The majority of Canadians thinks purchasing sexual services should be illegal, but selling them should not be a criminal offence, according to a new government report.
More than 31,000 people responded to an online survey conducted by the Department of Justice to gauge the public’s attitude towards prostitution in the wake of last December’s Supreme Court ruling that struck down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws and gave Parliament one year to come up with new legislation.
Survey results show that most people favoured punishing those who solicited or profited from prostitution rather than prostitutes themselves.
About two-thirds, or 66 per cent, of respondents said selling sexual services should not be a criminal offence. Meanwhile, 56 per cent of respondents said that purchasing sexual services should be illegal.
The majority also agreed that profiting from the prostitution of an adult should be a crime, though the survey noted that many of the 62 per cent in agreement thought “those who provide sexual services should be able to hire bodyguards and drivers, but that exploitive relationships (e.g. pimps) should be illegal.”
The survey also indicated what limitations people would like to see on the sale of sexual services. Many responded with concerns about health inspections of brothels and medical testing for those providing services. Others mentioned that they didn’t want prostitution taking place in residential areas, or that they wanted activities confined to brothels.
The consultation, launched in February, came in response to a December Supreme Court ruling that declared three of Canada’s prostitution provisions unconstitutional: keeping or being found in a bawdy house; living on the avails of prostitution; and communicating in public for the purpose of prostitution.
While prostitution itself is legal in Canada, the prohibition of most activities related to sex work creates an unsafe environment for sex workers, the Supreme Court ruled.
In striking down the provisions, the court gave the government one year for a legislative response before the ruling came into effect.
On its way to establishing the laws Canada will follow in the future, the government also provided background information for models used in other parts of the world.
The “decriminalization/legalization” model used in countries like the Netherlands tries to reduce the harm caused by prostitution by legalizing and regulating the practice. At the other end of the spectrum is the “prohibition” model used in most of the U.S., which prohibits all purchasing and selling of sexual services.
The third option – which seems most in line with the Canadian views expressed in the survey – is called the “abolition” or “Nordic” model, and is used in countries like Sweden and Norway. This system seeks to abolish prostitution by punishing those who use and exploit sex workers, but decriminalizes prostitution and assists the victims of sexual exploitation through programs.
You can view the results of the survey here: http://www.ctvnews.ca/polopoly_fs/1....pFile/file.pdf