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Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

RFT Ep 257 – Sex Sells Redux Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on June 24, 2014

Download the episode here! 

<NOTE: Due to technical issues, CiTR's pod-casting server is down. The show can still be enjoyed via the link above...sorry for the inconvenience>

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This Week Whine – The Iraq Dilemma and Globalized Ethics

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This past couple of weeks has brought to light the very precarious nature of the idea of an Iraqi nation…and it does not look good. We provide a quick historical context for the civil war in all but name that has resurfaced in Iraq. We also look at the UN’s Responsibility to Protect…a high point for humanity where we no longer limit people to be citizens of a nation but citizens of the world with rights the global community is charged to protect. Alas, we discuss how Iraq shows the utter failure of the UN, NATO, The US and the global community in general to actualize these rights…to ACTUALLY protect people from military violence.

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The New Prostitution Bill…oy vey

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In the wake of the Supreme Court striking down Canada’s prostitution law, the Harper government has presented to parliament a replaced based on the so called “Nordic Model”.

We review the reason the previous law was struck down and how this new law makes matters worse for sex workers. We deconstruct Justice Minister Peter McKay’s regressive, paternalistic sexist misogynistic law and the real reasons Harper is introducing a law he knows will be struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Further Reading:

The Case to Legalize Brothels

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In the previous section, I asserted that prostitution and more specifically brothels were not innately harmful…well, to be a good skeptic…we take a moment to review the evidence out there and see if the proposition – legalizing brothels makes sex work and sex workers safer is justified or just dogmatic.

Further Reading:

How Class Works

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Based on a presentation given by Richard Wolff, an economist who has studied class issues for more than 40 years.

Wolff explains what class is all about and applies that understanding to the foreclosure crisis of 2007–2011. He argues that class concerns the “way our society splits up the output [and] leaves those who get the profits in the position of deciding and figuring out what to do with them… We all live with the results of what a really tiny minority in our society decides to do with the profits everybody produces.” As you watch and listen, consider what we know from research about disease and illness patterns among groups with lower income, more stress, and less control of their lives. Consider how investment decisions in neighborhoods, over transportation, school facilities, parks, location of grocery stores, quality of affordable housing, etc. influenced by powerful interests, affect the quality of life for large segments of the population.

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This was produced by the National Association of County and City Public Health Officials (NACCHO) as a part of their Roots of Health Inequality Project. The project is a web-based course for the public health workforce and “How Class Works” is one section of the course.

Further Reading:

 

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Accommodationalism

Posted by Don McLenaghen on February 20, 2011

I have been tracking a number of stories in Canada this week relating to accommodation…religious – or if you wish to use a less loaded term cultural – accommodation. At first, I saw these stories as short segments we could use as examples of how dogma, both religious and secular, could take small incidences and blow them out of proportion. However, as I did more research I saw a growing connection between them and that there was a bigger issue being played out.

My first thought, and the one that is raised most often in these debates, is the concept of multiculturalism. I think that is valid issue for discussion and something we will be focusing our skeptic eye on in the near future. However, there was another greater thread being woven by these issues that is the concept of ‘accommodationalism’.

As a Dawkian atheist, I think religion is innately bad for society; however,this can itself be a dogma that has lead others to support people or actions that are harmful to the cause (notable the xenophobic Pat Condell). So, I could not just rule out accommodationalism’ because I think there is a place for it in an open well-functioning socialist society and thus an issue worthy of a greater examination. The stories that inspired this segment were the Sikh kirpan (ceremonial dagger) and the Islamic hijab (head cover) or nijab (face veil). I would have included Mormon Polygamy for more ethnic diversity but we covered this rather extensively in a previous episode although I think it worthy of a re-listen to.

On Feb 9th of this year, the Quebec parliament officially banned the Kirpan from the provincial legislature. This was the culmination of several weeks of controversy over the claimed right of Sikhs to wear the religiously required ceremonial dagger while addressing the legislature. Here is that story.

A group of four Sikhs, representatives of the World Sikh Organization, were scheduled to make a presentation at Quebec’s national assembly on Bill 94. This bill is itself controversial and was being reviewed in an effort to find a reasonable accommodation of the religious and cultural practices of minorities in the Quebec civil society. This delegation of Sikhs were denied entry to the legislature because they refused to remove their kirpans.

According to security services, “This decision was taken by the security services, solely for security reasons”. The guards offered them the option to put the kirpan in a safe place, but the offer was refused and they were denied entry.

