Prostitution ruling will make our streets safer

The ruling by an Ontario high court this week did not make prostitution legal.

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The ruling by an Ontario high court this week did not make prostitution legal.

In fact, it was already legal in Ontario, in Alberta and all across Canada.

Two years ago, however, an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that parts of those existing laws made the lives of prostitutes more dangerous.

This week, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld that view.

A year from now, unless the case is appealed to the Supreme Court, this judgment will form the basis for new law across Canada.

The ruling on Monday overturned sections that made it illegal to live off the avails of prostitution and forbid prostitutes from setting up bawdy houses where they could ply their trade.

The five judges agreed unanimously on these two issues.

Whatever you think of prostitution, there are multiple benefits from these changes.

Most important, they will make the lives of prostitutes safer.

It will help get them off the mean streets.

Their business now obliges many to get into cars alone to service sexual predators like Alberta’s Thomas Svekla and British Columbia’s Robert Pickton.

Pickton once boasted that he had killed 50 prostitutes.

Dozens of prostitutes have gone missing in Alberta in the past generation. The fates of many may never be known.

The court ruling this week helps prostitutes reduce their risks.

A year from now, they will be able to legally buy or rent property and collectively start their own enterprises.

Legal brothels will put prostitutes in safe places, with the security of having friends and colleagues nearby.

Ending the ban on “living off the avails of prostitution” means brothel owners will be able to legally hire bodyguards, to ensure everybody inside is safe.

Making brothels legal will also help prostitutes get out from under the thumbs of pimps who control their lives.

Pimps frequently get prostitutes addicted to dangerous drugs to make them dependent and compliant.

The Ontario high court did uphold one key aspect of existing Canadian law this week.

In a split decision, the five judges ruled that a section outlawing publicly soliciting for prostitution is valid.

It will remain in place to prevent residential streets from being inundated by streetwalkers and turned into unwelcome hooker strolls.

That seems like a reasonable stance.

Nobody wants their neighbourhood teeming with aggressive hookers, trolling the streets for business. Other changes to the law should soon make that unnecessary.

Whatever you think of prostitution, it is not going away.

It’s known as the world’s oldest profession for a reason.

It has existed in every culture around the globe for millennia.

In European history, prostitution attracted women who had no options.

Girls who were raped, for example, became social outcasts. They could not marry, simply because they were victims of crime.

Many young women turned to prostitution as their sole means of survival.

Today, that remains the case.

Prostitution continues to attract damaged women who have few skills or options.

Overwhelmingly, then and now, the people buying sexual services are men and the prostitutes are women.

They are generally weaker than men and have been much more vulnerable.

Until this week, Canadian laws have put them at greater risk.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling should help change that.

Canada will be a safer and more honest place for those changes.

Prostitution is an accepted fact of life in Canada and around the world.

It’s a seamy business, to be sure, but so are slaughterhouses.

Both exist because there’s enduring demand for their legal products and services.

For ages, municipalities across Canada have earned money licensing erotic massage parlours that everybody — including city leaders — know are fronts for prostitution.

Legalizing brothels will not make them exactly welcome in chambers of commerce, but it will make our streets and vulnerable Canadian women safer.

Joe McLaughlin is the retired former managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate