Is prostitution a right?
By Sarah Prickett
Critics are charging that Canada’s anti-prostitution
laws may be unconstitutional, violating sex workers’ rights
and exposing them to unnecessarily dangerous situations.
According to a report by the Pivot Legal Society, a Vancouver
social justice group, the current laws concerning prostitution
infringe on rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms, such as freedom of speech, liberty and personal
Although prostitution itself is legal, section 213 of the
Criminal Code prevents prostitutes from communicating for the
purposes of prostitution, explained Cristen Gleason, one of
the report’s authors. “This is too broad a net,” she
Since the code already has provisions to deal with public
nuisance and public decency, Gleason explained that the solicitation
laws are a superfluous restriction of freedom of speech and
Free speech, however, “is not absolute in Canada,” said
Joanna Harrington, associate professor in the faculty of law
at Western. “The question is whether it’s a justifiable
infringement on free speech.”
Gleason also stated that current laws increase the dangers
of the sex trade, citing the targeting of prostitutes by serial
killers as a recent example. If prostitutes do speak with customers
in public, they could be arrested and given a criminal record,
preventing them from obtaining other employment. “The
criminal laws are completely trapping women in the sex trade,” she
The solution to this problem should include a series of cross-Canada
hearings on prostitution to challenge the laws and, hopefully, “repeal
the [sections of the] Criminal Code dealing with adult sex
workers,” explained report co-author Katrina Pacey.
“Maybe you should legalize [prostitution] and have registered
prostitutes like in Amsterdam”, suggested Kyle Welsh,
a fourth-year administrative and commercial studies student. “How
come it’s fine to do everything and pay for everything
[in a strip club] except actual intercourse?”
“They shouldn’t make it illegal to advertise,
they should make it illegal to be a prostitute,” said
Chantel Wedemine, a third-year kinesiology student.
“It’s worse for the general public if they’re
allowed to solicit openly,” said Jenn Smith, a third-year
actuarial sciences student.