Balpreet Singh, a member of the delegation, said “We weren’t allowed to enter because we wear the kirpan, which is a bit ironic because we were here to speak upon the issue of accommodation and we weren’t accommodated”

The Bloc Québécois wasted no time taking up the issue. “It was a well-founded decision [in Quebec] and it is perhaps time that Parliament adopt similar rules”. Conservative MP Navdeep Bains accused the Bloc of seeking to make cheap political gains from the controversy. He said, “I’ve been wearing a kirpan since 2004 and they have never raised this as a cause of concern.”

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2006 that a total ban of the kirpan in a Quebec school violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it infringed on religious freedoms. However, the court allowed school boards to impose some restrictions in the name of public safety.

Okay, I have been using the term Kirpan a lot but many…maybe most…don’t know what one is. The kirpan is both a defensive weapon and a symbol. Physically it is an instrument of “ahimsa” or non-violence. The principle of ahimsa is to actively prevent violence, not to simply stand by idly whilst violence is being done. To that end, the kirpan is a tool to be used to prevent violence from being done to a defenseless person when all other means to do so have failed.

Symbolically, the kirpan represents the power of truth to cut through untruth. The Reht Maryada, a Sikh religious text, does not specify the length of the Kirpan or the construction of the various parts of the Kirpan or how and where it is to be worn by the devotee.

So, one of the issues raised by Bill 94 was the push by the Parti Quebecois to regulate Kirpans, which as I mentioned they seem to be accomplishing. Some may see this as a strictly civil rights issue while others a security issue. I think one line made by MNA Louise Beaudoin encapsulated THIS issue. They said “It may be a religious choice, but maybe it’s not a choice that everybody should accept everywhere” and therein lies the rub.

One of the reasons people adopt these religious customs is to show their commitment and SACRIFICE for their beliefs and that is their right; however at what point do their choices begin to infringe on my life. First, being around a dangerous weapon may be a decision they are willing to live with but I fail to understand why it is one that I must also accept? There are limitations placed upon me as to where and how I may carry a gun; why should the specter of religion suddenly allow me special privileges.

Secondly, as mentioned, the construction and placement of the kirpan are not strictly speaking ‘written in stone’, so it is possible that the kirpan be, for example a harmless 3 cm in size or encased in resin…maintaining its symbolic meaning while removing it as a physical threat. Lastly, one aspect of these religious practices is the idea of sacrifice. They have chosen this path and accepted the sacrifices that are to be made…so accept the limitations imposed by your decision and don’t try and change the world so there no longer is any sacrifice in the choice…removing the ‘sacrifice’ part…that somehow defeats the purpose doesn’t. In this case I don’t see that any accommodation should be made.

This leads me into a related story, also focused on Bill 94. The heart of this bill would deny government services to those covering their faces. About a year ago, Naïma Atef Amed filed a complaint with the province’s human rights commission because of her experience at a government-funded language class for new immigrants in Montreal. The school insists that to learn French, the instructor must be able to see the face of the student. When Amed refused to take off her veil, she was kicked out of class.

Now, this is another example of someone who should be willing, at least on the surface, to accept the sacrifices her beliefs have imposed upon her; however in this case I am willing to say that an accommodation is appropriate. This case differs in two key ways; first whether or not she wears a nijab will have no effect on my life. The nijab, at least the ones I have seen, are not sharp weapons; so my previous complaint about safety does not seem to apply. Further, there still is the sacrifice aspect in her compliance because it will (assuming the school was not being vindictive) hamper her ability to learn French if the instructor is unable to ‘see her face’. The teacher will do as good a job as they can but there is no necessity, that I can find, for Amed to be forced to remove her nijab. Also, I do not think that wearing a piece of clothing, a catholic habit, the hijab or even a hockey mask, should preclude one from accessing normal civil services. Bill 94 states that any civil service can be denied to anyone who refused to remove their veil; this is secularist (or maybe just xenophobic) dogma. In this case, I think Bill 94 is wrong and that accommodation is appropriate.

That said, there are limits even in this class of complaint. I have only told you part of Amed’s story. She was not actually expelled JUST because she refused to show her face…the school could live with that. However, she insisted that she sit at the back of the room so as to avoid the possible ‘gaze’ of 3 men also in the class. She did at one point agree to lift her veil in private with a female instructor but backed out on this compromise when no assurance could be made that a female instructor would be available for future lessons. She refused to partake in ‘round table’ exercises because she could not tolerate any of the men in her class see her eyes. This attempt to accommodate Amed continued for three months until the disruption in the class to the other students forced the instructor to remove Amed. I think at this point, Amed has failed to understand that accommodation is a two way street.

