Look Who Just Decriminalized Prostitution
I’ll leave out the place name for a moment, so you can take a guess:
A Superior Court justice gutted the federal prostitution law in ___________ on Tuesday, allowing sex-trade workers to solicit customers openly and paving the way for judges in other provinces to follow suit.
Justice Susan Himel struck down all three Criminal Code provisions that had been challenged – communicating for the purposes of prostitution, pimping and operating a common bawdy house.
The answer is Ontario. More here, from the Globe and Mail. This means that prostitution might become decriminalized throughout Canada, although it might not:
The decision will take effect in 30 days unless Crown lawyers return with arguments that are strong enough to persuade her to grant a further delay, Judge Himel said.
Her landmark ruling drew immediate fire in Ottawa, which has little time to regroup and battle the judgment. A domino effect of judicial decisions could quickly topple prostitution laws across Canada, as happened several years ago with prohibitions against gay marriage.
Worth noting: the “buying and selling of sexual services” per se are not illegal in Canada, but many of the activities associated with prostitution are. Here’s more detail, including a piece of judicial reasoning that’s as clear as any I’ve ever read in a newspaper (which of course doesn’t mean you’ll agree with it):
In her 131-page ruling which took her a year to produce, Judge Himel found that laws set up to protect prostitutes actually endanger their safety, forcing them to furtively engage in hasty transactions conducted in shady locations.
“By increasing the risk of harm to street prostitutes, the communicating law is simply too high a price to pay for the alleviation of social nuisance,” she said. “I find that the danger faced by prostitutes greatly outweighs any harm which may be faced by the public.”
We wrote a chapter in SuperFreakonomics that was mostly about prostitution, and in the upcoming illustrated edition of that book, we reprint some 100-year-old survey data about what led women into prostitution. The answers are surprising.
Related: Sudhir Venkatesh (whose research is the basis of the SuperFreak section on street prostitution) identifies five myths about the trade.