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vendredi 4 mai 2007

Subcommittee’s report on the solicitation laws
A Trip Into the Absurd

par Diane Guilbault

Écrits d'Élaine Audet

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What can one think of a society where the worst crime is not the exploitation of human beings, but the judgment that one could pass on the exploiters ? Is it really impossible in the ‘best country in the world ? It is therefore on this basis that the Subcommittee’s report on the soliciting laws, mainly in favor of the legalization of prostitution is articulated. It could have been titled : A trip into the Absurd.

I’ll never be able to express the demoralization and immense disgust I experienced when I read this report, particularly when I respect so much the role of the members of the parliament. My first reaction would be to put the work of Jacques Grand’Maison, titled Quand le jugement fout le camp ! (When judgment falls apart !) at the disposition of the representatives of NDP, BQ and PLC ; but would they read it ?

How can they claim on this subject that « prostitution is, above all, a public health issue » ! That the members of the parliament refuse to see the evidence indicating prostitution as one of the worst manifestations of the domination of one group over the other, an extreme proof of the inequality between women and men, that’s what goes well beyond comprehension ! Other flaws compromise the report as a whole and make it despicable to bear the official seal of the permanent Standing committee on Justice and human rights (!).

The absence of analysis and coherence

A report should normally specify the object of its analysis. Now, chapter 2 which is meant to be a description of prostitution in Canada leaves out a major point : a first-hand description of prostitution or, according to the newspeak used by our members of the parliament, what they would call sexual services. Here is how a prostitution survivor describes them :

    A man pays to penetrate you, and after him, another, and another. You feel reduced to only your body orifices. It’s no fun to be penetrated by so many men, in the vagina, in the mouth and in the anus. It’s disgusting to feel his semen running down the corner of your mouth and making you nauseous. Sometimes they insult you. Other times they hit you. During all this, you’re expected to pretend both enjoying and loving it. Now and then, you think one of them is being gentle, because he hasn’t pissed all over you, because he says you’re beautiful, because he hasn’t demanded to lower the price because you don’t have a perfect face. But at the same time, you know he is just like everyone else, he pays because he doesn’t give a damn about you, because he pays to have access to your body for his own enjoyment and you’re supposed to pretend loving it. (1)

I didn’t see a single word about that in the report. If the defenders of the decriminalization/legalization are willing to discredit those opposed to their position by refusing their right to express themselves on the argument that they’re not practicing prostitution, I admit that I myself felt compelled to demand those who signed the majority report to offer such services for several weeks, before having the right to promote such activity...

In addition, the report barely touches upon the fact that prostitution is a system in which, mostly men buy « sexual services » from women. To avoid a deeper analysis of this dichotomy between men and women in the prostitution system would be like stating that apartheid in South Africa could have been analyzed while ignoring the differences between the status of ‘Blacks’ and ‘Whites’.

It’s with beautiful unanimity that the subcommittee members decided against the prostitution of minors. Please note, they speak of « prostitution » when referring to minors, and they seem to admit that they are forced to prostitute themselves at earlier ages each time. A recent book by Michel Dorais on prostitution of minors (2) shows quite clearly the mechanisms used to suppress every choice for the minors exploited by the prostituters (both users and pimps) as well as every obstacle encountered to escape from prostitution. Then how can they allow themselves to overlook the links between prostitution of under-aged people and that of legal-age people ? How can they even ignore these links even when the report itself states that it takes years and years to heal these wounds and move on ?

One must highlight that the subcommittee has chosen to overlook that which might have altered its conclusions, as one perceives it in anticipation from the first pages by the choice of words (sex workers, sexual services, etc.).

Two weights, two measures

Moreover, throughout the report, one perceives a tendency to discredit the information provided by those men and women who denounce prostitution as a human rights violation. Each time a well-researched and supported demonstration is made to reveal the dark side of prostitution, the report quotes one or two discrediting testimonies and gives them as much if not greater credibility.

