THE BLOG
04/02/2012 01:08 EDT | Updated 06/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Does Toronto Need a Red-Light District?

Clearly, Canada is behind the times when it comes to revised moral judgments. We aren't the Netherlands, where prostitution -- if not exactly respectable -- is accepted and confined to certain areas. If it works for Amsterdam, why not Toronto?

PA

If the Ontario government is smart, it'll not challenge the Ontario Court of Appeal's judgment to strike down laws against maintaining a bawdy house as unconstitutional, but that "exploiting" hookers or "communicating" is illegal.

Isn't that a bit like having your cake and eating it too?

What is "exploitation" in this context? Or "communicating?"

If prostitutes -- sex trade workers, for those who prefer a euphemism -- are now entitled to hire people to represent or protect them, is that not a form of "exploitation?"

What the Appeal Court did recognize is that prostitution, or selling sex, is a high-risk, dangerous occupation that can be (but usually isn't) very lucrative.

One of the more unwholesome realities of society is the "pimp" who feeds off those who sell or rent out their bodies. Pimps are usually depicted as low-lifes who control prostitutes and take the bulk of their sexual earnings.

Supposedly, they also are a form of protection for the women.

Anyway you view it, pimps are exploitive, which the Appeal Court says is illegal.

Making brothels legal may afford some protection or security for those in the business, but how does one differentiate them from being "exploitive?"

Just as prostitutes exploit the sexual lust of their clients, so do people who work in the bawdy house business "exploit" the industry, and "communicate" for their income. It's a tricky question which future courts will have to wrestle if the law stands.

Clearly, Canada is behind the times when it comes to revised moral judgments. We aren't the Netherlands, where prostitution -- if not exactly respectable -- is accepted and confined to certain areas. If it works for Amsterdam, why not Toronto?

The danger of prostitution to those who make a living from it cannot be dismissed. Everyone has a right to protection, and it's well-established that no one protects or safeguards prostitutes, except prostitutes themselves.

Pig farmer Robert Pickton in B.C. -- found guilty of murdering six prostitutes and deemed guilty of killing maybe 49 -- is a case in point. So was the Seattle Green River killer of 50 prostitutes, who may or may not have been caught, but who is believed to have since died because killings have ceased.

How about bawdy houses, which flourish in places like Nevada and are relatively well-managed, orderly, and free of violence? Some have suggested the CNE as a red light district -- away from residential neighborhoods, where delicate sensitivities prevail? That seems a unlikely, but raises the question -- where?

The anti-communicating aspects of the appeal court judgment seem to mitigate against bawdy house advertising. So how will legal brothels flourish without ads that "communicate" their service? Word of mouth is effective, but limited.

Residents of Rosedale aren't likely to welcome a neighborhood brothel, nor is any middle or working-class neighborhood. Answers are not forthcoming.

Prostitution has evolved in the social conscience to a "profession" that has emerged from the twilight zone of society to centre stage and media recognition.

Routinely, madames and various dominatrixes and just plain "sex workers" are interviewed on everything from questions about their trade to questions about who will win the Stanley Cup. (This latter is an exaggeration, but you get the idea).

Anyway, the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. Maybe the Supreme Court will get involved. Let's hope not. Maybe for once politicians can agree that past laws have been inadequate, and since prostitution is not going to go away, maybe it's time we find a way to live with it with some safety for those who practice it.