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Why it’s wrong to legalise prostitution

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Prostitution is a dangerous, soul-destroying job any way you cut it, reports Daphne Bramham of the Vancouver Sun.

Chart from World Values Survey

If prostitution were a job freely chosen, as the pro-legalization forces would have us believe, it’s unlikely that the average age of entry into that workforce would be 14.

It’s unlikely that between two-thirds and 90 per cent of the workers in this “chosen” field would have told researchers in Portland in a recent study that they were victims of incest.

It’s unlikely that 82 per cent of the women in a recent Vancouver study would have reported being sexually abused as children by at least four perpetrators, or that 95 per cent would have said that they wanted out.

What are the chances, if this really were a choice, that so many who choose it are poor, under-educated immigrants or members of minority groups?

Finally, if this really is a job we’d want our sisters, mothers, daughters and friends doing, can someone please explain why so many prostituted women need drugs or alcohol to get through the day and why so many who have left the job are diagnosed with
post-traumatic stress disorder?

Selling sex is dehumanizing and soul-destroying to most of the people who do it. That’s not a moral judgment. It’s fact.

Yet last week an Ontario judge struck down key sections of Canada’s prostitution laws and effectively legalized brothels, living off the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of prostitution.

Justice Susan Himel said the laws are unconstitutional and contrary to the guarantees of liberty and security. Legalising brothels, she said, would keep prostitutes safer.

But Janine Benedet, associate professor of law at UBC, says at most the decision might change it from “an extremely dangerous job to a very dangerous job.”

She cites two Vancouver cases — both from 2007.

Nicole Parisien, 33, was strangled in a Kitsilano apartment building by Andrew Evans, a former UBC rugby player, who paid her $200 after finding her name and number on Craigslist.

Evans dragged Parisien’s body outside and dumped it near a parking lot at the south end of the Burrard Street bridge.

Hong Wei Yin’s body was found in the trunk of a car. She was also 33 and had worked indoors at a massage parlour.

Lawyer Cleta Brown calls it “naive, disingenuous and dangerous to frame prostitution only in terms of safety, choice and individual autonomy.”

Prostitution, she says, is a violation of human rights and a barrier to equality that pits women and children (the majority of sex-trade workers) against men, who are the main purchasers.

Brown helped draft the motion passed this summer by the Canadian Federation of University Women that calls on the federal government to adopt what’s called the Nordic model, which decriminalizes prostitution while criminalizing those who use it.

The federation has received no response.

Last week, the federal government promised to appeal the Ontario ruling. It would be smarter and a lot cheaper to rewrite the law based on the advice of a majority of Canada’s women’s groups.

Those groups — derided by SFU criminology professor John Lowman as “radical feminists,” as opposed to the legalizers, whom he calls “liberal feminists” — include two groups representing former sex-trade workers, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution, South Asian Women Against Male Violence, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter and the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres.

They don’t want harm reduction, they want harm elimination. Abolition.

The Nordic model, begun in Sweden against the tide of legalisation in the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, parts of Australia and Nevada, criminalises buyers of any sexual services.

Prostituted persons are protected from prosecution and provided with services including retraining, counselling and job placement.

Nordic-model countries commit to attacking the root causes that force many women and children into the sex trade — poverty, childhood abuse and addiction — and educating citizens that buying sex is violence and a violation of fundamental human rights.

The outcomes haven’t been perfect. But since adopting the model, those countries report reductions in prostitution, organised crime and human trafficking.

Canada’s — and particularly Vancouver’s — record on ensuring the safety of sex workers is appalling and change is desperately needed.

But moving prostitutes indoors is no solution.

Far from emancipating them from the yoke of a bad law and the heavy hands of pimps and madams, it turns organized criminals into business people.

It signals to men and boys that now it’s okay to buy sexual services, which is almost certain to increase demand.

And, chillingly, legalisation provides a false assurance to sex workers that if a customer turns violent, police will get there in time to help.

Source: Vancouver Sun

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