Yesterday, Justice Susan Himel struck down three Criminal Code provisions around sex work in Canada (communication for the purpose of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy house for the purpose of prostitution, living on the avails of the trade).
While this is being hailed by some as a win for sex workers, I fear that all this kind of decriminalization does is make life just a little easier for those who profit from and frequent sex workers. I fail to see how this changes the way in which we, as a society, treat women and feel that it only encourages men’s sense of entitlement around access to women’s bodies.
While it is true that current laws offer little protection for sex workers, the elimination of these provisions from the Criminal Code also offers little in terms of protection. Decriminalization does not, in any way, guarantee that sex work moves indoors, nor does indoor work protect sex workers from violence, rape and abuse. What about challenging the idea that women exist to service male needs? What about offering alternatives to women who feel they have no alternatives? Men who are violent will continue to be violent regardless of these laws and now what? They can make a living off of women freely? They can beat up women within the privacy of a brothel? They can see themselves simply as customers? Consuming some just another service?
Oh Canada, let’s talk about this.