There is no consensus from Canadians on how prostitution should be legislated and that is a problem.
In a recent federal consultation conducted online, more than 31,000 people responded and 56 per cent of those individuals said paying a prostitute should be considered a criminal offence.
Sixty-six per cent said that selling sex shouldn’t be a crime, and 62 per cent said benefiting economically from prostitution should be.
The consultation is part of a larger process the federal government is undergoing to come up with new legislation surrounding prostitution and the sex trade in light of a Supreme Court decision made in December.
That decision struck down several Criminal Code sections respecting public solicitation, the prohibition of brothels and living on the avails of prostitution, all of which were deemed as “grossly disproportionate” in the ruling.
“It is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in a unanimous decision. “Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes.”
Therein lies the issue. While the federal government consults on future legislation on prostitution — including online surveys such as this inconclusive one — the health and wellbeing of prostitutes are up in the air.
The government’s interest in this matter should be fairly clear. The focus should be placed on the safety of sex workers involved in the trade by choice, and in offering those who became involved against their own wishes the opportunity to exit it.
It should punish pimps and offer alternatives to prostitutes.
It should prosecute the individuals who force people — women, in particular — into the sex trade against their will.
Beyond that, as Pierre Trudeau once famously stated, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.