A Step in the Right Direction – Bill C36 passes third reading

This week, Bill C36, the amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code on prostitution-related offenses, passed third reading in the Senate and requires royal assent to become law. It is likely that Bill C36 will become law by December, given the one-year deadline that was imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada when it struck down the three prostitution-related provisions of: a) Keeping a common bawdy-house; b) Living wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution of another person; c) Communicating in a public place for the purpose of engaging in prostitution.

There is some controversy as to whether the revised prostitution-related law will be subject to another constitutional challenge. Recently Benjamin Perrin made a contribution in the Globe and Mail stating that whether Bill C36 is constitutional depends on “how effectively it is implemented and when a case is brought forward.” (Click here for article) Although Perrin brings up a few valid points in his contribution to the Globe and Mail, whether a law is constitutional depends not on how well it is implemented and the cases brought forward using the law in question, but on whether the law violates specific rights and freedoms that are outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the three aforementioned prostitution-related provisions because they viewed them to have arbitrary, overbroad and/or grossly disproportionate deprivations to the specific right to security. The implementation of the new law and further research on how it impacts the multifaceted nature of prostitution will provide good information to law enforcement, government, academia and the general public interested in the issue. Moreover, the data gathered from monitoring the implementation of the new law and cases brought forward could potentially serve as evidence to either side of a future constitutional challenge. But whether the new law is constitutional hinges on whether sex worker advocates (or others) are able to make a case that the new law (or components of the new law) violates specific rights and freedoms outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedom. If a convincing case can be made for a constitutional challenge, then the courts could very well hear a challenge of the revised prostitution-related law, regardless of how well the law is being implemented and what cases involving the law in question are brought forward.

But at the end of the day, it is safe to say that both sides agree that prostitutes should not be criminalized for selling sex, regardless of the reasons why they do so. Moreover, it may also be safe to say that violence and exploitative circumstances prostitutes face mostly stem from the demand side of the sex trade. As such, Bill C36 is a step in the right direction as it decriminalizes those who prostitute and criminalizes the purchasers of sex. The Government of Canada has also committed $20 Million to be put towards initiatives and programs that facilitate those who desire to exit sex trade, thereby allowing vulnerable individuals a viable alternative to the violence and exploitation they may face in the sex trade.

Proposed legislation in Canada on the issue of prostitution – Bill C36

Prostitution is the practice of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment. In Canada, prostitution is not illegal. However, there are activities related to the sex trade that are offenses under the Criminal Code of Canada. Such activities include:

  • Keeping a common bawdy-house (also known as a brothel) (Section 210)
  • Knowingly transporting another person to a common bawdy-house (Section 211)
  • Procuring and living on the avails of prostitution (Section 212)
  • Communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution (Section 213)

In 2009, Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott (sex trade workers in Canada) undertook the issue of arguing that Canada’s laws regarding prostitution-related activities were unconstitutional. Alan Young, professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School, represented the sex trade workers in court, and specifically made the case that the following sections of the Criminal Code of Canada violated sex workers constitutional right to freedom and security:

  • Keeping a common bawdy-house (Section 210)
  • Living on the avails of prostitution (Section 212(1)(c))
  • Communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution (Section 213(1)(c))

In September 2010, Justice Susan Himel issued her decision to strike down Sections 210, 212(1)(c) and 213(1)(c). The Attorney General of Canada and Attorney General of Ontario appealed the decision. The appeals court upheld the ruling of Justice Himel on Sections 210 and 212(1)(c), however disagreed with her ruling on Section 213(1)(c). The case was eventually brought to the highest court in Canada to be heard. In Dec 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada found all three sections (Section 210, 212(1)(c) and 213(1)(c)) of the Criminal Code to be unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court gave the Canadian Government 1 year to create a legislative response (create new law(s)) in line with the ruling). In March 2014, the Department of Justice issued a public consultation on prostitution-related offences in Canada with the intent of creating new legislation that would accommodate views held by Canadians. From this public consultation Bill C-36 was introduced in Parliament on June 4, 2014. Bill C-36 is currently in the second reading stage.

The objective of Bill C-36 is to reduce the demand for prostitution by discouraging the entry into prostitution and deterring participation in prostitution, with the ultimate endpoint of abolishing it so that the harms of the practice no longer exist. Bill C-36 views prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation that negatively impacts women and girls, and therefore criminalizes those who purchase sex, while protecting those who sell sex.

