Simone de Beauvoir Institute Applauds Court of Appeal for Ontario Decision Related to Prostitution

Tuesday, November 30 1999

The Court of Appeal for Ontario recently ruled that two elements of Canada's prostitution laws cause harm to women (Canada Attorney General v. Bedford, 2012 ONCA 186:

Specifically, the Court argues that the bawdy house provisions and the living off the avails provisions of the Criminal Code violate the security of individuals who work in the sex trade and, as such, are unconstitutional. In more simple terms, the court argues that prostitution laws put women in the sex trade at risk of violence and that these laws violate the fundamental Charter rights of sex workers.

What the Ruling Means

The ruling removes barriers for women working in the sex trade that increase their vulnerability to violence and harm. It allows them to hire a driver or a bodyguard, for example, as a way to ensure their safety-practices that were previously criminalized (living off the avails provision). It enables women to work together out of the same apartment; this practice was criminalized under the bawdy house laws. The ruling means that women can work more safely and that they can work together.

Why We Support the Ruling as Feminists



Reflections on the Ruling's Consideration of the Communicating Provisions

The Court of Appeal for Ontario's decision clearly states that the provisions of the Criminal Code related to living off the avails and bawdy houses violate section 7 of the Charter, the right to security of the person. We agree with this interpretation. However, the majority opinion of the Court of Appeal does not find that the communicating provisions related to prostitution also violate the security of the person, and as such lets these provisions stand.

This judgment means that communicating in public around the exchange of sex for money remains criminalized. With regards to this aspect of the ruling, we underline that women's autonomy in relation to work and sexuality is enhanced when women are afforded every opportunity to communicate. Likewise, we see sex workers' ability to protect themselves from violence facilitated when they can clearly communicate with potential clients about all matters related to their work.

Should the ruling go forward to the Supreme Court as expected, we look forward to further reflection related to the harm caused by the communicating provisions of the Criminal Code.


This ruling, having considered a wealth of evidence presented, clearly states that specific provisions of Canada's Criminal Code violate fundamental Charter rights of people working in the sex trade. Legal decisions which exclude morality, which uphold Charter rights of individuals stigmatized by their work, which allow women to protect themselves from violence, and which encourage solidarity among women workers are decisions to be celebrated by feminists.

Signed: Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, March, 2012

Also available in PDF:

Related page: Simone de Beauvoir Institute's Statement: A Feminist Position on Sex Work, 11.2010

This text in online here:

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