Having the complete story perhaps we can understand why the decision to expel the niqab-wearing woman was widely supported in Quebec. This includes a few noteworthy people.

Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, who defended the right of inmates to smoke in prison and the right of Sikh students to wear ceremonial daggers in class said “Accommodation should not lead to separation”.

Yolande Geadah, an Egyptian-born writer, said: “There is no possible compromise with people with such inflexible attitudes.”

Raheel Raza, a Pakistani-born Muslim women’s rights activist, said: “When we come to Canada, we’re not coming to the Islamic Republic of Canada.”

So, to wrap up this thought. We (as most Canadians and most atheist) do not believe cultural groups should be discriminated against but what if the cultural trait that is the cause/object of the discrimination is a religious one? As secularist, we do not think religion should be protected…that i should be treated like any other social “harm” (that is if we regulate guns, we should not treat ‘religious guns’ differently).

Further, as a Dawkian Atheist, I think every effort should be made to cure society of religion…but what happens when those efforts are co-opted by racist (such as Draw Mohamed day?). I think I remain rationally committed to my form of anti-spiritualism while denying support for hate groups provided I use the scientific method guard against that new form of secular dogma. I will discuss this more in an upcoming blog about a new bill being debated requiring visual confirmation of voters.

What are your thoughts?

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A problem with Polygamy law

Posted by Don McLenaghen on December 19, 2010

Okay, I am an open-minded kinda guy. I think love and lust are not necessarily the same things; that people will form various kinds of unions and that if consenting and fulfilling no limitation should be applied. Now if you asked me if I believe that polygamy was good or bad, I probably would have said “do you mean the Mormon kind or the hippy kind”. You see, as a good atheist and a product of my society, Mormon polygamy was wrong on two counts 1) it was abusive to women and children and 2) it was religious dogma. The hippy kind (to date my imagery) was a union of equals to express both pleasure and non-conformity.

However, in doing some research for the show I discovered such simplistic (yes, I can be simplistic at times…sorry) views I held were both optimistic and not reflected in our legal system. First I should clarify some terms:

Polygamy: a marriage in which a spouse of either sex may have more than one mate at the same time

Polyandry: the practice or condition of having more than one husband at one time

Polygyny: the practice or condition of having more than one wife at one time

Now technically, the Mormon type would be strictly limited to polygyny. This issue came my attention because of a court case currently making its way through the BC legal system destined for the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC).

Recently an unsuccessful attempt to charge two Mormon men in Bountiful, BC with polygamy failed. This prompted members of the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church) to mount a constitution challenge holding that the laws against polygamy are unconstitutional and should be struck down.

As I have talked about before with regards to free-speech, prostitution and other issues; in Canada our constitution allows for the limitation of fundamental rights provided they pass the “Oakes Test”. The Oaks test (from the SCC ruling on the Oaks case) holds that limitations must be minimal, pertinent and remedy proportional harms to society.

The law, section 293 of the Criminal Code, states that “any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage” is guilty of an indictable offence. Further that anyone who “celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a [polygamist] relationship” are likewise guilty of a indictable offence.

That’s the law; however the harms that are most often cited, that are ‘eased’ by this limitation of liberty, are child brides, forced marriage and spousal abuse (more often the abuse is seen as economic or psychological). If we look at this list though we can already remove the last one, because spousal abuse (sadly) is common in monogamous marriages. However, little evidence shows polygamist unions are innately more significantly abusive (although I am open to evidence showing my cursory investigation to be wrong).

Living in Vancouver with several strong Asian cultures with ‘traditions’ regarding arranged marriages, we are aware there is a disconnect between polygamy both forced marriage and child betrothed. In these arranged monogamous marriages often the betrothed are children and have little or no choice in the matter (in the worst of these cultures, violent punishment is exacted on reluctant participants) – that is there is no necessary connection between child brides or forced marriage and polygamy.

So, it seems that the harms that are supposedly addressed by this law, although real are not connected to polygamy. In applying the Oakes test we agree that there are harms that should be addressed however it seems to fail to show the pertinent connection between the harms and polygamy.

