Swedish approach doesn’t help prostitutes, says expert

Swedish approach doesn’t help prostitutes, says expert

As Canada leans toward a Nordic model to control prostitution, sex workers and their allies say it’s the wrong choice.

The model, legislation that originated in Sweden, creates the same dangerous working conditions as the laws they are meant to replace in that it criminalizes people employed by sex workers, such as drivers or receptionists, and the landlords who rent to them, says Sandra Ka Hon Chu, a lawyer with the HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

Her group intervened in the Supreme Court case that invalidated Canadian prostitution laws because they impose dangerous conditions on prostitution.

“The evidence shows (the Nordic model) isn’t better than what we have now,” Chu said in a telephone interview from Toronto. “There are a lot of analogies that can be drawn. The notion that it’s a panacea for Canada is not going to play out,” Chu said.

Terri-Jean Bedford
Terri-Jean Bedford flashes a victory sign after Canada’s Supreme Court struck down the country’s prostitution laws, Dec 20, 2013

Proponents say it’s a way to help exploited women exit the sex trade while holding customers criminally accountable.

“Everyone should have the right to sell themselves, but no one should have the right to purchase them,” Pastor Tyrone McKenzie of the Lawson Heights Alliance Church has said.

That model is widely rejected by sex workers, such as Terri-Jean Bedford, who brought the case to the Supreme Court, and their allies, including more than 300 academics and researchers who signed an open letter in March to the federal government calling for decriminalization of sex work and opposing criminalizing the purchasing of sex.

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