Criminalizing the purchase of sex means that sex workers are still pushed underground, away from safety, unable to work with each other, and unable to screen out potential aggressors posing as clients
The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform is taking to the Hill to share their perspective on emerging Canadian prostitution law.
Every year, hundreds of organizations and professional associations organize advocacy days on Parliament Hill. This week, members of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform will be meeting with Parliamentarians to discuss sex work, the law, and the maintenance of safe communities.
The landmark Canada v Bedford decision in December 2013 deemed Canada’s three major prostitution laws unconstitutional. The Supreme Court gave the government 12 months to reform prostitution law. The Bedford decision has raised many pressing issues for sex workers and communities, and a need to engage in a frank discussion on the current legal context around prostitution in Canada—one places the experiences of people working in the sex industry at the core of law reform.
We want to ensure that the legislation tabled creates safer working conditions for workers—that it rejects criminalization regimes and favours recognition of sex workers’ constitutional rights, equality rights, and access to social supports for sex workers. Criminalizing anyone in the sex work exchange forces sex workers out of safe spaces—increasing vulnerability to violence, stigma, and police surveillance.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay has been vocal about his plans for legislation that includes elements of a “Swedish” or “Nordic” regime—where clients and third parties are directly targeted through criminal law. Legislation of this kind would directly violate the spirit of Bedford, which relied on evidence to rule that criminalization of sex work (including clients) contravenes sex workers’ constitutional rights to safety and security. Criminalizing the purchase of sex means that sex workers are still pushed underground, away from safety, unable to work with each other, and unable to screen out potential aggressors posing as clients.