Bill C-36 proposes to criminalize:

  1. The purchase of sexual services for consideration or communicating in any place for the purpose of purchasing sexual services
  2. Advertising the sale of sexual services in print media or advertisement on websites
  3. The receipt of financial and/or material benefit from the prostitution of others in exploitative circumstances (which includes exploitative participation in business activities involving prostitution where third parties profit). Exploitative circumstances would include the use of threats, violence, intimidation, coercion, abuse of trust, power or authority, and the provision of intoxicating substances
  4. The purchase of sexual services, but not the sale of sexual services. Those who sell their own sexual services will be treated as victims who need support and assistance
  5. The procurement of sexual services, where procurement constitutes persuading or causing a person to offer sexual services; to recruit, hold, conceal, or harbour a person to offer sexual services; and to exercise control, direct or influence the movement of a person for the purpose of facilitating the purchase of sexual services
  6. Communicating for the purposes of selling sexual services in public places, or in any place open to public view, that is or is next to a place were persons under the age of 18 are reasonable expected to be present and therefore could be exposed to the correspondence.

The proposed bill ultimately provides focus to law enforcement to direct attention to purchasers of sexual services, as well as on third parties who exploit individuals to sell sexual services. As such, Bill C-36 does not prevent those who choose to sell sex from doing so in fixed indoor locations, or hiring bodyguards or drivers, who may enhance their safety.

Such proposed legislation to criminalize the demand-side of prostitution is not unique to Canada, as many other countries currently have such legislation in place, i.e. Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Ireland and France.

Further information regarding Bill C-36 can be found by accessing the following links:



Thinking outside the box

Thinking Outside The Box Concept

Once popular in the 1950s for restaurants and movie theaters, drive-ins are relatively few nowadays. However, who would have thought that this concept has gained some ground when it comes to prostitution.

The so-called ‘sex-huts’, ‘performance boxes’, or ‘prostitution boxes’ made their debut in the cities of Dortmund and Cologne, Germany, in 2001. In 2011 another set of boxes were installed in Bonn, Germany. These boxes had the intention of increasing safety for prostitutes by curtailing physical violence that may occur during an encounter with a client, as on-site medical and social services are present to aide prostitutes. However, Eastern European criminal gangs infiltrated the operation of the boxes and forced their closure in Dortmund and Cologne in 2007.

Safety of prostitutes was not the only reason for the creation of these boxes. The social impact prostitution has in city neighbourhoods also led to their establishment. The appeal of prostitution boxes to city residents was that they were to be built away from city centers and residential neighbourhoods. Such is the case for Zurich, Switzerland, the most recent European city to experiment with these boxes. In Zurich, the boxes have been constructed away from the city center in an effort to reduce street prostitution, protect prostitutes, and reduce organized crime.

Should we not be ‘thinking outside the box’ when trying to help those who are sexually exploited and victims of sexual violence? How does isolating these individuals who have fallen victim to sexual oppression to remote areas and giving them boxes to ‘work’ out of preserve their dignity? The societal excuses of we will never get rid of prostitution so just have the government regulate it or let them do what they want so long as it is between consenting adults and has no effect on my life, does not give a sustainable solution to empowering sexually exploited individuals in believing that they can be free from their oppressive environment.

Therefore, providing viable recovery, housing and educational programs for those who want to break free from the cycle of sexual oppression, as well as creating educational and awareness initiatives for all ages to come to an understanding of what equality is, will enable all to help empower those who are powerless against their circumstance of sexual exploitation and oppression.

The degradation of women in pornography


In Hedges book, Empire of Illusion, he writes about the Illusion of Love. He specifically targets the pornography industry in the United States by exposing how insidious, degrading and violent pornography is and continues to be.

The 1980s set the stage for a new way for men to dominate women – the pornographic art form of anal sex. This only led to a downward spiral of increased physical violence and degradation towards women in pornographic films.

Robert Jensen who wrote, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, states that, “Increasingly, women in pornography are not people having sex but bodies upon which sexual activities of increasing cruelty are played out. And many men – maybe a majority of men – like it.”

Although the women in the pornography industry are portrayed as celebrities and stars, they are nothing but a mockery to those who produce, film, direct, watch, and support porn. Many women in the pornography industry are prostitutes and can only succumb to the physical, psychological and violent degradation on camera with the aid of drugs and/or alcohol.

