Dangerous Indignation

A stay has been granted to delay the introduction of changes to prostitution laws in Ontario, allowing the provincial and federal government time to prepare an appeal of the landmark verdict. Justice Susan Himel’s decision to strike down key components of anti-prostitution law would have come into effect recetly. There was a 30 day hold put on the actual deployment of the effect of the ruling, but this hold will now extend to April 29th, 2011..

I honestly never thought I would see this come to pass, and I still might not. Criminalization of prostitution has long been argued to be the biggest contributing factor to the danger and health risk associated with the trade. Critics have traditionally argued that prostitution supports other crime and threatens public health. Despite the fact that prostitution itself was not actually illegal, the criminalization of many of the activities surrounding prostitution was our courts’ sideways method of getting to the same end result. What the government is doing by forcing an appeal to prolong the court battle is to place the supposed moral indignation they have over prostitution itself over and above the importance of safety for sex workers and clients.

Until now, it was against the law to solicit a person for sex or operate a bawdy house. What this essentially meant was that prostitutes had to ply their trade on the streets, always wary of police patrols, frequently conducting business in back alleys or in the cars of the customers themselves. It hasn’t been uncommon for a prostitute to be robbed, beaten, raped or even killed. And, it’s not like a prostitute could pick up the phone, call the police and report that they had been robbed by a customer, given that they would be incriminating themselves in a crime as well.

Some will argue that prostitution is a victimless crime. I think it’s a little difficult to assert that without clearly and carefully defining the crime itself and what you mean by victim. Prostitution can be said to have victims, if you consider the wife of the man who buys sex to be victimized by his infidelity. Then again, if you try and make that case, you’d have to criminalize most bars and dance clubs, where the same guy would probably go to a dance club and pick someone up to do the same thing with, for free. Others make the more convoluted connection between the prostitute and their pimp and whatever other activities the pimp is involved in, and the proceeds of that crime contributing to others. Again, it’s a bit of a stretch. Just about any industry can be connected to criminal entreprise if you follow the money far enough.

The real issue with prostitution is, and should be, the health of those partaking in the trade and those working in it. In Nevada, prostitution is regulated and the only way to be able to work in a brothel is to submit to regular health screening. This is intended to keep the workers and their customers safe from disease, with the added benefit that disease isn’t spread outside that transaction to the families or partners of the clients. In fact, prostitution has been legal and regulated in Nevada and in other places around the world, like Amsterdam, for a very long time, and, the result has been a safer working environment for the prostitute and less health risk for the client.

The government argues that to allow these legal changes to occur will create an environment in Ontario that will attract a tsunami of sex workers from outside of the province. No doubt this will lead to crime and disease and moral decline and so on. I’m not entirely sure how a tsunami of vagina for rent will unavoidably lead to an inevitable decline of our civilization, nor do I understand how the government can argue that nobody can possibly know how changes to the criminality of prostitution will impact the province. Again, Nevada and Amsterdam as two examples have demonstrated that life does, indeed, go on.

What’s really at play here is the perpetual need or “moral” individuals to insist on deriding and dehumanizing people who work in the adult industry. The government feels compelled to argue against Justice Himel’s ruling because they feel that prostitution is wrong, and only because they feel it is wrong. The fact that the ruling was made in the spirit of improving public health and safety and the safety of sex workers is secondary to the moral ramification if we allow prostitutes to ply their trade openly.

The government would prefer that prostitutes get strangled, robbed, beaten or stabbed in some dark back alley far more than they would tolerate the same prostitute legitimately having sex in a proper bed for money.

We’re still ashamed of sex.

Any argument against prostitution ultimately comes down to a moral argument. If you try to argue against prostitution from any other angle, you find that it is more often the way in which we treat the industry socially and legally that creates the harm. And, for all those simpering morons out there who bitch and moan ineffectually about how they don’t want to live in a nanny state, where the government legislates what is proper and what isn’t, there seems to be very little problem letting them legislate this particular area on a moral basis. That includes all you asshats who think it’s wrong for the government to criminalize pot smoking, but have no problem saying prostitution should remain criminal.

In a statement about the prolongation of the stay on Justice Himel’s ruling, the government has stated that the current legislation on prostitution gives the authorities the proper and most effective tools to protect people from harm and reduce the many dangers that surround prostitution.

Oh, really?

I wonder if the two prostitutes stabbed and left for dead, publicly, these last couple years, would say the law protected them? Would health authorities say the spread of venereal disease and disease associated with peripheral drug abuse by prostitutes has been adequately slowed by existing legislation? How many violent assaults occur annually? How many rapes? Robberies?

The danger and harm associated with prostitution will not decrease until the act is taken out of the dark alleys and back seats and allowed to operate in the light of day and in the safety of houses. This isn’t a moral statement. I don’t know if I would ever pay for sex, and I don’t know if it’s right or wrong for someone to do so. My first feeling is that it isn’t, but I haven’t really given it any in-depth consideration. I simply know that the more covert something becomes, the more seedy, the more likely it is to involve an element of danger that something more overt does not.

Laws are supposed to protect us. Primarily, they are intended to protect the safety and security of person and property. That’s what laws were originally written for. By forcing the courts deeper into this battle, the government is doing their utmost to subvert the protection that the law is supposed to give us in order to satisfy their own moral agenda. They’ll never stop prostitution from being practiced, just as the existing legislation has never stopped the trade. To keep it unsafe for all for the sake of moral posturing is reckless.

I hope those fat, pompous asses in office think about that the next time they’re cavorting with an escort. Bunch of hypocrits.

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