30 September 2010

The Sex Trade in Canada

So, as you've all read by now, an Ontario judge struck down the law regarding bawdy houses. Good.

I am aware that feminists are divided on this issue. I am aware that Christians are divided on this issue. My take is this: Criminalizing sex work is more damaging to sex workers than decriminalizing it. Decriminalization doesn't remove all the problems. Obviously. I mean, being in the position - mentally, emotionally, and financially - to do sex work is problematic, in and of itself. I know, a moralistic judgment on my part, but whatever. Show me a woman who does sex work by choice, who is also mentally and emotionally healthy, and I'll consider changing my mind.

We live in a culture in which rape is normal and viewed as entertainment and suitable for jokes. People who do sex work are in danger every day. And they don't even have the option of complaining to the police about it, because their work is illegal, and the police won't take them seriously. Who chooses that? Vulnerable people. People with a history of abuse. People with mental health issues. People who would otherwise starve. Or lose their children because of homelessness. People with substance abuse problems. At the very least, we ought to make it so that they can be a little safer. Make it so that when they are able to get out of the trade that they aren't hindered by a criminal record, making it harder for them to find other work.

Ideally, no woman, no man, no one at all, would be in sex work. Ideally, there would be no demand for it. Ideally, there would be no situation dire enough that one would consider selling sex. But we do not live in an ideal world. Not by any stretch. And criminalizing behaviours that we don't want to see doesn't stop them. It merely allows us to punish people for doing them. I don't want to live in a society that punishes the most vulnerable people in society for figuring out a way to survive in a way that only hurts themselves.

So I'm glad the law was struck down. And *shame* on the Conservatives for appealing.