Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Fresh thinking on the oldest profession

Very interesting editorial from today's National Post. (Actually, I got the article off from a listserve that I subscribed to.)

Personally, I don't have a problem with legalizing prostitution - for the sake of health and safety.

However, we need to make sure that we don't send the wrong message to the public (i.e. the government supports/encourages prostitution.) It is very difficult to draw the fine line, and it would be a very interesting public policy to implement.

Fresh thinking on the oldest profession

National Post

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

At their national convention in Ottawa this past weekend, the federal Liberals were mostly preoccupied with putting a good face forward. But amid the thunderstick thumping, the Grits actually took time to get the ball rolling on at least one important public policy front.

In calling for a review of Canada's prostitution policy, delegates backed away from an earlier resolution that advocated scrapping our solicitation laws entirely. This was an inevitable consequence of the Liberals' distaste for controversy. (One of the weekend's most talked-about resolutions, to legalize marijuana, was deep-sixed before it ever got to a final vote.) But in making clear that the governing party's membership believes it is time to revisit the way we deal with the world's oldest profession, it still represented a significant step forward.

As they currently stand, our archaic laws do little to curb prostitution -- as evidenced by its prevalence in every major city, and most smaller ones. What they do achieve, however, is to make the trade less safe for the young women who are dragged into it by drug addiction, abusive pasts or other desperate circumstances.

At present, it isn't illegal to pay or receive payment for sexual services; what is illegal is to communicate in a public place for purposes of arranging that service. As a result, prostitutes leave themselves open to violence by spending the minimum amount of time possible assessing the risks posed by those who approach them on foot or in cars.

And when crimes against them do occur, prostitutes often fail to report them for fear of attracting police attention. Because their trade is kept underground, moreover, there are no checks to prevent the spread of HIV and other communicable diseases.

For all these reasons, it is time for Ottawa to legalize the prostitution trade -- or at least give municipalities the option of doing so on a city-by-city basis.

Even before this weekend's resolution, a House of Commons committee had committed itself to reviewing our prostitution laws. Given the strong show of support from Liberal members, we hope it will embrace a bold reform agenda. The same goes for Irwin Cotler, the federal Justice Minister, who still appears hesitant to seriously consider doing away with the solicitation ban.

The Liberals have often pledged to protect society's most vulnerable members. Reforming our prostitution laws would be a good way to make good on the party's oft-repeated slogan: "promise made, promise kept."

© National Post 2005


Post a Comment

<< Home