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mardi 12 décembre 2006

The majority report of the Justice Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws : a direct assault on women’s rights and a gift for organized crime

par Maria Mourani, criminologist and deputy

Écrits d'Élaine Audet

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What About the Women Who Want to Get Out of the Sex Trade ?
For the Industry of Prostitution : A Victory Disguised as a Defeat
Federal Report on Prostitution : The Missing Link
Prostitution is a Form of Violence, not Commerce
The Subcommittee’s majority report is moving towards normalizing the buying and selling of women
A contradictory, inconsistent and dangerous report
A Report Trivialising Prostitution
Protect victims and criminalize profiteers

In their legislative work and analysis, political parties in Quebec and Canada must address the problems and issues facing society by steadfastly defending women’s right to live in a society that makes gender equality and non-violent relationships between men and women a priority. The report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on solicitation, released today, does not reflect this fundamental priority in Quebec and Canadian society.

To accommodate and “protect” a tiny minority of individuals who “choose” to sell their bodies, Members of Parliament are considering accepting prostitution as the simple exchange of sexual services for money. Prostitution is much more than that, however. Prostitution is a system of exploitation whose victims are primarily women. It derives from and fosters unequal and violent relationships between men and women. Can we accept that ?

The individuals who are exploited and who have not really chosen a life of prostitution (which applies to the majority) need our help. They have no help at present and that is scandalous. It is unacceptable that women’s right to a society that fosters equality and non-violence should be sacrificed for a very small minority of individuals who choose to sell their bodies. This so-called freely consenting choice applies to a minority, which cannot demand that society abandon its defence of egalitarian and non-violent relationships in its laws and regulations.

Here are two statements I consider unacceptable by majority members of the Justice Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws.

“[...] sexual activities between consenting adults that do not harm others, whether or not payment is involved, should not be prohibited by the state.” (p. 90)

In this discussion, egalitarian sexual relationships between consenting adults are treated the same way as the selling of sexual activities. What a comparison ! We must remember that prostitution above all creates victims.

“Unlike other parties, the Conservatives do not believe it is possible for the state to create isolated conditions in which the consensual provision of sex in exchange for money does not harm others.” (p. 90)

By contrast, the majority of committee members maintain that it is possible to create zones or areas where prostitution can be practised.

Is it possible to control the activities of organized crime while upholding human rights in such zones ? Is it possible to limit these activities to these zones only ? Let us recall that in the Netherlands, where the laws are the most liberal, just 4% of prostitutes register with the authorities. Moreover, in 1981 in the Netherlands, there were an estimated 2,500 prostitutes. In 2004, there were 30,000, 80% of them of foreign origin and 70% with no identity papers. As to minors, the Child Rights Organization in Amsterdam estimates that the number of children exploited has risen by 11,000 since 1996, and that 5,000 of them are of foreign origin.

Moreover, the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee of the European Parliament, in its notice of September 18, 2006, quotes the comparative study prepared in 2004 by London Metropolitan University. This report demonstrated that the legalization of prostitution leads to child sex abuse, violence against women and a marked increase in human trafficking. This committee also concludes that the legalization of prostitution fuels demand and the purchasing of sex, including trafficking victims, and recommends that States recognize that reducing the demand for trafficking is crucial.

The opinion of the majority members of the Justice Subcommittee on Solicitation laws is a gift to organized crime and street gangs as it signals favourable conditions for business and trafficking the future. To imagine that Canada could be an exception is wishful thinking.

Is it time to consider following the path Sweden has taken ? We must create a system that penalizes those who purchase sexual services and stop penalizing prostitutes who are above all the victims of a system that turns them into merchandise. Although imperfect, like any system, the Swedish model is in my opinion the most coherent from a criminological point of view and with respect to human rights.

Maria Mourani, Criminologist
Member for Ahuntsic
Bloc Québécois Critic for the Status of Women

On Sisyphe, December 15, 2006

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Maria Mourani, criminologist and deputy

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