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‘Criminalize purchase of sex’: Christian group calls Canadian government to end prostitution

“A change in law that criminalizes the purchase of sexual services will help reshape attitudes about prostitution,” said Don Hutchinson, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s (EFC) Vice-President.
Thu Dec 12, 2013 - 6:10 pm EST

OTTAWA, December 12, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Canada’s largest group of Evangelical Christians has proposed a way for the federal government to practically end prostitution, namely by following the Nordic model that makes it a crime to pay money to use a woman sexually.  

“A change in law that criminalizes the purchase of sexual services will help reshape attitudes about prostitution, making a stronger statement that in Canada we will not tolerate or condone sexual exploitation,” said Don Hutchinson, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s (EFC) Vice-President and General Legal Counsel. 

MP Joy Smith (Kildonan - St.Paul), a vocal advocate for the abolishment of human trafficking, commended the EFC for what she called its “in-depth research and proposals to reform prostitution in Canada”. 

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The EFC released a comprehensive report yesterday titled “Prostitution in Canada – Putting an End to Demand” that proposes a sweeping reform of prostitution laws. While the act of prostitution is not illegal in Canada, current laws govern the various acts that surround it, such prohibiting operation of a common bawdy-house, living on the avails of prostitution, and offering prostitution services in public. 

The EFC released the report as part of its efforts to “eliminat[e] all forms of sexual exploitation in Canada.” 

“Prostitution is dehumanizing. Like pornography, prostitution focuses only on the sexual dimension of human nature to the exclusion of all else, creating a distorted perspective of both men and women, and robbing each of their worth and proper place in society,” the report states. 

“Prostitution is inherently dangerous; it is violence against women and a form of systematic exploitation of many of our society’s most vulnerable children, women, and men. Prostitution cannot be considered a safe or legitimate form of work; nor is it a solution to poverty.” 

The EFC argues in the report that regulating prostitution is not an option. It has proved a failure in Europe and sends the “indefensible message” to citizens — whose moral sense is often formed by law — that selling one’s self for the sexual pleasure of another person is a “legitimate enterprise.”

Following the successful Nordic model, first enacted in Sweden in 1999, the EFC’s key recommendations to end prostitution include: 

• Criminalize the purchase and attempted purchase of sex
• Maintain prohibitions against profiting from sexual exploitation
• Amend laws to reflect the non-criminal nature of individuals who are being prostituted
• Invest in exit programs and support for prostituted persons
• Initiate a public awareness campaign to accompany such a change in the law. 

“We encourage the federal government to consider these recommendations for change in laws and policy for the betterment of prostituted persons and elimination of sexual exploitation in Canada,” the report states. 

Gunilla Ekberg, a Swedish-Canadian lawyer and former Swedish Minister of Industry, outlines the approach used by Swedish lawmakers a decade-and-a-half ago.

“In Sweden, it is understood that any society that claims to defend principles of legal, political, economic, and social equality for women and girls must reject the idea that women and children, mostly girls, are commodities that can be bought, sold, and sexually exploited by men,” she said, as quoted by the report. 

“To do otherwise is to allow that a separate class of female human beings, especially women and girls who are economically and racially marginalized, is excluded from these measures, as well as from the universal protection of human dignity enshrined in the body of international human rights instruments developed during the past 50 years.” 

A challenge to the Canada’s prostitution laws is currently before the Supreme Court. In Bedford v. Canada, three Toronto prostitutes, calling themselves “sex-trade workers” challenged the laws as unconstitutional. In 2010 an Ontario court struck down the prostitution laws ruling that the provisions violate women’s Charter rights to freedom of expression and security of the person. In 2012 an Ontario court of appeal upheld the ruling. The Conservative Federal government appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that “prostitution is harmful for society as it exploits Canada’s most vulnerable people, especially women.” 

The EFC stated that its recommendations are valid, no matter what the court rules. 

Smith hopes the government will act quickly on the EFC’s proposals. 

“As the EFC reports, legalizing prostitution is a direct attack on the fundamental rights and freedoms of women and vulnerable people. Now is the time to focus our laws on those who seek to exploit,” she said in a press release. 

Smith has created a petition to the House of Commons to have Parliament “amend the Criminal Code to decriminalize the selling of sexual services and criminalize the purchasing of sexual services and provide support to those who desire to leave prostitution.”


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