Thursday 29 October 2009

Prostitution: Should it be fully legalized?

For many years, sex workers (prostitutes) have been advocating legalizing prostitution but most governments have refused to even consider that ever happening. The question that is on many people’s minds is, “Is prostitution necessary?” In my opinion, it is necessary. Let me explain why I have said this.

The sexual urges in humans are primal, innate yearnings hard-wired into the brain and the genitals. The sexual drive is a normal trait as it is in animals and there is no getting away from that fact. To deny that there is an overwhelming desire for humans to have sex with other human beings is akin to denying that the force of gravity exists. Many scientific studies have been conducted to determine the extent to which men have sex on the brain. The renowned Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, suggests that 54 per cent of men think about sex at least once a day, according to their 2000 study.

Men shell out bucks for their sexual relief. This shouldn't be a big deal. Only the public nuisance factor – and the safety risk to prostitutes – should be the government’s business.

What kind of people choose to have sex with a prostitute? That is an easy question to answer. There are men who unfortunately don’t attract women, either because they are ugly or they are mentally or physically disabled. There are also men who for some reason or other, have simply not found a woman who will marry them or even live commonlaw with them. This being as it is, they are forced to find sexual relief elsewhere and a great many of these unfortunate men gravitate towards prostitutes. Often married men will have sex with prostitutes because, either they are not turned on when having sex with their wives, or their wives won’t participate in particular sex acts that prostitutes do. Many married men will have sex with a prostitute because they like diversity. The Kinsey report suggested 60 per cent of married men (27 per cent of women) step out of their connubial vows by age 40. There have been instances where young shy men have been encouraged to have sex with a prostitute so that they can learn how to have sex with a woman. Many male immigrants are in Canada without families, without women, repressed by ancestral cultures that don't allow for the easy commingling of genders, dating, and sex outside marriage. Most men, regardless of ethnicity or cultural mores, are not cut out for celibacy in the absence of a religious calling, and often not even then.

We aren't monogamous creatures or there wouldn't be so many rules invented to keep us forcibly so. Nor are most of us biologically constituted for chastity, certainly not when we're bombarded by sexual imagery and the overt messages that you're nobody unless you're getting laid a lot of times.

The sex drive is so powerful, many people’s lives are controlled by it. Not too long ago, in Toronto, Ontario, two men (johns) were cruising for prostitutes on Danforth Avenue (a street were many prostitutes conduct their trade) and they solicited two female cops impersonating prostitutes. Now the female cops didn’t solicit the men, they merely stood on the sidewalk looking very enticing. Soliciting a woman for sex on a public street is a minor crime in Canada so these two men were arrested and charge with soliciting. They were released with a promise to appear in court on a certain day. Did they immediately go home? No they immediately began cruising again and guess what? They were nabbed a second time.

Let me say right from the getgo; rapists don’t usually sexually assault a woman because of an overpowering sexual drive. For the most part, they are turned on because of the physical and emotional power they have over their victims.

Practical reasons might exist for flushing out men soliciting prostitutes in a particular neighbourhood when ratepayers complain that curbside business has become intolerable. Courts have deemed such crackdowns legitimate, though they inevitably involve passive entrapment in the person of undercover officers. This is necessary because many people live in apartments above stores and the last thing they want in their neighbourhood is prostitutes selling their sexual favours right outside their doors. This kind of activity brings johns, pimps and prostitutes right next to their homes. Further, it also brings additional vehicles onto the street late at night. The last thing a family living in an apartment above a store needs to hear at one in the morning is some john stopping in front of their apartment, honking his horn and yelling out in a voice that is intended to wake every sleeping person on the street; “Hey Babe. Want to go out with me?” Further, how do you think a decent woman feels when she is returning to her apartment and some jerk hollers out, “Hey! Come here. I want a piece of ass.”

I remember years ago when I and my wife were walking on a busy street in downtown Toronto and some jerk pulled his car over to the curb next to us, lowered his passenger side window and leaned over to it and said to my wife, “Hey Sweet thing. Would you like to have sex with a real man?” I faced the twirp and said, “My wife doesn’t indulge in bestiality.” (sex with an animal) He got out of his car and as he began walking towards us I said, “If you get within a foot of us, I will have you arrested for trying to abduct my wife and you will be sent to prison for many years. He remarked, “No one will believe you.” I replied, “Do you want to take a chance?” He immediate returned to his car and drove off.

