Women’s groups support full decriminalization of sex work in Bedford Case

Monday, April 15 2013

Co-ordinated by sexual assault activist Jane Doe (Jane Doe v the Toronto Police Force), the Feminist Coalition, a national group of women’s anti-violence organizations, has filed for intervener status in the Bedford case.  They will argue in support of the full decriminalization of prostitution and the human and legal rights of sex workers.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear the appeal on June 12th, 2013

Represented by lawyer Marie Henein, the Coalition argues that: “the criminalization of activities related to the sex trade under the current legislative regime significantly contribute to the violence against and victimization of sex working women and endangers their safety”.

Says Jane Doe: “Bedford seeks to obtain equality for a group of women currently denied their constitutional right to live and work free from violence in their lives. The fact that it is denied by our government is not acceptable as to decline those rights to one group refutes them for all”.

In 2012, the Ontario Court of Appeal reversed part of the original decision by Justice Himel (20l0) to fully decriminalize prostitution, ruling that the Criminal Code provision prohibiting communication for the purpose of prostitution be upheld, thereby prohibiting the ability of sex workers to negotiate with and screen clients.  Most negatively impacted by that decision are women working on the street, who are disproportionately indigenous, transgendered, substance-users or otherwise marginalized.

The Feminist Coalition also disagrees with the court of appeal’s decision to prevent sex workers from working with, hiring, or working for any third party despite the fact that such assistance can make sex workers more secure. The court of appeal restricted that provision (“living off the avails of prostitution”) to cases of exploitation. The Coalition will argue that this vague limitation will continue to make sex working women unsafe and creates a distinction to which no other industry is subjected.

The Coalition supports the decriminalization of bawdy houses in line with both the 2010 and 2012 rulings.

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