Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Big win for sex workers in Ontario!

The Superior Court of Ontario has declared Canada's prostitution laws unconstititional!

Prostitution is technically legal in Canada, but there are so many barriers to being able to legally sell sex that it might as well not be. Prostitutes and their clients can't "communicate for the purposes of prostitution," can't work together in a house of prostitution/brothel/bawdyhouse, and can't make a living off their wages from sex work.

What this means is that prostitution is legal, but there is essentially no way to actually successfully initiate and enact a money-for-sex transaction. There is no way to obtain a business license for a sex house or sex agency (which confines the industry to the black market); prostitution can not be a person's primary "job" (which means that unemployed or irregularly employed persons who are most likely to need the money are the same individuals who can't legally acquire it that way) and, perhaps the most ridiculous of the prohibitions, can't be initiated from either the sex worker or the client (which basically translates into both prostitute and client needing ESP to conduct a legal sexual transaction). So even though prostitution is legal in Canada, there's no way to legally work as a prostitute or hire one. Prostitution might be "legal," but in practice, prostitution is ultimately against the law.

What the Ontario court has done will open the door for protections for prostitutes. Workers will be able to get hired or contracted to operate in a licensed brothel, keeping the industry out of the black market. Workers will be able to freely report abuse from a client without fear of prosecution from the police. Workers will be able to talk freely about what they do. Workers will be able to rely on prostitution as a source of income.

This is great news for sex workers in Ontario - let's see the rest of our country follow suit! Regardless of your feelings about the morality of prostitution, it's important to keep the industry safer for the men and women within it. Ensuring that workers have legal rights is a crucial first step.