Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Canadian court strikes down anti-prostitution laws

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I spend so much time keeping up with and writing about politics in the US (and occasionally elsewhere) that I often lose track of what’s going on in my own backyard. And once again, the Canadian courts have done the right thing and ruled that, to riff on George Carlin’s famous quote[1], selling fucking should be legal for the sake of sex workers’ safety:

An Ontario court has thrown out key provisions of Canada's anti-prostitution laws in response to a constitutional challenge by a Toronto dominatrix and two prostitutes in 2009.

Ontario's Superior Court of Justice ruled Tuesday the Criminal Code provisions relating to prostitution contribute to the danger faced by sex-trade workers.

In her ruling, Justice Susan Himel said it now falls to Parliament to "fashion corrective action."

"It is my view that in the meantime these unconstitutional provisions should be of no force and effect, particularly given the seriousness of the charter violations," Himel wrote.

"However, I also recognize that a consequence of this decision may be that unlicensed brothels may be operated, and in a way that may not be in the public interest."

The judge suspended the effect of the decision for 30 days. It does not affect provisions dealing with people under 18.

A judicial ruling about sex founded in common sense – not something I reckon we’re about to see happen in the US anytime soon, I’m afraid. Prostitution, along with other subsets of the sex industry, drugs, and anything else that consenting adults engage in on their own time and their own dime, should absolutely be legal and carefully regulated by the government to protect the providers and punish abusers. As it is, a prostitute who encounters a violent client has virtually no resources at all, as his/her options are essentially limited to jail time or simply shutting up and coping. And that should never be anyone’s reality.

People who are against prostitution (and the rest of the sex industry, and drugs, and etc.) can reliably be split in two categories (with some amount of overlap): Those who believe that it’s filthy and wrong and the basest of all resorts, and those who believe that it should be criminalized because the reverse would open the floodgates for anything from sex trafficking to child porn (or whatever extreme opponents immediately jump to). Of course, both of these positions are factually and morally wrong. The former entails a group of people (often prudes who know little of sex or those who engage in it for a living) imposing their own moral values and restrictions upon another group, which cannot be tolerated in any decent democracy, and the latter is derived from a gross lack of logic, common sense and knowledge of historical precedents. (Read up on the Prohibition of the ’30s and then tell me that situation didn’t virtually mirror pretty much everything that’s happening, now.)

(via Slog)

[1] “I don't understand why prostitution is illegal. Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal?” (Napalm and Silly Putty (2001))