Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Use your words, again

The government of Canada is in the process of developing new laws surrounding prostitution.  The Supreme Court recently declared the laws that criminalized many activities surrounding prostitution unconstitutional and the government has one year to come up with new laws.  Obviously there are a plethora of laws preventing trafficking, underage prostitution, and other issues where consent isn't given and those remain in force.  You can follow this link to submit feedback to the government on what the new laws, if any, should look like.

The most critical point to keep in mind is that this is not about brothels operating in your backyard.  Municipalities will still have the power to regulate businesses and the police will still have the authority to arrest people who are actually doing things that negatively affect others.  What this is about is whether or not the government should spend enormous sums of money to try to destroy the lives of people who engage in voluntary business transactions that harm no one.

Imprisoning a criminal offender costs approximately $70,000 a year.  Doing so wrecks a sex worker's chances of getting out of sex work by making it harder to get a job in a different sector, destroys their relationships, and prevents that money from being used for something else.  That money could be used to fund women's shelters, food banks, or just to lower taxes.  That amount isn't even accounting for trials, prosecution, and the cost of having police harass and chase down sex workers.

Even if all of that were free there is no question that putting these people in jail doesn't help sex workers and it doesn't stop sex work so it has no purpose.  It also drastically increases the danger sex workers face because they are inherently and rightly terrified of the police instead of having the police as an ally against people who actually need jailing - those who inflict violence on others.  Laws can protect people but bad laws that criminalize normal behaviour can strip away the protection people would otherwise have.

The criminal code should have exactly the same thing to say about sex work as it does about handshakes, hugs, and high fives.  That is to say, absolutely nothing.  The marketplace of ideas and local zoning are all that is needed.  Use your words and tell the Canadian government to stop this morally indefensible and fiscally absurd persecution of people who are already marginalized.  If we want to help people we should extend a hand to assist them up not a fist to smash them back down.

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