However, let’s continue our thought experiment. If we assumed that what we wanted to restrict was religious polygyny because it has been associated with substantial and pertinent harms, does the law restrict our freedoms in a minimal way. The law as stated is extremely broad. This law would include my hippy polygamist; in fact if you were gay living with several roommates in a ‘close’ relationship, you could be charged under this law. Further, if you went to a house warming for this common-law type relationship to celebrate their ‘union’, you could be charged.

The law as stated is EXTREMELY broad. There is a local group, VanPoly (along with CPAA) which is working to have the law struck down because they fear they could be charged even though their relationships have nothing to do with the LDS, child brides or forced marriage.

So, why do we have these laws then when they seem overly broad and not really aimed at the social harms we have cited? In fact, when the anti-polygamy laws were first enacted the concept of spousal abuse was non-existent and child brides (at least mid-teens) was not uncommon in monogamous marriages.

Much has been made as to the religious turf war being the root of the North American experience. The Mormons, the new religious, had as a main tenet of their belief system polygamy since 1843. The US made polygamy illegal in 1863 and the Mormons moved west and north (to Utah and western Canada). In 1890, to gain statehood, Utah banned polygamy leading to a second wave of exodus. Canada also banned polygamy in 1890 and saw its one and only successful convictions in 1899, in fact Mormonism was explicitly used in the law until 1950s.

The criminalization of polygamy drives its participants to separate themselves from mainstream society and it is here that the harms arise. If your neighbor showed up one day with an 11 yr. girl and said it was his new wife you’d likely call the cops; if we suspect spousal abuse, as a society we are getting better at recognizing it and would come to the assistance of the abused. However when these actions take place in a ‘like-minded’ community isolated from the ‘masses’, this social safeguarding system breaks down and abuse can occur.

Do I think there is harm being done to the women and children of Bountiful, BC (and similar communes)…yes. Do I think this harm is originated in polygamy…no. I believe the root issue, the source of the abuse, is not multiple marriages but patriarchal authoritarian religion. With regards to the law AS IS, it fails the Oaks test both in the fact that the practice is not directly linked to the stated harms to be remedied (i.e. there is nothing innately abusive in polygamous relationships) and the level of minimal limitation of freedoms (i.e. even if we assumed LDS style polygyny were harmful, the law encompasses any type of polygamy including lesbians in a multi-partner relationship etc.).

On a last note, I is funny that our society seems to frown so strongly on parallel multiple marriages and yet has come to terms to serial multiple marriages; that is there are millions of people in the US and Canada who  have many spouses but not at the same time. If we look back a century or two, we see how that was seen as immoral and harmful to society. Why is it okay to have many spouses over time but not at one time?

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Best little Whore House….pt 2

Posted by Don McLenaghen on October 20, 2010

In part 1, we discussed the legality around the court challenge and took a sceptical look at the court ruling. Now we will look at the issue itself – should brothels be legalized.

Now there are two questions to be asked. IF prostitution is innately wrong (be it for moral, gender equality or other reasons) then the law should outlaw prostitution (a position I oppose but will save that argument for another day). It seems to be the current ‘will of the people’ see prostitution as just another trade/occupation; that it is not innately wrong – as such it is currently legal in Canada. Those who disagree with this are welcome to change the minds of Canadians (with rational empirical evidence of course) but this is a straw man argument against brothels themselves.

As a society, we accept prostitution as a valid and legal profession; that said we can agree that prostitution as currently practiced can lead to situation where workers are subjugated to violence, theft and coercion. The second question then is: how can we make the sex-trade safer for ‘participants’ (workers and clients) and ‘law abiding’? The striking down of these laws was a step in that direction.

As long as prostitution is legal (and even if it were not) there will be brothels…they are convenient for the client and desired among the workers (re: testimony). So, under which condition – legal vs. illegal – are brothels more likely to be positive environments or negative environment?

If there are illegal, there is NO opportunity for civil officials – be it law enforcement, medical or social – to interact with the workers to ensure their safety or security.

If they are illegal there are, by definition, run by criminals. The criminal element is by its nature more likely to abuse it workers…it is also likely to be involved in other ‘subsidiary’ illegal activities such as drug dealing. This is dangerous not only to the workers who will be more likely forced into conditions of dependency but also the harm to the community.

If they are illegal, the workers are discouraged from working in ‘safe’ neighbourhoods and self-incriminate if they contact authorities to report abuses. The communication law, also forces workers to work in isolates unsafe environments.

IF they are legal (AND regulated), civic officials can ensure safe work environments, provide outreach for those suffering from addiction and ensure the business operates both within the law and also pays its share of taxes.