Solicitation on the street is obviously a nuisance. I remember one early morning many years ago when my wife and I were driving out of Washington D.C. to head back to Canada and I stopped in front of a drug store to buy something. I counted at least four prostitutes on the same block who were scantily dressed looking my way hoping that they could do business with me. I wasn’t offended but I did feel sorry for them since it was obviously that their pimps were making these women work on the streets early in the morning, even before the sun had come up yet.

Soliciting sex in a public place is against the law in Canada. But to convict a prostitute of soliciting, the court must be satisfied that the prostitute stopped or attempted to stop anyone for the purpose of having sex with them and in doing so, impeded any form of traffic be it vehicular or pedestrian. If the prostitute is merely standing on the sidewalk and not doing any of these things and a man approaches her and asks her if he can have sex with her, then she isn’t breaking the law unless of course. The man however can be charged with solicting in a public place for the purpose of seeking sexual favours from a prostitute if he is impeding traffic, vehicular or pedestrian.

Pimps are the scourge of the earth, of that there is no doubt. They say that they are there to protect their prostitutes but that is a sham. They are there to get the bulk of the prostitute’s money. Many of these creeps assault these woman to keep them in line.

Sadly, once in a while, you learn about instances in which the pimps are the boyfriends or husbands of the women selling their bodies to men. Many tmes the couples do this because they cannot find employment and are not recipients of welfare cheques. I have sympathy for these people just as I have sympathy for single women who prostitute their bodies to support themselves.

The police try to be seen in the areas where prostitution thrives but all this does is tamp down the problem for a period of time or move the grungy commerce along to another area and so the activity goes on, as if lust can ever be wiped out by prohibition.

Prostitutes in Canada (they prefer to be called sex workers but Shakespear said it best when he said, “A rose is a rose by any name.”) want prostitution to be legalized. They say that to do otherwise is contrary to the Canadian Bill of Rights and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom which guarantees that everyone in Canada has the right to exercise their right to assembly and association. This means that they should be able to assemble in a public place or in their own homes and to associate with whomever they choose to be with, such as their customers.

Our right to free will raises the question as to whether, and in what sense, government can exercise control over the actions, decisions and choices of prostitutes. Addressing this question requires understanding the relationship between freedom and cause, and determining whether the laws of nature supercede the laws of man. The question of free will has been a central issue since the beginning of philosophical thought.

The principle of free will has religious, ethical, and scientific implications. For example, in the religious realm, free will implies that an omnipotent divinity does not assert its power over individual will and choices. In ethics, it implies that individuals can be held morally accountable for their actions.

Even if denying prostitutes their right to be able to advertise their services on public streets and conduct them in their own homes is a a denial of their rights, section 1 of the Charter offers an out to government when is states; The Charter guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
Invariably, the real issue in a trial dealing with those rights would be whether or not those rights that the prostitutes are asking for, conflict with the public good. Obviously, permitting prostitutes to solicit in a public place would not be in the best interest of the people in Canada or elsewhere for that matter.

In the United States, this exercise of free will is referred to as ‘The Free Exercise Clause’. Consider the scope of the Free Exercise Clause was Reynolds v. United States in 1879. It was a case dealing with the prosecution of a polygamist under federal law, and the defendant's claim of protection under the Free Exercise Clause. The Court upheld the law and the government's prosecution. This case, which also revived Thomas Jefferson's statement regarding the "wall of separation" between church and state, introduced the position that although religious exercise is generally protected under the First Amendment, this does not prevent the government from passing neutral laws that incidentally impact certain religious practices.

In Canada, prostitution is against the law. In other words any man can solicit a prostitute anywhere they wish just so long as it isn’t in a place that is public, such as streets, malls, etc. If a prostitute wishes to sell her sexual favours to a man, she may make the offer to any man providing it isn’t done in a public place. The law in Canada also states that no man can solicit a prostitute is a public place. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a man can’t solicit his own girlfriend to have sex with him while they are walking along the street or in a shopping mall. The law is directed more against soliciting a sexual act from a prostitute while impeding traffic.

