06 June 2014

Legislating morality—the new prostitution law

Ah, yet another step backward into a failed past. I refer, of course, to our favourite government's new Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, a piece of legislation that criminalizes the purchase of sexual services.

To begin with, the bill isn't even logical. It criminalizes buying sex but not selling it. While claiming that it considers "the vast majority of those involved in selling sexual services as victims," it makes it more likely they will be victimized. If their customers are to be labelled criminals, prostitutes will be driven to ply their trade more furtively and in darker places. Afraid to identify themselves, clients will no longer be prepared to provide names or phone numbers. Valerie Scott, one of the three sex workers who successfully challenged the prostitution laws in the Supreme Court, calls this a gift for sexual predators.

The legislation is supposedly patterned after the "Nordic model" as practiced in Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Well, it hasn't improved things there. Sweden, whose laws most closely resemble the proposed act, has witnessed an increase in violence against prostitutes with no decline in demand. The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR) calls this approach, "harmful and inconsistent with sex workers’ constitutional rights to health and safety."

CASWLR prefers the New Zealand model. There, prostitution is considered normal and legal work. Sex workers are protected by labour laws that promote their health and safety, and a tribunal hears disputes with brothel owners. The brothels pay licensing fees like any other businesses and are often run by prostitutes or former prostitutes themselves. In this model, the state does what it is supposed to do, protects the citizens concerned, and otherwise leaves people alone. The moralizing is replaced by common sense.

But our government, it seems, didn't bother to ask the sex workers for their opinions. Valerie Scott isn't aware of any being involved in the decision-making process. “MacKay is only interested in consulting with those who seek to prohibit sex work, under the guise of ‘saving us,’" said Scott, "It makes it crystal clear that this federal government is solely interested in its own political safety and could [not] care less about our lives.”

Ms. Scott may be a tad harsh, but her gist is right. The federal government's concern isn't security, it's sin.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a prostitute in New Zealand of the past 14 years. We want the Nordic Model, and we want opportunity. We want free tertiary education, healthcare, rewarding careers where we are safe and our bodies are our own and free from molestation. Everyone argues over laws and etc but no-one acknowledges the problem of why we're here to begin with - we don't have a better option available to us. That is why, we don't want to be here and we will leave and solve the country of this prostitution problem, if only it were to offer us something better.
    Thank you.