Legality of prostitution law challenged again in court

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The legality of the law on prostitution again challenged in court

A group of sex workers claims that the current Scandinavian model is more dangerous than the old model.

This is the first time that the new law of 2014 has been submitted as a whole to the test of the courts.

The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform argues that federal prostitution law is counterproductive because it promotes the stigmatization of prostitutes and encourages violence against them rather than prostitutes. reduce risks. This group, which brings together 25 associations across the country, advocates for the decriminalization of prostitution in Canada.

After its defeat before the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2013 in the ;Judgment Bedford, the Harper government had chosen the Scandinavian model to criminalize prostitution in the country.

Sex workers urge the Trudeau government to change the laws on prostitution

The Act respecting the protection of communities and victims of exploitation therefore criminalizes since 2014 the purchase of sexual services rather than the offer of such services, so that customers are now penalized.

Pimping and any advertising surrounding the promotion of sexual services are also prohibited.

The Supreme Court had recognized in particular that the provisions of the #x27;old legislation were harmful.

In the Scandinavian model, it is the clients who are now penalized and no longer the prostitutes.

The new model, however, does not sit well with plaintiffs who are challenging the constitutionality of the law in court in Toronto.

The legislation, they say, violates several articles of the Canadian charter, such as the right to security and life as well as the freedoms of association and expression.

This is the first time that the new law of 2014 has been submitted as a whole to the test of the courts.

Certainly, several judgments regarding prostitution in the country have been broken or confirmed. This is the case of N.S. in Ontario.

But these cases mostly concerned sex workers like N.S. who had been arrested by the police for solicitation.

N.S., a native of Newmarket, had won a first round in the Ontario Superior Court before finally losing in the Ontario Court of Appeal in February 2022.

N.S. won his case in Ontario Superior Court, but the province's Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal and ordered a new trial.

In its decision, the province's highest court ruled that the three contested sections of the federal law were indeed constitutional. N.S.'s cause is very incomplete, explains Sandra Wesley, who runs Montreal's Maison Stella.

La Maison Stella, which is a community organization by and for sex workers, is one of the plaintiffs in this constitutional complaint.

It's the whole law that we challenge, because it's repressive and its main objective is the eradication of sex work, says- her.

Sandra Wesley runs Maison Stella, a community organization in Montreal that works for sex workers.

Sandra Wesley asserts that the current law mainly violates the rights of prostitutes to health, safety and life.

This law contributes to the murder of many sex workers, as in the case of Marylène Lévesque in Quebec, she recalls.

Ms. Wesley also speaks of a right to autonomy being violated. We talk a lot about the right to abortion and consent in cases of sexual assault and, as a woman, we have a right to the autonomy of our body to make decisions, and that includes demanding money in exchange for sex, she argues.

She adds that the freedoms of expression and association are very important as a movement of women workers who need to organize themselves and defend our rights for better working conditions.

At the outset, plaintiffs' attorney Michael Rosenburg confirms that the new provisions of the law are tougher than the one they replaced and that x27;they continue to criminalize sex workers.

He further recalls that sex workers are vulnerable and marginalized in society, because the majority of them are women from poverty or homelessness, and some of them have sex problems. drugs.

Mrs. Rosenburg says some may even be underage, or transgender or Indigenous. Finally, others have a precarious immigration status.

The adoption of the Scandinavian model on prostitution is still not unanimous in the courts of the country.

In such a context, there is nothing to encourage them, according to him, to file a complaint with the police, for fear of being re-victimized or of being the subject of a criminal investigation.

All the more reason, according to the lawyer, to protect them from harassment, theft, exploitation, even forcible confinement and murderous violence.

The The lawyer cites the affidavits of the six plaintiffs who explained, in the appeal, that they had been victims of attacks since the adoption of the new so-called Scandinavian model.

A customer explained that she no longer had the confidence to get into a car since she was harassed and bullied, he says.

Customers are increasingly hesitant to start a conversation with her and it has therefore become difficult for her to filter out undesirable individuals, he continues.

< p class="sc-v64krj-0 knjbxw">Obtaining a material advantage (pimping) and any advertising of sexual services are still prohibited in Canada.

Me Rosenburg points out that banning all advertising of sexual services creates an unacceptable danger for sex workers, in part because prostitutes cannot ask questions about the health or safety of clients

The lawyer points out that the law obliges sex workers to communicate by codes with their clients, but that these conversations can lead to misunderstandings or malicious insinuations.

Any relevant conversation about paid consensual sex is therefore impossible, he continues, citing the expertise of specialists.

Me Rosenburg explains by elsewhere the law prohibits any third party involvement in prostitution-related activities, such as a receptionist, driver or bodyguard.

Sex workers also cannot team up to work from the safety of an apartment rather than alone on the sidewalk.

Constitutional complaint lawyers argue that Canada's pattern of prostitution puts sex workers at greater risk than ever of being abused or exploited.

The lawyer argues that the harm the new model has created is therefore significant and speaks of the law's inevitable side effects, such as violence and exploitation.

Impossible to use your home for a place of sexual exchange under penalty of being denounced by neighbors or being evicted by the owner, he assures us, adding that the law thus forces prostitutes to isolate themselves in unsafe places.

The law denies them, according to him, any right to autonomy and promotes violence against them, in addition to dissuading them from filing a complaint with the police. The law silences them, he concludes.

Hearings continue Tuesday before Justice Robert Goldstein of the Ontario Superior Court.

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