For Immediate Release
December 20, 2013
San Francisco, California
Contact Maxine Doogan 415-265-3302
One the heals of celebrating International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, December 17th, Canadian sex workers and their allies received news today from their highest court. Three anti prostitution laws that infringed upon the rights of prostitutes by depriving them of security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian constitution.
The laws concerning keeping a common bawdy house, living off the avails, and communicating in public for the purpose of solicitation impose a “dangerous conditions on prostitution; they prevent people engaged in a risky — but legal — activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks” the ruling said.
In 2012, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a 2010 Ontario Superior Court Judge Susan Himel’s decision concerning 2 of the laws: keeping a common bawdy house and living off the avails but overturned that lower court’s decision on communicating in public for the purpose of solicitation. The appellate court stated street solicitation “poses real and grave dangers” to sex workers.
Today’s high court decision disallowed that appellate court ruling and agreed that sex workers, particularly those who work on the street, are vulnerable members of society and deserve protection in the form of accessing their rights-to communicate for the purposes to solicit.
“Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott are the three Ontario women who won the 2010 landmark ruling by the Ontario Superior Court, Judge Susan Himel who stated that the Criminal Code prohibiting keeping a common bawdy house, living off the avails of prostitution, and soliciting in public for the purpose of prostitution were unconstitutional. Himel concluded that these laws violated sex workers’ legal rights to freedom of expression and security of the person.
A similar challenge is being mounted here in the US by the California based Erotic Service Provider Legal Education & Research Project. Esplerp is raising money via http://www.gofundme.com/litigatetoemancipate to strike down the anti prostitution laws as unconstitutional and a top constitutional litigator has been retained. The sex worker led non-profit helped strike down the California Victims Compensation Programs’ discriminatory regulation 649.56 last week. Congratulations to the sex workers of Canada and their allies for leading the way to end decades of violence against our class of worker.