Wednesday, September 29, 2010

By Hook Or By Crook (II)

Selling's legal. Fucking's legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal? Why is it illegal to sell something it's perfectly legal to give away?
--George Carlin

I can just hear the consternation emanating out of Ottawa after the Ontario Superior Court decision striking down Canada's prostitution laws as unconstitutional.

"The government is very concerned with the Superior Court decision and is seriously considering an appeal": Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Well, of course they are. Legalized prostitution does not fit with Conservative ideology.

Why, the nerve of Justice Susan Himel! How dare she suggest that Canadian prostitution laws endanger sex workers!

...Sex workers, the very term is disgusting. It makes whoring sound legitimate, almost as if these are human beings gainfully employed. Hookers are criminals, people, and we won't let the opinion of some scummy two-bit liberal elite judge convince us otherwise, no siree Bob. Them goshdarned activist judges have it exactly backwards, as usual. Laws don't exist for the protection of CRIMINALS! Laws exist for the protection of community standards and moral decency! What kind of judge doesn't know that? Can we disbar this person? Are there any dirty pictures of her floating around? That'd show her!

I can just bet this is the sentiment going around in Ottawa right now. You bet your private parts they'll appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Which, if it has any sense, will either uphold Justice Himel's ruling or stall a while until it can turn the debate over to a more reasonable Parliament.

This whole chain of events was inevitable, since prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada. That's right: exchanging sex for money is perfectly legal. What isn't is, well, just about everything else about it. Per Wikipedia:

The activities related to sex work that are prohibited by law include operating a premise (sexual services establishment or brothel where such activities take place (that is more than one person involved), being found in such an establishment, procuring for such purposes, or communicating such services (soliciting)in a public place are illegal, making it difficult to engage in prostitution without breaking any law. Automobiles are considered public space if they can be seen...On the other hand working as an independent sex worker and private communication for such purposes (e.g. telephone, internet, e-mail) is legal. This ambivalence can cause confusion and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court called it bizarre.

“We find ourselves in an anomalous, some would say bizarre, situation where almost everything related to prostitution has been regulated by the criminal law except the transaction itself. The appellants' argument then, more precisely stated, is that in criminalizing so many activities surrounding the act itself, Parliament has made prostitution
de facto illegal if not de jure illegal.”,

'Prostitution' is not defined in Canadian statute law, but is based on case law which deems that three elements are necessary to establish that prostitution is taking place - (i) provision of sexual services, (ii) the indiscriminate nature of the act (soliciting rather than choosing clients), and (iii) the necessity for some form of payment.

There are enough loopholes here to drive a stealthy car through. Choosing your clients is okay; randomly soliciting isn't. Communicating for the purposes of prostitution is fine so long as you don't do it in pubic. (Sorry, typo.) This has given rise to a thriving "escort" industry--just check out the classified section of any big-city newspaper--because "escorting" is, wink-wink, what's-that-nudging-me, also legal.

Given these loopholes, it was only a matter of time before somebody questioned a set of laws that seem designed to drive prostitution underground. This state of affairs has been a real contributing factor to many atrocities, the most recent and heinous being the Robert Pickton murders.

My belief has long been that since the government can't very well eradicate "the world's oldest profession", it should do everything in its power to make prostitution more resemble a profession. That starts with legalization and strict regulation. Open up brothels in segregated districts; ensure all who choose to work therein are regularly tested for STIs; provide on-site security and the luxury of denying skeevy prospective clients; and tax sex workers' earnings. Hell, unionize them. Although that brings to mind the following joke:

A staunch union man was cruising the red-light district, badly in need. At the first brothel he came to, he asked the madam what the house take was. "Well", she told him, "the house gets eighty percent and the girl gets twenty percent."
"I'm a union man," he said, "and that rate is monstrously unfair. You've just lost my business."

He proceeded to the second house and asked the same question. The madam said at her establishment, the girl got thirty percent and the house seventy. "Well, that's a little better," he said, "but still not good enough for a union man like me."

The third brothel looked more promising: a "union shop" sign hung in the window. The madam there told the man that at her place, the girls got eighty percent of their earnings and the house took twenty in the form of union dues.
"Now, see, that's much better!" he cried, and emptied his wallet. "Let me see..." and he pointed to a nubile young thing. "I'll take Sindee, there."
"Oh," said the madam, "that won't do." An old crone on a cane hobbled into the room and smiled gummily.
"This is a union shop," said the madam, "and Ethel here has seniority."

All kidding aside, if you legalize and regulate "the profession", you can then use the tax dividend to go after any remaining street walkers, their customers, and especially their pimps with both legal barrels blazing. Remove the pimp from the equation, screen any prospective employee for drug use, and you're more than half way to a huge paradigm shift making prostitution a respectable business. You'll see untold positive ripples elsewhere in jurisprudence, too. Don't believe me? Compare the incidence of rape in countries where prostitution is legal versus those where it isn't.

The same argument can (and, I predict, will) be made with respect to the legalization of marijuana. Make it legal to own, say, four plants for personal use...let people purchase the seeds at government controlled stores, the way they do with alcohol in Ontario at present...charge 'em for the privilege...and use some of the vast revenue stream you'll create to obliterate the black market and all the crime associated with it.

All of this makes so much sense it's little wonder the Conservatives don't have the slightest interest in implementing it.

1 comment:

Rocketstar said...