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Press Release: Prostitution Poses a Fundamental Threat to Women’s Security

June 16, 2011

Toronto, June 16, 2011 – The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution, composed of seven national and regional women’s groups from across Canada, told the Ontario Court of Appeal today that:
• The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, interpreted in accordance with Canada’s international obligations, requires the adoption of an asymmetrical approach to the criminalization of prostitution;

• Criminalizing prostituted persons punishes them for their own exploitation by buyers and pimps and is therefore unconstitutional;

• When the focus of criminalization is the activities of pimps, brothel owners, customers and everyone who lives off the fruits and exploits the prostitution of others, it does not infringe the constitutional rights of prostituted individuals. On the contrary, it reinforces their constitutional rights to equality and security, because its purpose is to prevent anyone from profiting from their sexual exploitation.

For the Coalition and the women we represent (Aboriginal women, racialized women, women in prison, women who have been or are still being prostituted, women who have been sexually assaulted, battered women, women living in poverty, etc.), it is both illogical and counter to the principles of fundamental justice to decriminalize the men who exploit the prostitution of others under the pretext of protecting prostituted women from these same men.

There are profound commonalities in the lived inequality of women in prostitution, chief among them, sexual inequality. The Coalition comprises groups that have been seeking women’s equality throughout Canada for many years and we affirm that the lower court erred when it neglected to take into account the violence that is inherent to prostitution, the over-representation of Aboriginal women in prostitution and the links between domestic prostitution and sex trafficking, both national and international. Further, nothing in the submissions presented to the trial court justifies the representation of brothels as safe places for women as compared with street prostitution.

The women we represent, some of whom have been in the sex industry, say that it is impossible to separate child prostitution from adult prostitution, just as it is impossible to clearly distinguish between the men who exploit and the men who supposedly protect women in prostitution.

The Coalition is therefore demanding that the Court acknowledge that, given the systematic inequality between women and men, no one has the constitutional right to buy and sell women’s bodies for the purpose of sexual exploitation. We reject the status quo and we reject the total decriminalization of prostitution and its legalization.The government is responsible for ensuring the safety of women in prostitution by decriminalizing them and ensuring the safety of all women and girls by addressing the demand for prostitution.

Coalition members:
1. CASAC – Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres
2. CAEFS – Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
3. AOcVF – Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
4. CLES – Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle
5. NWAC – Native Women’s Association of Canada
6. RQCALACS – Regroupement québécois des centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel
7. VRRWS – Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter

Stéphanie Charron   
Hilla Kerner 604-872-8212

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