Pornography has and will continue to become increasingly violent towards women as the division between torture and eroticism blurs. As the resentment and anger in society continues to build up for lost and broken relationships, a thirst for self-righteous justice and vindication increases. Pornography fills the initial lust for retribution and at the same time evokes a sense of erotic gratification, since women in pornographic videos are expected to act as if they “like” the degradation that is happening to them.

In his book, Hedges draws a parallel between pornography and the use of sexual humiliation as an interrogation tactic. He specifically refers to the degrading images of prisoners held in Abu Ghraib. The exercise of control by US military personnel (men and women) towards the Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib reflects the ultimate degradation of human life. Moreover, it reflects a society that is becoming increasingly complacent and calloused to oppression through sexual perversions and practices.

Although it is debatable as to whether viewers of pornography actively seek out prostitutes to enact the “glorified” acts porn stars are subjected to endure. What is apparent is these acts of degradation and sexual violence against women already occur behind closed doors, and will only increase with legalized prostitution. Therefore, how does decriminalizing the operation of a common bawdy house in Canada increase the safety of prostitutes?

William Margold, an ex-porn star has been attributed to saying, “My whole reason for being in the industry is to satisfy the desire of the men in the world who basically don’t much care for women…we come on a woman’s face or some what brutalize her sexually: We’re getting even for their lost dreams. I believe this. I’ve heard audiences cheer me when I do something foul onscreen. When I’ve strangled a person or sodomized a person or brutalized a person, the audience is cheering my action, and then when I’ve fulfilled my warped desire, the audience applauds.” If Margold is admitting, point blank, that pornography is a form of degradation and oppression against women, why would we allow this industry to thrive by promoting the decriminalization or legalization of prostitution?

The hearing on the prostitution laws

Gearing up for the Supreme Court of Canada hearing on the prostitution laws

The Supreme Court of Canada is set to hear an appeal to the Constitutional Challenge of Canada’s prostitution laws on June 13. As the fury around the case increases, various individuals have decided which position they will defend/support as the hearing proceeds.


What is at stake?

The Supreme Court of Canada is considering whether specific provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada violate the rights and freedoms outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. The provisions in question prohibit:

a)     The operation of a common bawdy house

b)    Individuals (besides the prostitute) living off of (wholly or in part) the earnings of prostitution

c)     Transportation of anyone to a bawdy house

d)    Public solicitation for the purposes of sex


What are the positions individuals are defending/supporting?

The positions individuals invariably find themselves associating with can be divided into four general categories:

a)     Prostitution is a voluntary career choice – The above mentioned provisions prevent prostitutes from safely conducting their sex service business ventures.

b)    Prostitution is not a voluntary choice – Although the above mentioned provisions in the Criminal Code are not perfect, eliminating them will increase the victimization and enslavement of young women. Prostitution is a result of control, deception and enslavement of individuals who have no choice but to comply.

c)     Prostitution is brought about by adverse circumstances and a patriarchal social system that continues to promote and support the objectification of women. Equality cannot be attained in a society that continues to allow individuals to be purchased for sexual services.

d)    Prostitution is the “world’s oldest profession”; so long as the prostitutes and johns are not “in my face” then just decriminalize it or legalize it.


The bigger picture

We support the position that there are a number of underlying core issues that bring about prostitution. The current laws that are in place are not perfect. However, prostitution laws aside, when individuals bring forth Constitutional Challenges to the Courts, they are specifically bypassing our rights as citizens in this democratic country. Lawyers and judges do not create laws.

In collaboration with the people, laws are created by Members of Parliament. These Members of Parliament are representatives elected by the people. Public discourse and support are sought for specific bills by Members of Parliament and these representatives present specific bills in Parliament. The bills are then debated and voted on. It is only when the majority of elected representatives support a given bill that it will become a law.

When individuals bypass the democratic process and go directly to the Courts, they make a mockery out of democracy. No longer are we governed by the people, we are governed by the few. Governed by unelected judges that relish at the opportunity to dictate due process to the government and the people.

Even more alarming are the overwhelming majority of people who are complacent and willing to hand over control to the few. Is it not time to open your eyes and renew your minds? Or will you continue to support the illusion and spectacle of society that operates under false pretenses of freedom and democracy?