It is, for that matter, more blatant in the section concerning the Swedish legislation on which the special counselor of the Swedish government, Gunilla Ekberg, came to testify. She presented several official documents (clearly identified in the report) which evaluate the effects of the Swedish abolitionist law. However, in the eyes of the committee, this just wasn’t enough to counterweight the words and the « documents » presented by the pro-sex work community, of which several aren’t identified in the report and which therefore the credibility is questionable.

As for the (amply documented) negative effects of prostitution, ranging from women in general, to the communities and people involved in prostitution, the report sweeps them away with few words, such as « some witnesses have characterized this speech as sanctimonious »... There again, no definition or arguments to support the subject. That about says it all...

Avoiding judgment

We already know what they say : those incapable of conceiving the idea of someone being able to choose freely to sell their body or paying someone else’s, are self-righteous people ! As, according to those in favor of the decriminalization/legalization, there is nothing immoral in exploiting the human body, but quite the opposite ! And the deputies start to believe that the commercialization of the female body is an individual right ! Then, what are they waiting to legalize organ-trafficking ? Just like poor women who choose prostitution, poor people from all over the world will at last be able to profit from this new interpretation of individual rights. Pimps and other traffickers will have finally prevailed, thanks to human rights (!).

Whoever thinks this crosses the boundaries of absurdity please just shut up and avoid any judgment. The deputies will enforce order : they’re not there to pass any judgments. Moreover, it is clearly stated in writing : « To attain equilibrium without any judgment ».

All judgments on pimps and flesh-merchants profiting from human exploitation shed. After all, all these people are « consenting adults ». Never mind yesterday’s minor who has changed her status and ability to choose overnight ! Never mind the young teenager who has led herself to be recruited by a pimp who takes as much advantage of her as he wants ! Never mind native women, to whom a few (insufficient) paragraphs are dedicated, as in the end, the only problem is simply a public health problem.

All the same, isn’t it weird our deputies claim the right not to use their own judgment ! And I thought judgment was « at the very core of that which defines us as humans : intelligence and conscience. » (3) Then, on which basis do they perform their parliamentary role ? Without judgment, how can one evaluate if some action is prejudicial to human dignity ?

New values to promote ?

Law plays an essential role : « to regulate liberties and educate into certain values » (4). The proposals of the members of the parliament in this report, in the end, are the following new values :

 Women are just another type of merchandise.
 Society must recognize men’s rights to buy and profit of women’s bodies.
 The body of every woman is potentially available to every man.

One can just as easily imagine that women receiving aid from the State will be invited to turn to this booming, and from now on, authorized and de-stigmatized profession. But let’s not allow ourselves to be fooled : the only ones who shall raise their social status, if ever, should this decriminalization/legalization come to be, are the pimps, exploiters and users, and certainly not the women who must be subdued to their fantasies and despise.

All things considered, maybe it’s The Emperor’s New suit that I should send to the members of BQ, PLC and NDP... while waiting for something better (or worst ?), I dare to dream of a great mobilization (5) to comfort myself.

To read the whole Report.


1. Ana Popovic and Carole Lizée, Au-delà du discours sur la prostitution, la vie réelle des femmes prostituées (Beyond the speech on prostitution, the real life of prostituted women).
2. Jeunes filles sous influence, Prostitution juvénile et gangs de rue, (Young girls under influence, juvenile prostitution and street gangs) in collaboration with Patrice Corriveau, VLB publisher, 2006.
3. Jacques Grand’Maison, Quand le jugement fout le camp ! Essai sur la déculturation, (When judgment falls apart ! Essay on deculturization) Fides, 1999, page 69.
4. Guy Durand, Six études d’éthique et de philosophie du droit, (Six studies on ethics and philosophy of rights) Liber, 2006, p.43.
5. To manifest your opposition to this report, write to the delegates of your choice : Canadian parliament’s website

Translation : Yolanda Bello Olvera

On Sisyphe, April 30, 2007.

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Diane Guilbault

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