Nordic model best for prostitution law

TorontoSun.com – Opinion/Columnists
February 20, 2014.   Farzana Hassan

The federal government is now seeking submissions on the issue of prostitution, and rightly so.

This issue affects more people in Canada than most would imagine.

Citizens may submit their views to the Justice Department website until March 17.

Of the three options considered — legalizing, banning and adopting the so-called Nordic model — the last seems the least dire.

It may actually deliver some benefits to prostitutes while prosecuting those who wish them harm.

Any debate on prostitution must take into account this is a worldwide, multi-billion-dollar industry.

It stems from poverty and is therefore inherently exploitative. This is not to deny some women and men in our country choose sex work as a lucrative profession.

Other sex workers, both in Canada and in other parts of the world, are less fortunate.

Data reveals prostitutes are mostly young women, ranging in age from 13 to 25.

They lack the skills or opportunities to take up other work, so they are either driven by necessity to sell sex or are trafficked by others who find this a profitable business. Some of them are trafficked into Canada.

Legalizing the industry may cause it to proliferate, and legitimize all the travesties that occur in the “oldest” profession.

In the Netherlands, for example, legalization has increased the trafficking and the abuse of women.

Fully legalizing prostitution really means deregulating an industry that cries out for regulation, because no one speaks up for the helpless victims of sex trafficking.

We have already seen one effect of the push to legalize prostitution in Canada.

Strip parlours in the GTA are planning to “enhance” their activity by branching into brothels.

Another option — banning prostitution — may be favoured by idealists who would like to eliminate a practice they find distasteful.

Yet we all must acknowledge a multi-billion-dollar global industry will not disappear overnight simply by outlawing it.

It would drive the industry underground, sealing its connection with organized crime and violence against women.

What remains is the Nordic model, which is gaining vogue in countries other than Sweden, where it was first adopted. It is legal in Sweden to sell sex but not to buy it, and brothels and pimping are outlawed.

This law recognizes the economic needs of those who are driven by poverty, and who sell sex to alleviate it.

It also acknowledges an individual’s choice to sell sex.

Yet it protects those who are trafficked and forced to work as sex workers.

The Nordic model can empower prostitutes.

Transferring the crime and any moral shame from them to the johns and pimps may reduce violence against prostitutes by putting potential clients in fear of prosecution.

The Nordic model enhances police involvement in an appropriate way, and facilitates a way out for any prostitutes who seek it.

The Nordic model can be adapted to Canada easily.

It is already illegal here to procure services from prostitutes under 18. The law should keep this provision as part of the adapted Nordic model.

It can be extended to ban all purchasing of sex in Canada.

In addition to protecting women rather than those who purchase their services, the law must also include training for law enforcement personnel and provide alternatives for women who seek to escape from a life of prostitution.

These changes may cost money, but the cause is worthwhile.

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