New approach needed

The government is seeking input to the kind of legislation we want regarding prostitution in our country

Our federal government is holding an on-line consultation with the Canadian public seeking input to the kind of legislation we want regarding prostitution in our country. This follows the recent verdict by the Supreme Court of Canada striking down the laws on the selling and buying of sexual services and giving the government one year to come up with revised legislation.

The government site for public consultation on prostitution-related offences in Canada is at

Everyone agrees that harm should be minimized for the women engaged in such a risky profession. But the means to accomplish this are varied. Should “the oldest profession in the world” be fully legalized, should it be prohibited or are there any solutions in between?

It may be useful to look at the results from different models of legislation in some European countries. Holland, in 2000, and Germany, in 2002, fully legalized prostitution with the result that today Germany has become the “prostitution capital of the world” with more than 200,000 prostitutes and 3,000 brothels. The police force is overwhelmed in their duty to protect the sex workers. The situation in Holland is similar. The idea behind legalization was to have prostitutes unionized and the brothels regulated, taxed and inspected.

Much of the profession, however, operates outside the regulations. The famous red light district in Amsterdam has become a haven for money laundering and drug trafficking. Sex tourism and trafficking have dramatically increased as well as the demand for cheaper sex. Both countries are said to be revising their laws at this time.

Sweden and a few other European countries have adopted a different model where the law considers that prostitution in any form always degrades women and results in serious harm to women and society. Therefore, it should be marginalized rather than normalized.

This nordic model decreases the demand for sex by criminalizing the buyers of sex, not the women selling it. Police and social workers are there to protect and assist the women find other work. Indeed, poverty, lack of education and skills as well as drug addiction have been found to be the main factors that lead to prostitution.

In Sweden, prostitution has been decreased by half, yet according to police, it has not gone underground.

The European Union is considering advising its member countries to adopt similar legislation.

The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) joins with many other Canadian women’s organizations, such as the Elizabeth Fry Societies, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, to support this nordic model which has reduced human trafficking and prostitution by cutting the demand for sex.

Nadine Poznanski,

CFUW Vernon chapter