Prostitution remains a debatable issue in Canada, with the country facing constitutional challenges as to the legal provisions, addressing the matter. While the law criminalizes prostitution, there are groups of people who have been fighting to have sex workers’ rights recognized by the country’s constitution. As a signatory to several international organizations, protecting marginalized groups, Canada is faced with the hurdle of considering the rights of this group of people.
Others believe that legalizing such activities would widely protect the rights of prostitutes since the society does not recognize them (EFC 4). On the other hand, opponents of this school of thought argue that all efforts have to be gathered to minimize the demand for prostitution. If these challenges are considered, Canada would fully legalize prostitution by eliminating sections of the criminal code, which criminalize prostitution.
How does one become a prostitute? Most analysts argue that people consider prostitution as a last resort, and it is therefore, considered to be unsafe and indecent. Arguments against prostitution have always been based on the insecure nature of services associated with prostitution, and that money, which is earned through this channel, is illegitimate.
Additionally, sex workers are highly prone to different forms of violence, including physical and sexual, mental and the high risk of contracting deadly diseases like hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections and AIDS, among others (EFC 5).
Moreover, prostitution is seen to be a dehumanizing behavior, which is compared to pornography. In other words, it mainly focuses on the sexual dimension of a person, thus creating a corrupt perception of people and their rightful position in the society. Is it morally right? Even though prostitution is considered to be a source of livelihood by those who support it, it demeans human character and self-worth.
What is the position of Canada on prostitution? According to the Canadian constitution, all activities related to prostitution are illegal, even though prostitution is not criminalized. Under the country’s law, prostitution is addressed under three sections, 210 to 213. Subsections 212 (1) (j) and 213 (1) (c) have significantly received criticism from sections of the public, arguing that they go against the rights of sex workers in the country.
The latter subsection criminalizes all activities, which are related to prostitution. On the other hand, subsection 213 (1) (c) of the constitution targets communication among prostitution, while purchasing sexual services (EFC 5).
Subsection 213 (1) (c) of the constitution was introduced and enacted as law in 1985, and mainly illegalizes the use of public offers by prostitutes when looking for clients to purchase sexual services. The main purpose of this introduction was to penalize those purchasing and those offering the services. However, most cases handled attack prostitutes more than the clients who are served. When caught, prostitutes are charged and allowed to serve a jail term in accordance with the decision of the presiding court.
For example, the percentage of men who were charged for publicizing their services translated to 47% between 1986 and 1995, even though the percentage of women who were charged harshly rose exponentially. 39% of women were charged and imprisoned for the offence, with only 3% of men were charged for similar communicating offences (EFC 6). Importantly, this approach ushered a two-tiered system, which mainly focused on-street prostitution, with that practiced in massage parlors, and clubs received minimal coverage of the law.
Legalization of prostitution refers to a change in the regime, which would remove all sanctions leveled against prostitution and its related activities. This would also see the Canadian government indulge in the regulation of commercial sex. The implication of such developments would mean that the government would become the main regulator of the industry, just the way it regulates other sectors of the economy like tourism and hospitality.
It would further mean that the state draws laws to cover the industry and craft certain frameworks, regarding its operations and management (EFC 6). For instance, some of the government laws would include mandatory examination of sex workers, issuance of operating licenses and designation of certain areas, for the selling and purchasing of sexual services. Even though the laws are not created by sex workers, law makers usually make these provisions to protect the rights of sex workers; they are therefore, designed for prostitutes.
What are the benefits of legalizing prostitution in Canada? Proponents of prostitution in Canada assert that the step would be essential in reducing levels of discrimination in the society. In general, sex workers are viewed as social misfits, and are therefore, not allowed to interact with others freely. Based on their deviation from what the society perceives to be right, they are less appreciated and treated in a manner that lowers their dignity to almost nothing (EFC 6). As a result, the lives of many are dominated with loneliness and low self-esteem.
Importantly, sex industry is perceived to be a major source of revenue in improving the country’s economy. For instance, the government would collect taxes from all operating prostitutes, which would later be used to expand other sectors of the economy. Besides taxes from all sex workers, it is argued that legalization of prostitution in Canada would require registration and licensing, which would equally become a source of revenue for the government. Through this regulation, some of the people in the industry would get discouraged, thus quitting the business (EFC 7).
Another benefit of legalizing prostitution is for ensuring the security of all sex workers. As mentioned before, sex workers are usually exposed to high levels of risks. Oftentimes, they are faced with all forms of violence, including sexual and physical violence. Physical violence includes cases where prostitutes are attacked on the streets and beaten for their activities, which are considered to be immoral and unacceptable in the society.
Additionally, some are attacked and assaulted sexually by gangs, thus putting their safety at risk (EFC 4). Legalization of the industry would therefore, guarantee protection of all sex workers from any form of discrimination. With regard to their health, legalization would ensure that they have access to safe ways of operating the business without contracting killer diseases like AIDS.
Conversely, it has been argued that there are enough reasons to criminalize prostitution. For instance, it is immoral and inhuman. Based on ethical teachings, any form of sexual immorality is wrong and has to be condemned in the strongest terms possible. It lowers one’s dignity as it goes against what is perceived as normal in the country.
Additionally, prostitution has been blamed for contributing towards new cases of AIDS infection (EFC 7). Most prostitutes are sexually exposed to the risk of contracting related infections. From the above analysis, it is evident that the issue of prostitution in Canada remains contentious and has to be handled with sobriety before a final decision is taken.
EFC. “Selling Ourselves: Prostitution in Canada Where are we Headed?” The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, 2010. Web.