Canadian Court Strikes Down Prostitution Law

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

35 thoughts on “Canadian Court Strikes Down Prostitution Law”

  1. If prostitution became legal, does that mean politicians that partake won’t have to be worried about being caught? If it’s legal, there should be no reason for them to resign, right? Not that many are anyway – not like the old days.

  2. I knew I’d draw you out and you know I’m sending you warm and comforting thoughts …

    Back to your joke: didn’t you tell one once where the lawyer was the one screwing you into the beyond?

  3. And Blouise,

    At least the Prostitute has some redeeming value…they will quit screwing you after your dead… that true of the others?

  4. SwM,

    Priests, Politicians, and Prostitutes – the three oldest professions – isn’t it strange that of the three only prostitution remains illegal?

  5. That sounds good Bloiuse. I know a woman who works with women who are trying to get out of the sex trade industry. It is not a pretty picture.

  6. Thinking out loud:

    Clients have a vested interest in keeping prostitution illegal and prostitutes afraid of the law and police. Legalized prostitution entails client lists, receipts, and other documents for tax purposes. Clean it up and we also can clean it out.

    Of course there will be those who still find it to their advantage to stay outside the law for both adult and child prostitution but it will be more difficult to hide such operations if law enforcement is no longer occupied with the “regular” trade.

    Lawyers and bail bondsmen will also have to work harder to find clients as the “easy” ones will no longer be rounded up on a regular basis.

    The bad guys will still be out there but I do believe they’ll have to get a lot smarter and accept a smaller return.

  7. Swarthmore mom,

    When Merck and Sanofi distribute their drugs they don’t need automatic weapons, rocket launchers, and grenades to protect their operation from law enforcement and competitors. Their opiates are legal.

    Laws against prostitution create the pimps and organized crime structure in the first place. Some of those willing to operate in the criminal world also recruit underage kids – there is no doubt.

    In my view, however, legalization of adult prostitution will make it more challenging to operate child prostitution as it becomes easier to separate consensual, adult transactions from outright prostitution of children. It will allow society to better ostracize and punish such acts, rather than blurring them as a subset of today’s crimes of prostitution.

    I would also expect that demand for child prostitution will fall on the margins – as some individuals will substitute a lower-cost and legal alternative.

  8. puzzling Many prostitutes are under aged girls that are working for pimps in order to get drugs. I watched a sexual transaction take place in Canada and the woman clearly had a pimp. What happens to the pimp who is taking most of the money when prostitution is legal? Tony C said, “Laws against prostitution harm only the poor”. I am not sure I agree with that. If you are poor, why are you spending money on prostitutes and not concentrating on providing essentials for yourself and for your family? I am not against legalization at all just need some clarity.

  9. A welcome ruling. Earlier last year I commented on JT’s post Men Lining Up for Admission into John School:

    Two people who make a voluntary exchange are both better off or they wouldn’t do it. In this case the exchange is sex for money. Laws against sex for money seek to impose a moral constraint on actions that actually benefit both parties.

    In the article it states “The thinking is: Women won’t stop selling sex until men stop buying.” That underscores that both parties are voluntarily making this transaction!

    The government has worked on the supply side and the demand side in the war on drugs for decades, and what has it brought us? Global criminal gangs? Corrupted law enforcement? Rampant property crime? Twisted economic opportunities for youth? Ever harder drugs? Widespread diseases and dangers for users?

    Hypocritically, our society both permits and accepts this same conduct – sex for money – when both parties are compensated, such as in adult films.

    Decriminalize. Legalize. Walk away.

  10. Blouise 1, September 30, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    It’s all been said by the previous posters … legalize it, regulate it, … tax it.


    I would just add that they will be kept safe and healthy as well.

  11. Laws against prostitution only harm the poor. Rich Americans can go to fifty countries where it is perfectly legal and get whatever they want. If they do not care to travel, the prostitutes are happy to come to their estates, where they will never get busted. Plus, if they worry, the rich can afford an assistant that checks out the prostitutes to make sure they aren’t undercover cops, or wearing a wire, or anything else. The assistants can recruit their charges in Nevada or Canada.

    Prostitution is like drug laws and abortion laws, the only people really harmed by these laws are the people too poor to circumvent them, and once in a long while, the rich that are too greedy or stupid to spend the money it takes to circumvent it — But of course, when caught, they pay the “tax” of attorneys to get them ridiculously light punishment, compared to what is inflicted upon the poor committing the same crime.

  12. The criminalization of prostitution has always been a bad idea and like prohibition & the Drug War, is really a matter of hypocritical pandering.

  13. Canada will do this right and put in a system whereby the prostitutes will get health care and counseling. It is certainly better than keeping it in the closet and spending money on jail time for people that are not do much damage.

  14. Go to Windsor young man…go to Windsor….You’ll pay for the privilege…but go…..The business is regulated there…

  15. Long time coming. Too bad this hasn’t happened in the USA. But, unfortunately, we are becoming more of a government controled society while the rest of the world understands what freedom means.

    I applaud this judge and Cananda for doing the right thing. The USA would know the right thing if it was presented to them in a handbook.

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