Retribution versus repentance

On December 16, 2012, two friends just finished watching a film in the Munirka area of Delhi. As they were exchanging their views and perspectives on the film they boarded a privately operated bus heading towards the southwest quadrant of the city.

Whether it was a blow from a fist or a blunt object, the bus instantaneously wreaked of danger and the two friends knew they needed to fight their way off. Surrounded by a group of men, the two were repeatedly beaten. As the young man was repeatedly attacked, he probably tried not only to remain conscious, but also to protect his female friend.

However, in his battered state, most likely weaving in and out of consciousness, his friend was attacked and beaten down. Her clothes ripped off, her body thrown on the floor of the bus like a bloody rag doll, as each attacker took turns repeatedly forcing blunt objects and male appendages into her.

The driver continued on his route as her body was subjected to repeated violence and violation and as her male friend was battered into a lifeless state of submission. After an hour of brutality, the two friends were thrown out of the bus and left on the road for dead. A passerby found the two and called for help.

The next day several headlines across India condemned the violence and gang rape. News media nationally and internationally began to publish statistics on rape violence labeling Delhi as the ‘rape capital’ of India, where anywhere from 582 to 630 cases of rape have been reported in Delhi in 2012.

Women play a prominent role in Parliament, business, and sports in India, yet the disparity between the portrayal of women as leaders and the genuine respect of women is startling.

According to BBC Delhi correspondent Soutik Biswas, more than 24,000 rape cases were reported in India in 2011, where 54.7% of victims were between the ages of 18 – 30. What is shocking is that the victims in more than 94% of the cases knew their offenders.

Public protests demanding justice and an end to violence against women erupted in many cities across India as news of the brutal violation of the female victim spread. On Dec 29, 2012, it was made known to the international community that the young woman who was violently beaten passed away from the injuries inflicted upon her.

India’s Home Affairs minister publicly decried that he was “heartbroken” by her death. He also committed to “take whatever steps are needed to ensure that her killers get the harshest punishment in the quickest of time.”

The Navbharat Times published: We need to repent. And repentance would not be in hanging the accused or castrating them. Repentance will be in ensuring that no one else goes through what she had to.

On a personal level, repentance is a radical shift in one’s way of life. On a societal level, repentance is a paradigm shift in societal views. A paradigm shift can only start with a movement, a movement of individuals who are willing to go against the status quo and head towards the goal of human sustainability. As individuals, we need to condemn the violence and oppression against women and children. We need to empower men to speak out against the atrocities of sexual exploitation, to fight against the objectification of women, and to work together to restore the sustaining concept of love into words, actions, and relationships.

In an era where human trafficking for sexual exploitation is one of the top three illegal industries in the world, the death of the young Delhi woman serves as a reminder of how desensitized we have become to sex. Sex has been ‘glamorized’ and promoted to the point where its provision is no longer humanistic, but materialistic. Whether it be through promoting “benign touching” at strip clubs (Tim Lambrinos, Adult Entertainment Association of Canada), sensationalizing lustful fantasies through pornography, ignoring the marginalization and oppression of prostituted women, or disregarding the impact and consequences of sexual violence and exploitation – the ‘glamorization’ of sex has transformed it into an act that is equivalent to putting a gas nozzle in a car. Two inanimate objects come together, pay for the transaction, leave. If one of the objects is damaged, discard and move on to another. This state of apathy towards sex marketing has been successful in encouraging indifference in individuals. This indifference, in turn, has led to a large proportion of people who are not interested in advocating for justice and freedom for the sexually oppressed and exploited.

Seeking swift retribution for the death of the young Delhi woman is very different than seeking repentance. We need to start building the foundation to ensure that sexual violence and oppression against women and children will not be tolerated. This starts with supporting recovery programs for those who wish to exit the sex trade industry. We must advocate for the decriminalization of women in the sex trade, and the criminalization of those who purchase sexual acts. We must raise awareness and educate all individuals about gender equality and that the purchase of sex is a form of sexual exploitation and oppression against women, children and men. We must exercise our democratic right by ensuring government officials enact policies and practices that ensure that sexual exploitation and oppression against women, children and men are eliminated.

Swift retribution serves as a bandage solution to events that evoke public outcry. But, a commitment towards the road of repentance will provide a long-term solution that will ensure an end to sexual exploitation and oppression against women, children, and men.