15 December 2006

Canada's Prostitution Laws

The National Post remains my preferred choice in Canadian national newspapers. It has a group of op-ed columnists that provide excellent insights, its news coverage is relatively balanced, and they have a tendency to publish letters that I send to them. Today they ran an editorial discussing the need to overhaul Canada's lamentable prostitution legislation. They came forward with the idea of outright decriminalization. Good idea to remove the criminal label from women and children who are often forced into the streets to prostitute themselves; it makes little sense to put in jail people that overwhelmingly would like to get out of the industry. However, decriminalization would not give johns any fear or worry about being caught for perpetrating acts of violence against women and children, and that is why the National Post is wrong. The British are currently handicapping themselves in their hunt to track the murderer in Ipswich that is killing prostituted women because if any of them goes to the police to report something suspicious, she will be arrested for prostitution. They have thus far refused any notions of a temporary amnesty for women, a remarkable lack of compassion for women who regularly are in dangerous situations, made all the worse by a known murderer on the streets.

The editorial on changing Canada's prostitution laws provides a good suggestion but the wrong remedy for tackling the problem. Rather than outright decriminalization, an alternative and more likely to succeed method would be to adopt the Swedish model, which criminalizes the purchase of sex and decriminalizes the selling of sex. In short, it sees prostitution as an act of male violence against women (which it is) and thus promotes legal action to reduce the number of johns on the streets that are creating demand for young women and children to be bought and sold for sex. As a consequence, prostitution in Sweden has declined dramatically since the introduction of this legislation in 1999. For more on the success of the Swedish model, go to "Why Hasn't Anyone Tried This Before?"

Rather than holding the fatalist view that "it's always been around and always will," there are measures which can be put in place that have demonstrable effects in reducing the number of men that prey upon women and children and reducing the supply of available women and children. It is not inevitable that men (and the overwhelming majority of johns in prostitution are male) see women and children merely as instruments to be bought and sold for their own gratification; with proper legislation and enforcement in place, Canada can go a long way in reducing both the demand and supply for prostitution, thus becoming a country that regards all of its citizens with equal respect and dignity.


charliegrrl said...

Very good post! I always feel very heartened when I hear a man with feminist views. Keep it up!

RGM said...

Thanks for the nice words. Your site has been a great resource and source of inspiration in the short while since I've discovered it.

I also take heart in finding that there are others out there who are as dedicated to this cause as I am, so you can probably imagine how much strength I'm able to draw from someone like Robert Jensen. It is finding like-minded men in that vein that is the true surprise for me these days, and a welcome reprieve from the usual defensive and angry responses I get when confronting other men about their misogyny.