UK & World News

  • 21 December 2013, 5:52

Prostitution: Canada Axes Sex Worker Laws

Sex workers have overturned Canada's anti-prostitution laws six years after they were blamed for the murders of several prostitutes by a serial-killing pig farmer.

Laws against keeping a brothel, making a living from prostitution, and street soliciting were all overturned by the country's highest court.

Parliament now has a year to respond with new legislation.

The court found that Canada's prostitution laws "violated the guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person".

"The law (...) punishes everyone who lives on the avails of prostitution without distinguishing between those who exploit prostitutes and those who could increase the safety and security of prostitutes, for example, legitimate drivers, managers, or bodyguards," the ruling said.

Other countries around the world, particularly in Europe, are having similar debates.

Earlier this month, France's lower house of parliament passed a bill that would decriminalise prostitutes and fine their customers.

Sex-trade workers in Canada stepped up their fight for safer working conditions following the serial killings of prostitutes by Robert Pickton in British Columbia.

He was convicted in 2007 of killing six women whose remains were found on his farm outside Vancouver. It is alleged he fed the bodies to his pigs.

Pickton's victims were drug addicts and prostitutes in a poor district of Vancouver, on Canada's Pacific coast.

Years earlier, authorities had closed down a Vancouver house for sex workers that many had considered a safe haven.

The brothel was closed asseveral prostitutes started to disappear - raising fears that a serial killer was prowling the streets.

"I am shocked and amazed that sex work and the sex work laws that affect our lives on a daily basis will within a year not cause us harm anymore," said Amy Lebovitch, who brought the case along with Terri-Jean Bedford and Valerie Scott.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government was "concerned" by the decision.

He said ministers were "exploring all possible options to ensure the criminal law continues to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution to communities, those engaged in prostitution, and vulnerable persons."

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