Sex, Fantasies and Exploration

Susan wants to open Canada's first brothel


by Vanessa Charles


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In Canada, prostitution has never been a crime. However, various activities surrounding the exchange are proscribed, including :

1) pimping or living off the avails of the prostitution of others
2) owning, keeping or occupying a bawdy house
3) communicate publicly, in any way whatsoever, for the purposes of prostitution
4) knowingly transporting another person to a bawdy house
5) purchase the sexual services of a person under the age of 18.

Some of the laws prohibiting these activities have been in force for over 250 years.

Sex workers at risk

Since brothels are banned in Canada, prostitutes have to walk the streets at night, despite the risks. Because the risks are serious: a man has just been convicted of murdering six women, and is suspected of murdering 43 others, most of them prostitutes in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

So the sex workers decided to take their fate into their own hands. They have formed a "cooperative" to demand the opening of a brothel before Vancouver hosts the 2010 Winter Olympics. Susan Davies, one of the organizers of this campaign, tells us about her struggle.

In 2010, in a landmark decision, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that laws prohibiting the keeping of a brothel, living off the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purpose of prostitution violate the Charter rights to free expression and security of the person, and therefore cannot be justified under the reasonable limits clause.

"Girls don't go dancing in shop windows"

Susan Davies, one of the group's leaders and a prostitute for 22 years, tells us:

"We're not waiting for a green light to open brothels all over the city; we're just asking for an opportunity to demonstrate the impact that creating closed prostitution venues would have, in terms of safety and public health. Girls don't go dancing in shop windows. The idea is to create a safe environment for all prostitutes, even those most accustomed to the street. Our cooperative is very diverse. We have women, men, transsexuals, people of different skills and social classes. Because the sex industry itself is very diverse. We have Asian, Caucasian, black, mixed-race and Inuit prostitutes.

Getting all these people to work together took time. Over the months, we've created working, membership and decision-making procedures within our group. We want to make sure that no one uses our group for personal gain, and that sex workers finally take charge of the situation. The Winter Olympics give us a good opportunity to run this campaign and a deadline to meet."

Arrangements are being made...

Later, in the same case, the Ontario Court of Appeal agreed that anti-prostitution laws endangered sex workers. It argued that sex workers would be safer if they had the right to run a brothel and employ security personnel to protect themselves. However, the Court indicated that laws prohibiting solicitation should remain in force.

The case was subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court. In its December 2013 ruling, the Supreme Court struck down the three Criminal Code provisions at issue in the case. In a unanimous decision written by the Chief JusticeBeverley McLachlinthe Court affirmed that it is not illegal to exchange sex for money in Canada. Furthermore, the decision states that the provisions present risks to "the health, safety and lives of prostitutes".

Video on the dangers of these laws in Canada:

Vanessa Charles

A (very) close friend of Cupid and a true lover of relationships of all kinds, I am the main editor of Give Me Date. I answer your questions about couples, sexuality and dating and I test dating sites to give you a subjective opinion on how to find love or meet new people.

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