Canada: MP Issues Report Calling for Reform of Prostitution Laws
Thursday, March 20, 2014 10:20 AM

A Canadian Member of Parliament (MP) has released a report calling on Canada to reform its prostitution laws to protect women from violence and promote gender equality. MP Joy Smith released her report, The Tipping Point, in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling that anti-prostitution laws violate the fundamental rights of sex workers. Smith’s report catalogues the impact of Canada’s current approach to prostitution on women and girls, and urges Canada to follow the lead of Sweden, Iceland and Norway in combatting demand for commercial sex. This “Nordic Model” targets buyers rather than sellers of sex, provides support to women who want to exit prostitution, and recognizes that prostitution violates women’s human rights by exposing them to violence, humiliation, degradation, and disease.

The Nordic Model would be a significant departure from current Canadian law that focuses on prostitution as a public nuisance rather than as a form of violence against women. In Canada, the sale of sex is legal; however, the use of pimps and public solicitation is not.  According to Smith, the goal of current Canadian law is to get prostitution off the streets and out of the public view rather than to eliminate the sale of sex.  Smith’s report argues that Canada’s laws disproportionately punish women, including by imposing harsher penalties on women than on the few men who do get charged with prostitution related crimes. Legalizing prostitution would not fix these problems, according to Smith, because legalization only legitimizes violence and promotes the inequality of women. She notes that other countries such as Germany that have legalized prostitution have seen drastic increases in violence, human trafficking, sex-tourism and organized crime.

Compiled from: Smith, Joy, The Tipping Point: Tackling the Demand for Prostituted/Trafficked Women and Youth (Feb. 2014); Spalding, Derek, Punish the Clients, not the Prostitutes, says Tory MP Joy Smith, Ottawa Citizen (Feb. 13, 2014).