Why did prostitution bill go off the rails?
TheStar.com – Opinion/Commentary – The Harper government inserted pointlessly mean elements into its proposed new law on prostitution, preparing the ground for another court challenge.
Jun 10 2014. By: Heather Mallick, Columnist
Conservatives just can’t help themselves. They come up with a perfectly civilized and modern anti-prostitution bill that promotes gender equality and shifts a legal burden from exploited women directly onto to the pathetic men who buy sex. And then what do they do? They insert pointlessly mean bits about which streets prostituted women can literally stand on, making their lives harsher and building a springboard for another court challenge.
But it was a Supreme Court ruling insisting that prostitutes’ lives not be made more dangerous that birthed this hasty law in the first place. A government with a punitive mindset was forced to do the decent thing by a court exhausted by a history of violence.
Enter Justice Minister Peter MacKay, whose news conference was a peculiar performance by a bespectacled grey-suited man stating the obvious. “The foremost responsibility of any government is to keep its citizens safe.” Underneath the weirdness bubbled.
The name of the bill, “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act,” did not even include the word “prostitution” and could as easily have been a bill about homeowners with hoarder neighbours or a raccoon nest they couldn’t pinpoint. The bill was based on the so-called “Nordic Model” that criminalizes buyers who fuel the demand and offers women an exit strategy – the Canadian bill offers a mere $20 million for social services – but Stephen Harper has always detested anything even vaguely Nordic. So MacKay emphasized it was the “Canadian Model,” which seems to mean the tormenting of teenagers.
For the bill criminalizes prostitutes for soliciting anywhere near where underage people (under 18) might “reasonably” be expected to loiter, MacKay listing schools, parks, public pools, malls, churches and residential streets.
Teenagers are unreasonable and unpredictable—it’s part of their ethos – and it’s news to me that prostitutes lurk in playgrounds, which are surely more of a pedophile magnet. No, MacKay said that a teenaged prostitute could be arrested for being in the company of another 17-year-old, which meant she might trawl alone for buyers.
How would this make her safer? Rachel Moran, Irish author of Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution, which may be the best such memoir ever written, told me that the age limits were “ridiculous.” MacKay’s bill will “charge a person with being enslaved in the sight of children,” she says. Perhaps MacKay is using this section as a distraction and will drop it. Either way he’s trawling to be struck down.
The reaction to Bill C-36 has been instructive. Headlines refer to “sex workers,” a loaded term used by those who want prostitution legalized and respected as a profession, with journalists assuming prostitutes speak with one voice. As I discovered while researching prostitution laws in Europe, they do not. Indoor work isn’t always safer than on the street. But dominatrixes with websites have a better life than do sexually abused drug-addicted trafficked girls, the ones most at risk of violence. The girls are harder to reach. They’re preoccupied with survival, i.e., their own.
The online reactions were almost entirely from men, which is true of all commenting and opinion-writing, but these men were unintentionally hilarious, one letter writer saying the law should cater to men without access to “mainstream sexual outlets” like spouses or friends.
Here’s a tip. “Hi, can I buy ya a drink? I don’t have access to mainstream sexual outlets” is not a great line. It is known in the mainstream women’s crowd as a “red flag” and will result in loneliness and possible late-night weeping into a little corral of crème de menthe glasses at the bar. Note: crème de menthe, another red flag.
The “need” to buy women is not a “law of nature,” as he wrote, presumably with a straight face. Me? Arrested? The overall level of male entitlement was striking. One hopes it was generational, that hiring prostitutes is a particular cultural habit that, like smoking, will eventually vanish.
The bill will pass, as ill-considered bills do in a Harper majority government that doesn’t take parliamentary committees seriously, and any appeal will take years, which is unfair. The NDP and Liberals are right to suggest Harper consult the Supreme Court. He won’t, but they’re still right.
< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/06/10/why_did_prostitution_bill_go_off_the_rails_mallick.html >