But that isn’t what the prostitutes in Canada are striving for since it is a given that the act of prostitution in private is not illegal. What they want is to be able to conduct their business in their homes, including rooms or apartments or business establishments such as massage parlours) Doing that is against the law however because keeping a common bawdy house conflicts with section 197(1) which states that this implies when it is kept or occupied by one or more persons for the purpose of prostitution or the practice of acts of indecency and section 201 states that anyone who keeps a place where prostitution or an act of sexual indecency is permitted for money, is liable to imprisonment up to two years and anyone such as a customer (john) a tenant, a landlord or the occupier of the common bawdy house is guilty of a lessor offence and can be sentenced in jail up to 18 months. A bawdy house has even been defined as a car in a public parking lot. Many years ago, I represented the owner of a car who was charged with keeping a bawdy house when the police came across him having sex in his car with a prostitute in a parking lot of a factory late at night when it wasn't even lit up. I was successful in getting him acquitted because of my legal argument that the parking lot was on private property and therefore not in a public place.

I am not convinced that the prostitutes in Canada will be successful in winning their battle to legalize prostitution for two reasons. First, prostitution is already legal in Canada as that battle was won over a century ago. Second, the members of parliament will not pass a law permitting prostitutes to solicit people in public areas for obvious reasons.

However, it may be possible that the members of the Canadian parliament might eventually pass a law that permits them to sell their sexual favours in their private homes or businesses establishments geared for this purpose.

Quite frankly, I don’t see why the government, the police and the courts have any right to be in the bedrooms of the citizens of Canada. One of our former prime ministers, Pierre Trudeau said that the government had no business in the bedrooms of its citizens when the issue of sexual conduct other than intercourse was being discussed in parliament. Parliament agreed and as a result, any form of sexual behaviour by couples is permitted in the bedrooms of Canada’s citizens and others.

Sex workers' rights encompass a variety of aims being pursued globally by individuals and organizations that specifically involve the human rights and labor rights of sex workers. Sex worker activists and advocates argue that sex workers should have the same basic human rights and labour rights as other working people. Since the mid-1970s sex workers across the world have organized, demanding the decriminalization of prostitution, equal protection under the law, improved working condition, the right to pay taxes, travel and receive social benefits such as pensions.

In July 2009, Taiwan began legal moves to decriminalize prostitution after continued pressure from sex workers and the public. The island, which outlawed prostitution 11 years ago, is still rife with underground sex workers in bars and clubs and situated on the upper floors of high-rise buildings. A Taiwanese government spokesman, Su Jun-Pin, expressed the official line a little more confusingly. "It's like fishing," Su said, "the activity may be legal but in some places you can't do it."

The sex workers’ rights movement emerged in the 1970s as the prostitutes' rights movement. A key event occurred in 1975 when 150 prostitutes took over the main church in Lyons, France, to protest about the unsolved murders of local prostitutes, exorbitant police fines and multiple arrests. The movement spread to other parts of France as prostitutes joined the strike and took over other churches. In Paris prostitutes demanded their full rights as citizens and called for the introduction of a non-punitive tax system that would provide them with the right to pension and welfare benefits like “every other French woman”. They also demanded to be nationalized as civil servants of sex. The prostitutes challenged the notion that those who sold sex were deviant and claimed that sexual commerce was a “job determined by the sexual needs of one part of society” – the client who always went unpunished. The strike lasted seven days and ended with the police invading the churches. The strike drew worldwide attention to the conditions under which prostitutes worked and spurred the creation of the French Collective of Prostitutes and the sex workers’ rights movement in France. Similar groups subsequently formed in England, Australia, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Canada and in major US cities.

In the UK the English Collective of Prostitutes called laws punishing prostitution “laws which punish women for refusing poverty”. Aside from prostitute unions, numerous international conventions and platforms were organized, including the International Congresses of Whores (1985 in Amsterdam and 1986 in Brussels). Adding to this numerous publications by sex workers have appeared in print.

