What are your views on prostitution? What a loaded question! Most people don’t know where to start. The many different views of prostitution across Canada are compiled in a Government of Canada report entitled: The Challenge of Change: A Study of Canada’s Criminal Prostitution Laws, 2006. Here we highlight and address some of the major points of view conveyed in the report.
Silhouetted against the evening sunset, a feminine figure dressed in provocative clothing attracts lustful glances while waiting on a street corner. The stereotypical street prostitute – surprisingly, they only account for a small percentage of prostitutes (5-20%) in Canada. The rest are “hidden” in escort agencies, massage parlors, strip clubs, or operating from apartments, condos, and homes in different communities.
Street prostitutes are often the most vulnerable, not only in terms of facing various hardships such as poverty, homelessness, and addictions, but they are also the ones most likely to be criminalized. This is due to their lifestyle and that they are visible to law enforcement officials. These known facts prompt individuals to advocate for decriminalizing the operation of bawdy houses. They make the case that bringing prostitution indoors is safer since they can hire security personnel and screen clients.
Hear no harm + See no harm = Safe? Does not the majority of domestic violence and rape occur indoors? Will consumers concerned about their own anonymity and who are eager for sex disclose information truthfully to a bawdy house manager? Would an establishment attract customers if they knew they were being recorded on closed circuit TV or watched by a “security guard”? To our knowledge, there is no research in Canada that suggests indoor prostitution is safer and this is reinforced by what is conveyed in The Challenge of Change: A Study of Canada’s Criminal Prostitution Laws.
The Challenge of Change: A Study of Canada’s Criminal Prostitution Laws specifically makes the case that it is focusing on adult prostitution. Yet it reports that prostitutes’ first experience with selling sex is between 14 – 18 years of age in Canada. Aside from age what is the difference between a child prostitute versus an adult prostitute? All life is valuable. Dividing prostitution based on age only serves to confuse the issue of prostitution with the concepts of consent and free will.
Not surprisingly, the majority of the subcommittee that formulated The Challenge of Change: A Study of Canada’s Criminal Prostitution Laws report supported the view that “sexual activities between consenting adults that do not harm others (whether or not payment is involved) should not be prohibited”. They consider prostitutes, 18 years or older, consenting adults. Adult prostitutes know the ramifications and consequences of their actions, they have free will, they chose to sell their bodies as merchandise and it should be allowed so long as they do not harm others.
Regrettably, they do not understand what human sustainability is. Human sustainability is not placing more value on one life versus another. All life is valuable – not just our own but others as well.
- If individuals entered prostitution underage and continue to sell sex into adulthood, is their consent predicated on free will?
- If an individual is destitute or addicted and desperate for money, is their consent predicated on free will?
- There are many research studies citing that anywhere from 89-95% of prostitutes urgently want to escape from prostitution. If this is the case, how can we possibly view prostitution as just a mere exchange of sexual services between consenting adults?
- Is consent predicated on free will the same as giving in?
- If prostitutes have expressed a desire to escape from their plight how can we deny their plea for help?
- Now that you know that one of the ‘consenting’ adults wants desperately to escape from prostitution can you still turn away?
Prostitution is degrading and dehumanizing. This degradation and dehumanization transcends age, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, etc… The greatest gift we can give individuals who have fallen victim to prostitution is their freedom. To do so is to break down the stigma of prostitution, cast aside the notions that continue to fuel the stigma, and begin to see prostitution in a different light.