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New bill to target pimps and johns
Child welfare advocates have decided more needs to be done by the Saskatchewan government to help child prostitutes so they decided to help them out by drafting a bill.
In an attempt to curb the child sex trade in his town, Kearny Healy, a lawyer from Saskatoon, has drafted a new bill to target pimps and johns.
Government officials confirmed the bill was drafted for Saskatoon Communities for Children, a child advocacy group which exists as a public/private partnership and was brought before an all-party committee looking into child abuse and the sex trade in Saskatchewan. The bill will be reviewed by the committee and will be proposed to the provincial legislature in late spring if approved.
"We've tried to do a lot of things, but they never work," Healy said. "I just thought it was time to try something new."
According to the proposed document, a committee comprised of people close to the victim, as well as government-appointed advisors, would assess prostitutes on a case by case basis. The committee would then determine whether a legal case is viable and if a lawsuit should be pursued against the alleged pimp, Kearny explained.
"It's hard to catch someone unless they're in the act of sex. Most of the time we need the help of the children who are involved, but they are afraid to testify because they want to protect their source of income," he said. "Even when they do there is no benefit. The three women who I know who have [testified] are legally in no better position than when they testified."
There are about 100 child prostitutes in Saskatoon who probably have about two or three johns each, he said, adding no johns have been convicted of having sex with child prostitutes in the province over the last few years.
Sanjeev Arnand, from the college of law at the University of Saskatchewan, said it is difficult to tell if the proposed legislation will be effective.
"If it works, the child prostitute can take the [john and pimp] to court and the court can [impose] damages against the john for any harm done upon the prostitute. The money doesn't go directly to the prostitute, but to a social committee and is used for helping the child," he said.
"Suing johns has always been theoretically possible, except it is problematic because they need to get a lawyer, it's time consuming and costly, and monetary damages go directly to the prostitute," Arnand said. "This way we won't be handing them money to buy more crack cocaine," he said. "The social committee would administer the money for treatment centres, teaching life skills or shelter."
"If left to the child prostitute, I don't believe they would sue the john," he explained. "With this new legislation it would be up to the social worker. Suing the john or the pimp does not require consent from the child prostitute or for them to testify."
Paul Whitehead, sociology professor at Western, predicted the bill will be successful in making johns think twice before offering to trade sex for money.
"Being caught in a lawsuit would be potentially embarrassing, not to mention costly in terms of defense and disposition. If that is the intent, it has some chance of success when applied to johns," Whitehead said.
"It might not be effective with pimps because they tend to be lowlifes and not worth as much in terms of assets," he added.