Becki Ross is a professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology and the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice.
Should sex work be decriminalized in Canada? Why?
Sex work in Canada needs to be decriminalized as a first step towards imagining an industry governed by, or overseen by, the workers themselves.
Decriminalization will help to end the punishing stigmatization of women, men, and trans folks who, as sex professionals, sell their time and skills to consenting adults. It will mean an end to charges laid against sex workers and those “living on the avails” of prostitution, including sex workers’ lovers, landlords, hired security personnel, and drivers.
Decriminalization will enable sex workers to seek protection from the police rather than remain vulnerable to myriad forms of violence, including at the hands of police themselves. Unfettered by the Criminal Code, sex workers will be able to transition out of the industry without a criminal record.
How will the Supreme Court’s decision in Bedford v. Canada impact the future of Canadian sex workers?
Should the Supreme Court rule that current laws are unconstitutional, it will become possible for sex workers to work from home (as do many accountants, lawyers, daycare providers, and hair stylists) or from small, worker-owned and managed co-operatives such as those in parts of New Zealand and New South Wales, Australia.
In these contexts, sex workers will be able to work, advertise, solicit clients, and obtain business licenses for indoor work without fear of police intimidation, raids, and arrests.
Sex workers must play a leadership role in every conversation about who they are, what they need, and how best to ensure their safety, security, and substantive citizenship in the event that the misguided and harmful Canadian laws are revoked.