Sex workers in Canada are celebrating after the country’s highest court unanimously struck down three anti-prostitution laws. In their landmark 9-0 ruling, the nine judges deemed that bans against owning and visiting brothels, publicly soliciting for sex and living off prostitution proceeds constitute gross violation to the principles of life, liberty and security of sex workers.
Prostitution is legal in Canada but laws aimed at curbing its practice went overboard in as far as protecting the public from nuisances associated with prostitution is concerned, the judges noted. “Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes,” Read part of the ruling.
However, the ruling doesn’t take effect immediately as Canada’s parliament has one year to create appropriate legislation. This decision by the Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal that struck down the law against owning and visiting brothels on the grounds that this forced sex workers into the streets.
The last time the Supreme court ruled on matters of anti-prostitution laws was more than two decades ago when it upheld the law against street solicitation. Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin said times have changed since the 1990 ruling.
“The harms identified by the courts below are grossly disproportionate to the deterrence of community disruption that is the object of the law,” the chief justice noted.
The sex workers from Vancouver who were part of the group that brought the case before courts applauded the decision, through their lawyer Katrina Pacey, terming the ruling as “unbelievably important” for sex workers and human rights.
“The court recognized that sex workers have the right to protect themselves and their safety,” she said.
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