CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, March 17, 2014

Perrin on Prostitution in Canada

Benjamin Perrin (University of British Columbia) has posted Oldest Profession or Oldest Oppression?: Addressing Prostitution after the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in Canada v. Bedford (Macdonald-Laurier Institute Commentary Series, 2014) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The future of Canada’s laws related to prostitution has become an urgent public policy issue in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford. Three prostitution-related offences in the Criminal Code were found to infringe the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and are to be struck down, effective within one year. The Court’s decision of December 20, 2013 has spurred a national debate on the issue as Parliament has this limited timeline to adopt any new legislative approach, or else Canada will face the de facto legalization of adult prostitution. 

. . .

Canada should . . . overhaul its prostitution laws. The starting point for such an approach could consist of three key components, inspired by an abolitionist model developed by Sweden and since adopted by other countries. The evidence from an independent inquiry is that such a model is working to reduce prostitution, change public attitudes, and undermine criminal elements and sex trafficking.

First, going forward, Canada’s objective should be to abolish prostitution. Its harms are inherent and cannot simply be regulated away. Second, prostitutes themselves should not be criminalized, but given support to help them exit. Leaving prostitution is the only way to truly protect prostitutes. In most provinces, this intensive assistance is sorely lacking. It has been suggested that the perpetrators of prostitution (“johns” and “pimps”) should pay substantial fines that could be used to fund such services. There is merit in exploring this idea further. Finally, our criminal laws and enforcement should instead target pimps, traffickers, and johns with enhanced penalties – they are the perpetrators responsible for the harms of prostitution.

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