IF they are legal, those operating the businesses will be business men (although I personal see the capitalism as a criminal, current society does not). They will have, as all legal entrepreneurs, an interest to uphold to the law, ensure they deal with their employees in a legal and fair way and provide an amiable environment for their cliental. They will be active positive members of the community, paying taxes and protecting their investments.

IF they are legal, those working in the brothels can call upon the resources of the state for protection from abuse, to help ensure a safe and respectful work environment and not worry if they require assistance from the authorities they will themselves be criminalized.

Now, there other issues involved in the sex trade – notable child prostitution and human trafficking (sex slaves). These issues will not be exacerbated but the legalization of brothels; if anything they will be hampered. If a brothel employs ‘honest’ prostitutes, they will be more likely to ‘whistle blow’ on brothels where illegal activity (like child or slave labour) is occurring. Making brothels legal will not make child-sex legal nor will it encourage human trafficking. In fact it will decrease the available avenues these activities will be able to operate as most sex work becomes above-board.

Fair dinkum, I am not saying that legalizing brothels will end violence to prostitutes…magically illuminate the criminal pimp…stop human trafficking or bring to an end child prostitution. What I am saying is by making this, like prostitution, legitimate you will shed a light on the business and drives out most of the negative elements…make it more likely that workers will get counselling for addiction and medical attention. There will be a selective pressure promoting safe brothels because the vast majority of their clients also want an safe and clean environment.

Ultimately, those who claim they worry about the safety of sex works are against these laws being struck down seem contradictory. They believe even if we legalize brothels some will still remain ‘underground’ and some will remain in the hands of violent and/or criminal pimps. Even if that were true, all I can say is I don’t understand how limiting the number of legit venues for prostitutes will make them safer? How is keeping brothels, ALL brothels in the hands of criminal gangs helping to make them safer? No, these laws needed to be struck down and a reasonable set of regulations put in their place. 

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Best little Whorehouse….pt 1

Posted by Don McLenaghen on October 20, 2010

Recently the Ontario Supreme Court struck down a law that criminalized prostitution…well actual the operation of brothels.

The applicants (the people challenging the law) were arguing the several laws violated their charter rights. The respondent (the government wanting to uphold the law) argued that it could limit rights based on Section 1 of the charter which states:

“1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

The court, in testing to see if the limitation is valid used what is called the “Oakes test”[1] (named after the court case that first stated this test). The first test holds that there must be a “pressing and substantial objective”, for example the desire to protect minorities from hate speech. IF the court agrees there is a suitable objective, the crown must then show proportionality.

Proportionality is actual three things; first the restriction in question must be related to achieving the objective. For example, preventing someone from driving because they shoplifter – there is no rational connection between the two. Second it must be as minimal as possible. For example, a rehabilitated (ie lawfully released from prison) child-sex offender could be prohibited from going into any public part, but that is a large limitation. A more minimal limitation would be prohibited from school areas; this achieved the laws objective while not being too onerous on the charter. Lastly, it must be proportional to the objective. For example, the objective of stopping Jaywalking (a minor offence) should have an equally minor limitation on rights; whereas stopping hate speech (a major offence) could support a greater limitation on rights.

Okay, now that you have a brief understanding of the Charter, let’s just say the court did not believe these laws deserved Sec. 1 protection and thus struck them down. The laws in question are:

1)   Anyone who is keeps a common bawdy-house (a place that is kept for the purpose of prostitution or the practice of acts of indecency) is guilty of an indictable offence. This extends to the “inmates” (ie workers), landlords and anyone found “without lawful excuse”…who are liable to summery conviction.

2)   Everyone who live wholly or in part of the avails of prostitution of another person

3)   Every person who, in a public place or in any place open to public view…attempts to communicate for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or obtaining the sexual services of a prostitute…is punishable by a summary conviction.

These laws were, in a way, quite weird. I could understand if you we left with the impression prostitution itself was illegal in Canada…yet is it not! Prostitution itself is legal in Canada….they have just written the law so that you just can’t ACTUALLY practice it…well ‘above board’. Largely what is at the heart of this matter is brothels (bawdy-house )…should they be legal and above board or remain illegal and in the hands of criminals? Sorry, that loaded ways to state that….Lets rephrase it – should the law accept the legal existence of brothels?

Let’s take our sceptical minds and examine what the evidence presented to the courts.