In the 1990s the sex workers’ rights movement broadened its scope, including transgender, developing world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, migrants, men and women sex workers. Sex workers’ rights organization continue to form throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia. In Mexico City the La Union Unica has organized not just sex workers but all who participate and profit from the sex industry, including taxi drivers, bartenders and hotel workers. The sex workers’ rights movement has advanced the recognition of prostitution as a profession. In New South Wales, Australia, an official sex worker union was formed in 1996 under the auspices of the Australian Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union. In Paraguay the national workers’ union has recognized sex workers as legitimate workers, meaning they can retire and receive full pension benefits.

I am however concerned with forced prostitution which is a form of sexual slavery that is considered more profitable than the drug trade and arms trade. The laws in Sweden, Norway and Iceland, where it is illegal to pay for sex, but not to be a prostitute, define all forms of prostitution as exploitive or de facto slavery. Sex workers' rights organizations argue that decriminalization and extension of labor rights to sex workers is more effective in ensuring their economic, mental and medical health than any form of prohibition.

In June 2008 at the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS sex workers commended UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for promoting the “Report of the Commission on AIDS in Asia”, which calls for the decriminalization of sex work, and called upon governments to “avoid programmes that accentuate AIDS related stigma and can be counterproductive as such programmes may include ‘crack-downs’ on red-light areas and arrest of sex workers”

In 2007 the Save Haven Initiative, led by Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young, launched a constitutional challenge to strike down Canadian laws against “bawdy houses, communicating for the purpose of prostitution and living on the avails of prostitution”. Sex workers and their advocates argued that Canada’s prostitution laws endangered thousands of women working in a legal trade, amounting to a form of “urban genocide”. Although prostitution is not specifically outlawed in Canada, nearly all aspect of the transaction are illegal. Former prostitute Valerie Scott, executive director of Sex Professionals of Canada said that “there is nothing inherently dangerous about prostitution... What makes it dangerous is the way it is currently set up... the laws force us to operate in totally unsafe conditions.” She is right. Permitting prostitutes to flout their wares so to speak on a public street is putting them at risk.

The reality is threats, violence and assault define the daily existence of people who work on the street in the sex trade,” according to Young. Vancouver B.C., investigations culminated in the arrest and later conviction of pig farmer Robert Pickton, who was charged with 26 counts of murder. His victims were prostitutes he found on the streets of Vancouver. A Statistic Canada 2006 report found that 171 female prostitutes were murdered between 1991 and 2004 (45 percent of those cases went unsolved).

Quite frankly, I think prostitutes performing sex acts with johns (tricks) in the homes of the prostitutes is highly risky. Years ago, a man in Toronto murdered and butchered a woman in her bedroom while her family watched TV downstairs.

The way I see it, prostitutes should be able to perform in government regulated business establishments (sex clubs) where they are protected by security. Further, they should be required to wear condoms if they are having vaginal or anal sex so that they won’t get diseased or give a disease to their sexual partners. They should be required to have frequent medical checkups and they should be paid by the business establishment that they work for after tax deductions etc., are made.

Such sex clubs should only be in areas that are some considerable distance from residential and school areas. This will in all likelihood end prostitutes standing on corners hoping for men to buy their services. That would be a godsend for them for two reasons. The first being that they won’t have to worry about being driven away by a murderer who has something else in mind with respect to the prostitutes’ bodies. Second, it is much better to wait for a prospect in the warm comfort of a sex club that caters to the services of prostitution than to be standing outside during a cold day being soaked to the skin with rain or snow.

At present, in Toronto, there are 3,000 illegal massage parlours in which men go to for sexual favours. Although the women are relatively safe in them, the parking lot outside a spa in Toronto was the scene of the city's first murder of the year on January 3rd, when Johnny Youkhana, 36, was shot to death. His alleged killer is currently before the courts.

Sex clubs could become legal depending on the outcome of an appeal by dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford and prostitutes Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitch. The case involves three provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with prostitution. I will keep my readers abreast of the outcome of their appeal when I learn of it.

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