There is an interesting ruling out of Canada where Justice Susan Himel of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice has struck down Canada’s prostitution laws as violating the basic rights of prostitutes and their clients. It is a position that many libertarians and some civil liberties advocates have long advocated — objecting to the criminalizing of such agreements between consenting adults absent some injury to a third-party or cognizable crime.
Himel held “[t]hese laws, individually and together, force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
There have been calls for decriminalization in the United States, as has been the case in other countries. This issue is part of an overall debate over the imposition of morality laws. There are still laws on the books criminalizing adultery and fornication. As noted in this column, these laws are presumptively unconstitutional after Lawrence v. Texas. However, society still believes that (while consenting adults can have relations for free) it should be a crime for there to be compensation for such relations. Some argue that these laws are meant to address the surrounding crimes and abuses associated with this industry. However, decriminalization advocates insist that such crimes and abuses will be reduced through legalization and regulation.
The challenge in Canada was brought by Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford and prostitutes Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitch. They insisted that they want to participate in an open and regulated business with other consenting adults. They complained that criminalization has forced them into back alleys and dangerous surroundings where they are beaten and victimized.
Canada refers to such establishments as “bawdy houses,” which were illegal until this ruling.
The Court stayed the decision for 30 days to allow the government to appeal.
Source: The Star