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New prostitution law draws criticism

The Conservative government has set a goal to abolish prostitution and legal sex work, and it believes it can do it with a bill that would heavily penalise the individuals who buy sex. While there is certainly some support for the bill, there are many people who find this proposed bill to be paternalistic and potentially dangerous.

Currently, it is not considered a sex crime to exchange money for sex in Ontario. There are certainly a number of laws that regulate how and where prostitution can happen, but the general profession is not against the law. If this bill becomes law, however, it will target those individuals who buy sex and those who profit from a relationship with prostitutes.

First, if someone pays for sex, he or she could be fined between $1,000 and $4,000. Moreover, he or she could also be sentenced to up to five years in jail. Penalties could also increase if the sex happens in a public place.

The bill would also make it a crime to advertise sex online or to derive a profit from an "exploitative relationship" with a prostitute. What exactly this means, however, would be up to the courts to decide.

There are many women who engage in sex work who are angered by the proposed bill, not least because of the Conservative government's presumption that "the vast majority of those that sell sexual services do not do so by choice" and that they view prostitutes as "victims." Some women have come forward to not only contest the government's presumption, but also to point out that this bill would not end prostitution, just make it more dangerous.

Source: The Toronto Star, "Ottawa unveils new prostitution law targeting those who buy sex," Tonda MacCharles, June 4, 2014