IN HARMS WAY - PART 10
IN HARMS WAY - PART 10
The article posted below appeared in the National Post. I agree with their analysis. Although I am hesitant over full legalization. I think we need to de-criminalize and as the POST points out, allow cities to grapple with the zoning issues. I believe, like Safe Injection sites, we can allow ourselves some wiggle room in case, our harm reduction policy doesn't work out. We must move ahead though with de-crim otherwise we are continuing to put women & men and our vulnerable youth in harms way--Jamie Lee
Saturday, March 4, 2006
There are defensible grounds on which to oppose the full legalization of prostitution. But the ones offered by federal Justice Minister Vic Toews this week do not fit the bill.
Responding to an all-party parliamentary committee's anticipated recommendation that Canada decriminalize solicitation and bawdy houses, Mr. Toews claimed that doing so would put more women and young girls at risk. "I don't particularly think that legalization is helpful, other than strengthening the hands of organizing crime," he told a reporter.
On the contrary, the best reason to decriminalize solicitation is that it would serve to protect the women drawn into prostitution -- in some cases saving lives.
At present, prostitutes are forced underground by the illegality of their trade. This is especially true for those working the streets -- typically more downtrodden than those working for escort agencies -- who are targeted by police for openly breaking our solicitation laws.
Prostitutes avoid reporting serious crimes committed against them to the police for fear of being prosecuted themselves. This makes them easy prey for predators looking for vulnerable targets whose absences are less likely to be noticed or investigated -- as evidenced by the serial killings of prostitutes in both British Columbia and Alberta in recent years.
Were prostitution fully legalized, the women practicing it would no longer have as much hesitation about reporting crimes against them. With no penalty for solicitation, those on the street would also be less inclined to leave themselves open to violence by leaping into cars without pausing to assess the risks.
As with ending other prohibitions, legalizing prostitution would actually lower organized crime's hold on it. No longer would women be forced to rely on criminals -- notably pimps -- to provide them with protection. And with women no longer living in fear of the law, criminal networks would find it considerably more difficult to harass, intimidate and exploit them.
Moreover, once legalized, prostitution could be regulated both to curb the spread of HIV and other diseases with regular health checks, and to crack down on the exploitation of underage prostitutes.
This is not to say that Canada should repeal its anti-prostitution laws without a second thought. It is perfectly valid for communities to have qualms about allowing prostitutes to freely prowl their streets looking for customers. But this could easily be solved by amending federal laws such that individual municipalities were empowered to decide for themselves whether or not to permit it, and to enact zoning laws to guide it as they saw fit.
What Ottawa should not do is dismiss changes to the prostitution laws out of hand -- especially when it is doing so on the wrong grounds.
© National Post 2006