In evidence, a number of former and current ‘workers’ stated that it was their experience that working ‘indoors’ was significantly safer that walking the streets. Most stated that they entered into the line of work without coercion…beyond the capitalist system…ie they needed the money. The State offered counter evidence but it focused mostly on ‘abusive pimps’ who did their violence both indoors and on the street.

This is what a sceptic would call anecdotal evidence…so not much weight either way…

Law enforcement witnesses stated that most of the harm centered around drug/alcohol abuse and organized crime. They saw the ‘workers’ as victims, both of the ‘pimps’ but also the johns; noting most prostitutes are poor while the johns come from “all walks of life”.  A re-occurring theme in the respondent’s (and most critiques of protection) submissions is the view sex trade workers are victims…of others, circumstance and substance addiction.

Law enforcement witnesses also expressed frustration at attempting to enforce these laws. In 2008 2377 charges were made for ‘brothels’ but only 131 convictions.

Under cross-examination, they all stated that streets were worse for violence then indoors. That indoor location could be set up to reduce the chances and level of violence.

Again, largely anecdotal, but it did collaborate the ‘claim’ that indoor work are saver than the street walking.

I ignored the convictions data, regardless whether a law is easily enforceable does not make it a good law. It’s hard to fly, does that make flight bad?

The Fraser Report in 1985 held that prostitutes should be allowed to conduct their business, in private, however they choose…including the disposition of their ‘fees for service’. They also stated that although there is a strong perception of a connection between prostitution and drug abuse, the evidence shows that actually only small part of the business and not typical. It also reiterated the fact street walking is far more dangerous.

They also reported, after extensive cross-country consultations with the public and no consensus on the issue.

The Fraser Report did recommend the removal of laws constraining ‘non-nuisance’ street solicitation; that laws against ‘living on the avail of prostitution’ be reworked so as to criminal abusive behaviour of pimps and not the actual financial relationship and to allow prostitutes to legally work ‘from home’.

In 1995 the Calgary/Winnipeg study reported that due to the criminalization of ‘communicating for the purposed of prostitution’, workers were forces to work in more remote and isolated area making them more vulnerable to violence. The laws do not suppress prostitution but simply drive it underground.

So, the research into the issue seems to point to the striking down of the laws in question…but what about ‘experimental evidence’. This can be found by looking at the effects in other countries.

Legalization in Holland, although debated, according to reports commissioned by the Dutch government, there has been moderate success in improving the working conditions of prostitutes; including, notably, a significant reduction of STDs.

In 2003 New Zealand legalized and regulated brothels….the result being significant reduction of violence, coercion  and theft in the ‘in-house’ workers…street workers still suffered though.

Germany passed its law in 2002 with the explicit purpose of removing prostitution as a “breeding ground for crime”

Nevada has several regulations to help protect women such as negotiating prices upfront with management listening in to ensure the proper behaviour of the client, the fee is paid in advance with the worker giving a opportunity to express reservations away from the client, each room has a panic button, and there is not ‘quick’ exit for johns and clients are not allowed to be ‘anonymous’ discouraging them doing harm and ensuring if they do they will be apprehended and prosecuted.

So, the rational trend seems to be getting sex trade works off the street reduces their risks…including violence, theft and coercion.

Bucking the trend, Sweden criminalized the buying of sex and pimping. “Act on the violence against Women” 1999. To understand why Sweden has gone against the grain we only need look at the acts name. It is not an ‘anti-prostitution’ act but an act intended to ‘defend women’… It seems to ignore the fact that a significant number of sex-trade workers are man.

Straw man – refuted a position by substituting a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

There is this constant assertion that sex trade workers are ALWAYS victims (even when they are voluntary participants), that they need someone (usually the male minister of state) to protect them from other bad men…the case at hand was not prostitution itself but brothels. This is a straw man because it ignores the argument ‘are prostitutes safer in legal or illegal brothels’ and instead agues prostitution is innately wrong therefore prostitutes are safer in illegal brothels…I am stunned at the illogical.

“I think that the criminalization of everything around prostitution, except prostitution itself, means that sex workers are not positioned … to seek assistance should their lives be at risk.” Gender studies prof Darlene Jushka, U of R[2]

This argument strikes me as incredibly sexist and paternalistic. I know it is not a very skeptic critique but it’s not a very rational argument. With regards to the laws at hand, it is also irrelevant. IF you accept that prostitution is innately harmful, then you aim should not be to make brothels illegal but make prostitution itself illegal.

So that is how the law worked and the evidence the judges used to arrive at a decision that seems consistent with the skeptic mind. You can check out their full decision here[3].

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