I thought someone would have posted about this earlier today, but I can't find a post in the search! (If I missed it, please tell me and I'll delete this.) Canada did something GREAT TODAY, YOU GUISE! Despite having a disgustingly barely-democratic Conservative government, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned three of Canada's prostitution laws!!!
This has been a long time coming, and has gone through several layers of courts. No one is expecting the Harper government to take this lying down, but in theory, if they don't replace it with new laws, in one year prostitution will be mostly decriminalized in Canada. WOW! Now, if you're a cynic like me, you know that they'll find a way to stop this from happening (or try), but this is still an amazing move.
The (very short) version of the story:
Prostitution is not illegal in Canada, because you cannot tell someone what they can and cannot do with their own body re: consensual sex. So, to criminalize prostitution, there are a bunch of laws that effectively make it very difficult (almost impossible) to be a sex worker legally. There are a lot of laws, but the biggest three are:
1) Living off the avails of prostitution (this is supposedly intended to criminalize pimping, but also criminalizes people who rent out rooms to sex workers, secretaries and booking agents, security, drivers, etc. It also criminalizes living with a sex worker as a roommate or partner, as there is a reverse onus needed to prove that their income does not somehow pay for your groceries and bills).
2) Soliciting (for public nuisance reasons SUPPOSEDLY, you can't discuss sex for money in public, but the real effect is that street sex workers cannot safely screen clients in public and have to quickly jump into the car/walk down the alley before a cop sees them, leading to really dangerous situations).
3) Operating or working in a 'common bawdy-house', i.e. a brothel type arrangement (also for public nuisance reasons, but the result is that more than one sex worker can't use the same apartment/house, making it difficult to work together for financial and safety reasons).
In the Bedford v Canada case, Justice Himel ruled in 2010 that these laws are unconstitutional. A lot of the attention around these laws has focused on Robert Pickton, a stain of humanity who killed between six and forty-five women, mostly sex workers, in Vancouver. The unsafe working conditions for those women has been attributed to the three laws I mentioned above, and the courts have been ruling that Canada's icky feelings about prostitution do not justify putting sex workers in mortal danger. This has been appealed, and appealed, and appealed, and has reached the final level of appeal, and the SCC agreed with Himel!! The decision has been suspended for one year so that the Harper government can attempt to replace it with something more constitutional. I am terrified of what they try next. But this is a huge victory for sex workers' rights, the safety of sex workers, and women's agency in general in Canada.
Places where you can read more about this (but beware, there are plenty of stomach-turning quotes from Evangelical Christians, as if they are qualified to be the "other side" of this story):