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legalizing sex in canada

June 13, 2013

A case on the constitutionality of criminal laws governing sex work, Bedford vs. Canada is set to be heard this Thursday, 13 June at the Supreme Court of Canada. Three sex workers — Valerie Scott, Terry-Jean Bedford, and Amy Lebovitch, filed the case. Consecutive federal government’s refusal to respond to the large volumes of evidence that these laws do more harm than they prevent was what directly resulted in the suit.


The science leaves no doubt: Canada and the world over criminalize sex work, as a result sex workers are not protected from violence, murder and predation. It has also led to their vulnerability to HIV as well as other health inequities among the sex workers. It is not illegal to buy and sell sex between consensual adults in Canada, however, criminal laws prohibit working together indoors, communicating in public spaces for sex work by clients, sex workers, or third parties, renting or owning an indoor place for sex work, and living off the trades of prostitution. 

When put together, much as the act of sex is not prohibited, these laws virtually make it impossible for a sex worker to work legally. The end result as seen from evidence is that sex workers are forced to work in hidden and isolated spaces, stigmatization crops up, and the laws also prevent access to basic health and support services for example social and legal protections.


Justice Susan Himel stroked down the challenged criminal laws on the basis of a large body of expert evidence that unveiled Canada’s hypocritical approach to protect some of its most marginalized citizens.


Justice Himel made the ruling for the Ontario Superior Court.

”By increasing the risk of harm to street prostitutes, the communicating law is simply too high a price to pay for the alleviation of social nuisance.”


As a result of the communicating law enforcement, sex workers are displaced to isolated cases and forced to rush their transactions for fear of being arrested. This limits their ability to screen their clients or to safely negotiate the terms of transaction and condom use.


A large number of women, most of whom were sex workers, have gone missing or been murdered in Vancouver. A number of them are said to be struggling with addictions and poverty, whereas there are those from vulnerable populations such as the aboriginal.



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