A group of prostituted women in Toronto are planning to launch a constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court of Canada to get prostitution legalized in order to enhance their personal liberty and security, which they feel are impeded by Canada's current laws. As you can imagine, I do not think that this is a good idea.
It is not the illegality of prostitution that puts women at risk. It is the men, the johns, who do that when they solicit a woman for the purpose of prostitution. The women in this case want the government to "remember that they are human." This is an interesting comment, because in the news story where I first heard of this (link), only once is the word "woman" used and is overshadowed by the usual dehumanizing terms used to describe the people involved: "sex-trade workers" and "prostitute" appear regularly and in more prominent sections. Rather than seeing Ottawa as the problem, they ought to focus on those who seek to procure them, for they are the ones who do not care about the humanity of these women. It is those men who threaten female security through their actions, because prostitution itself is an act of male violence against women.
I have argued in support of the Swedish model for dealing with the problem of prostitution, for it recognizes the act of procuring a woman as an act of violence against her person that threatens her security while not imposing penalties on women who are involved in prostitution, either due to threats, duress, or their own free will. Johns can receive up to 6 months in jail for solicitation, and the results in Sweden in the past 7 years have been demonstrable: bawdy houses have all but disappeared and the overall occurrence of prostitution has declined.
On the television news story, it was mentioned that these women have had their "freedom of expression" curtailed by Ottawa's policy on prostitution. Again, this is not true, and misses the real target. It is those who have created the conditions for these women where they have no other alternative who have limited their ability to express themselves, whether that means the abusive parent or relative, their pimp, or their john(s). To suggest that in Canada there is an "official death penalty" imposed upon prostituted woman is not true. It is certainly not the state which is killing women; it is depraved individuals such as Pickton and his ilk, for they are the ones who are killing these women without even a moment's thought for their own humanity.
It is a situation of terrible personal circumstances and a lack of opportunity that often pushes women into prostitution. Where Ottawa has failed these women is in not providing them with enough resources, such as safe houses and stronger police protection, to avoid prostitution or escape from it. I have no shortage of empathy for women who seek to make their own lives more secure and free, but what this constitutional challenge does is not eradicate the cage that is imposed upon prostituted woman; rather, it would only make the cage larger and make it easier for people to get inside. Freedom, in the only true sense of the word, means being able to live one's life in the manner of their own choosing and pursue our happiness in our own way without infringing upon the right of others to do the same. This challenge to potentially legalize prostitution would make it easier for pimps to violate that basic principle of freedom with greater impunity. It is also an entire level removed from consideration of giving women enough opportunities, training, and resources to pursue their happiness without having to resort to prostitution and sacrifice their own humanity.