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Letter to Canadian MPs and to the Canadian Minister of Justice
Decriminalize prostituted persons and criminalize those who exploit them (‘johns’ and pimps)
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At the end of September 2010, a decision of the Ontario Superior Court deemed unconstitutional the Canadian laws on prostitution by asserting that they were the cause of violence against prostituted persons. Judge Susan Himel thus adopted the perspective of the sex industry. For all practical purposes, this decision seeks to legalize prostitution and pimping. Canada’s Minister of Justice, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, chose to appeal this decision and has until April 29, 2011 to do so. Whatever the outcome of that appeal, this ruling will probably be brought before the Supreme Court of Canada, and any final decision of the highest court in the land will affect people in all provinces.
The courts readily invoke some social consensus, real or alleged, to justify their decisions, and sometimes they interpret silence as consent. However, there is no consensus on the Himel decision, and we must make this known, clearly, publicly and in large numbers. Prostituted people will not be better protected when pimps are free to organize their "marketing" and "johns" have free rein to increase their demand for this extreme form of sexual exploitation. Members of the Canadian Parliament members are mandated to make decisions on behalf of the people. They can lobby the government to amend the Criminal Code so as to effectively protect prostituted people. To ensure this protection, we must decriminalize the prostituted, penalize the agents of their exploitation, i.e. "johns", and strengthen current measures against pimps. It is unacceptable that victims of exploitation in prostitution be prosecuted, just as it is unacceptable that those who exploit them operate with impunity. It is as if we prosecuted rape victims and left their assaulters free to behave as they wish.
Please find below a letter (and downloadable Word file) that you can sign and send by mail or email to your MP and to the federal Minister of Justice.
To find the name and address of your MP, go to the following address and simply enter your zip code in the appropriate window : http://3.ly/Y7ZX. The email address of the Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson is firstname.lastname@example.org.
By mail :
No postage stamp is necessary for correspondence addressed to Canadian Members of Parliament.
You can also sign online (see how to proceed in red below) the letter below ; we will forward all signatures to the Minister of Justice, and to all party leaders in Parliament, on April 5, 2011.
Each of us can send this letter or a version thereof to friends and allies, inviting them to write to their MP and to post it on their blog, website or Facebook page, or to embed a link to the following URL : (http://sisyphe.org/spip.php?article3738).
Letter to Canadian MPs and to the Canadian Minister of Justice
"Decriminalize prostituted persons and criminalize those who exploit them (‘johns’ and pimps)”
To : The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice of Canada, Madam or Sir MP :
I want to express my disagreement with the decision by Judge Himel of the Ontario Superior Court to abolish existing laws on prostitution which it deems unconstitutional. This decision is equivalent to completely legalizing prostitution, a form of violence and of extreme sexual exploitation, and to decriminalize pimping by treating the sale of sex as any other form of trade. I ask you, Mr. Minister of Justice (Madam or Sir MP), to challenge this decision and amend the Criminal Code so as to truly protect prostituted persons, to help them take leave of this condition and to prosecute those who exploit them, be they "johns" or pimps.
I believe that prostitution is neither a trade nor a choice ; rather it reflects a lack of choices. It is a system of extreme sexual exploitation that goes against the grain of gender equality and integrity of the person. Sex is not a consumer product that needs to be shackled to market forces ; it is a component of human relations based on equality, respect, dignity and the integrity of partners. The abuse visited on prostituted persons is that of prostitution itself, with "customers" and pimps acting as its agents. If we want to protect prostituted persons, we must therefore create conditions conducive to the elimination of this form of violence, rather than propose new accommodations, which tend to normalize it. "Reducing the Harm" of prostitution is not enough ; prostitution is itself a misdemeanor that endangers the safety of women and children and the equality of women and men.
The legalization of prostitution and pimping, as proposed by the Himel ruling, will not protect more efficiently the women, teenagers and children from this industry dominated by organized crime, as other countries have found out. Setting up official brothels will make prostituted women even more prisoners to the violence of pimps and "johns", who will now perceive as legitimate their claim to own all rights as long as they pay and to set the rules of engagement, whether in brothels or elsewhere. In addition to protecting these exploiters, legalizing prostitution would legitimize the buying of sex and would increase demand to that effect, the very source of the prostitution system. All women, teenagers and children, especially those from the most fragile socio-economic environments, will become even more vulnerable to exploitation. Legalizing prostitution would also increase the sex traffic that is already exploiting the women and children from the world’s poorest communities. The countries that have legalized or decriminalized prostitution (New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands, etc...) have seen a growing acceptance of sexual exploitation as a "normal" phenomenon, along with a growth of human trafficking illegal brothels and organized criminal activity. Is this what you want for Canada, Minister Nicholson, Madam or Sir MP ?
Rather, I am expecting you to intervene in this crucial issue by advocating gender equality and the security and integrity of persons. I ask you, members of the Parliament of Canada to follow the example of countries like Sweden, Norway, Iceland and others who have seen a reduction of prostitution as a result of the criminalization of "johns" prostituting, the decriminalization of prostituted women and the provision to these women of various key social supports. You have the power, if you want to, to protect the women and youths who are vulnerable to prostitution and to help those who want to leave this condition, by amending Canada’s Criminal Code. It is unacceptable that victims of this system of sexual exploitation be prosecuted while those who profit from this exploitation go on acting with full impunity. It is as if we prosecuted rape victims and left their assaulters free to behave as they wish.
On top of holding legally accountable “johns” and pimps, the Canadian government could launch a nationwide information and awareness-raising campaign on the causes and consequences of prostitution and of human trafficking for sexual purposes. Following in the footsteps of the Swedish state, the Canadian government could also offer assistance to the “johns” who have difficulty breaking free of this behaviour pattern, since they form the key link of the prostitution system. It is important to send a clear message to the population, and especially to current “johns” and pimps, that Canada will no longer tolerate any form of sexual exploitation, especially such extreme forms as prostitution and human trafficking. This entails that you take a firm stand against the male demand for paid sexual access to the bodies of women and youths, a demand that underlies the current tolerance with regard to the prostitution system.
Need I remind you, Mr. Minister, Madam MP or Sir, that the majority of today’s adult prostitutes were first inducted into prostitution around the age of 13, sometimes earlier even ? In addition, several studies indicate that the demand of johns for sex with teens and always younger children is steadily increasing and that this trend is also fueling international human trafficking for sexual purposes. Thus, it is for the protection and the future of both the young and adult prostitutes, of all women and all of society, that we ask you to criminalize the buying of sexual acts. We recall that the Government of Canada has signed international conventions against all forms of violence against women, including sexual exploitation. It is high time for it to respect these commitments.
I look forward, Mr. Minister, Madam or Mister MP, to your response to this letter.
(Add your full name, signature and postal or electronic address.)
To sign online, using this page
Complete the short form at the bottom left of this page by indicating on the first line, after your First and Last Name (no initials), your Occupation (or organization name), City of residence and Province. (Example : Micheline Carrier, editor, Montreal, QC). NOTE : Your e-mail address will not appear on the page ; you will receive an automatic message by e-mail asking to confirm your signature before it is posted in this page. We will have to remove any signature that does not comply (e.g. those containing only a first or last name). Thank you not including any URL (even if the embedded form suggests so). We will forward all signatures to the Minister of Justice of Canada and to all party leaders at the House of Commons.
Or download, print and post this word file.
"Ten Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution", par Janice G. Raymond
French version here.