded as victims rather than criminals.
Rather than penalizing the prostitute, therefore, many believe the law should focus on the other players in the process — mainly pimps and clients.
And that may be the way it’s heading, since it seems unlikely the Conservatives will favour decriminalization or legalization.
But there’s on aspect to this debate that needs to be addressed. Unfailingly, the discussion centres on women. Certainly, women make up the greater percentage of prostitutes but studies in some cities show that 20 to 30 per cent or more are male.
Male prostitutes, like female prostitutes, are subjected to violence. Let’s keep in mind, when we debate what to do about prostitution, that while it victimizes women, it also victimizes many men.
Fixing prostitution laws is about making things safer for prostitutes.
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