For far too long, Canada's approach to prostitution has been to treat prostitution, and specifically the women involved in it, as a nuisance and not as a form of violence against women. This approach must change. We must shift our approach to recognize that women in prostitution have the right to dignity, equality and most of all, to be free from exploitation and violence.
Now that the government's hand has been forced, let's hope it will take the view of prostitution it should have all along: seeing and treating it as work. Work that can involve danger and nuisance, yes. Work that most of us would strongly prefer our grown children did not choose. But work just the same. And work that will take place whether the government bans it or not. As the Supreme Court's decision recognized, harsh criminal penalties aren't an acceptable way to address the harms of the sex trade because these penalties just force prostitution underground, making life unconscionably dangerous for sex-workers.
This week the Supreme Court of Canada will hear a landmark appeal in the case of Terri Jean Bedford that challenges the constitutional validity of the sexual solicitation and bawdy house laws. The court will also consider whether the criminal offence of living on the avails of prostitution should be limited to situations of exploitative conduct.