Humanist Perspectives: issue 181: To Bawdy or not to Bawdy? that is the question; Ontario appeal court legalizes brothels

To Bawdy or not to Bawdy? that is the question; Ontario appeal court legalizes brothels
Decision challenged by Ottawa, Family group; A new spring… or hell freezing over?

by Carl Dow

hat’s our purpose in life? A question often asked. If a purpose we need, then I would say, in the most accurate and fundamental sense, that it is to reproduce.
But of course it’s more complicated, certainly for us humans, because of the highly developed receiving and sending set that has evolved between our ears, supported by all the complementary stuff throughout our bodies.
Because of intelligence, imagination, and talent, we can take seven basic music notes and transform them into symphonies that move our hearts and minds. We can (in English) take 26 letters and produce great works of literature. We can take six (it used to be three) primary colours and produce magnificent art. And I don’t want to get started on what we can do with a couple of handfuls of numbers.
The one thing we seem to have trouble getting a handle on are matters related to procreation. Here we have an act that can bring us optimum joy and relaxation, and yet, so highly charged is the experience, that understanding it in theory and practice has proven elusive and unsettling, to say the least.
A new war of words began with the Monday 26 March 2012 decision by the Ontario Court of Appeals to legalize brothels in Ontario. The court said the ban on communicating for the purposes of selling sex should stand.
In a 132-page landmark decision, the court said that the ban on brothels puts prostitutes in danger by forcing them to ply their trade outdoors. It said sex trade workers should be allowed to work safely indoors.
Sebastian Horsley sign – This is not a brothelThe court said the law against brothels was too broad because “it captures conduct that is unlikely to lead to the problems Parliament seeks to curtail.” It said the impact is “grossly disproportionate” to the law’s intent because “the safest way to sell sex is for a prostitute to work indoors in a location under her control.”
The court has given the government one year to rewrite the law.
The court upheld the ban on solicitation because it believed that concerns about the nuisance created by street prostitution are real.
“While street prostitution poses real and grave dangers to the prostitutes themselves, it also has a profound impact on the members of the surrounding community,” the five-justice panel wrote.
They conceded that the law prevents some prostitutes from speaking openly with potential customers during negotiations so they can screen out dangerous clients. But they reasoned that by making indoor prostitution legal, outdoor prostitutes would be able to move into homes or brothels.
The federal government has announced that it plans to appeal the ruling that strikes down Canada’s ban on brothels.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Wednesday 25 April “a binding, national decision is needed on the constitutionality” of the Criminal Code sections pertaining to bawdy houses, as well as the ban on living on the avails of prostitution.
The court also said that the law against living off the avails of prostitution should be rewritten so that it applies only “in circumstances of exploitation.”
“It is our position that the Criminal Code provisions are constitutionally sound. It is important to clarify the constitutionality of the law and remove the uncertainty this decision has created,” Nicholson said in a statement.
“The Criminal Code provisions denounce and deter the most harmful and public aspects of prostitution.”
The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) has also declared itself in opposition.
“While this is being touted as a success that will make prostitution safer,” says Andrea Mrozek, IMFC Manager of Research and Communications, “international evidence exposes this myth. It also belies the realities facing the vast majority of prostitutes in Ontario today.
“A high percentage of prostitutes have drug and sexual abuse in their pasts. Many are coerced into prostitution as minors. Prostitution is inherently dangerous and the legal changes that are currently being made in Ontario will not change that.
Ontario should follow the Swedish model, particularly when contrasted with the Netherlands.
Sweden criminalizes the buyer, understanding that an abuse of power is at play when largely male clients are able to buy their largely female human “merchandise.” Sweden has seen a reduction in the number of prostitutes as well as the accompanying social ills, like human trafficking, drug use and organized crime.
On the other hand, when the Netherlands legalized prostitution, new criminal activity arose. Amsterdam’s former mayor Job Cohen reported: “We’ve realized that this is no longer about small scale entrepreneurs, but that big crime organizations are involved here in trafficking women, drugs, killings and other criminal activities.”
“There is room to improve and change Ontario’s prostitution laws,” says Ms Mrozek of IMFC. “How we do so should emphasize the inherent dangers of prostitution and provide plenty of exit strategies. Above all, the law should not in any way, shape or form allow men to buy women’s bodies. There will be no equality in Ontario so long as we sanction that.”
I’ve offered the above, as an introduction to a subject that prompts opinions intensely expressed. Perhaps readers of Humanist Perspectives may want to weigh in.
With files from CTVNews
—Carl Dow