In December of 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down some of Canada’s prostitution laws, and gave Parliament one year to respond by either re-writing these laws, or not. What will prostitution laws look like in the future?
The act of selling sex for money is not a crime in Canada. The criminal law has instead made it a criminal offence to communicate for prostitution in public; to ‘live off the avails’ of prostitution; or to operate a ‘bawdy house’. These laws have now been struck down. While it is too soon to know how the Government of Canada will respond, there are a few possible options.
If Parliament chooses to do nothing, by not re writing any of these laws, then the business of prostitution will be legal and not regulated in terms of where this business may be conducted. This means that ‘brothels’ may start showing up in residential, business and industrial neighbourhoods; street prostitution may become more out-in-the open, etc.
If the new laws are focused on creating safe places, aimed at reducing the risks and dangers associated with prostitution, then Canadian cities may start to see the development of areas such as ‘red light’ districts, where brothels are legal and regulated, and taxed, like any other legitimate business.
Another possibility is for the new laws to focus criminal attention on the ‘johns’ and pimps, and not the prostitutes. Through this type of approach, we may see programs aimed at encouraging prostitutes to safely exit the sex trade; public awareness campaigns aimed at focusing attention on the ‘purchasers’; and education campaigns aimed at shining a light on the realities of human trafficking.
In the meantime, the old prostitution laws are still in place, with uncertainty as how police departments and Prosecutors offices will respond to the Supreme Court decision.