Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Keep prostitution illegal

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Your July 13 editorial, Sex trade flourishes in city, took a strong stand calling for greater support and assistance to victims of sexual exploitation. It was incredibly disappointing to see that important call to action followed up by the naive and misguided editorial Decriminalize the sex trade (Sept. 29), which takes the view that you can simply regulate exploitation away in the sex trade.

Around the world, countries that have experimented with a legalized/decriminalized sex trade have found that it has not succeeded in curbing abuse and harm and, in many cases, made the problem worse. In Amsterdam, officials have had to close huge sections of its red-light district due to infiltration by organized crime. In New Zealand and Australia, health checks are done on prostituted persons, but never on the johns who come calling -- who is such a system really designed to benefit?

There is a much better model in Sweden that is gaining international acclaim. The Swedish model recognizes prostitution as a form of violence against women. It criminalizes the purchasers of sex acts, while providing real alternatives and support to prostituted individuals, treating them with dignity and respect. The results are impressive and other countries have since adopted it.

In 2007, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, vice-chaired by Joy Smith, MP for Kildonan-St. Paul, recommended that Canada adopt the Swedish approach to curb sexual exploitation. It is an idea whose time has surely come.

Benjamin Perrin

Vancouver, B.C.


Legitimizing the activities of johns, pimps and organized crime does not prevent the violence, abuse and exploitation of women and girls that is inherent to the sex trade. Decriminalization merely emboldens those who would prey upon, and profit from, the bodies of the most vulnerable in our society.

We, as Canadians, should instead aspire to follow Sweden's lead by recognizing prostitution for what it is: violence against women. This approach assists women and girls in exiting the sex trade, and targets the purchasers or "johns" who create the demand for this dehumanizing industry.

Our women and girls deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, not sold day after day for the sexual gratification and profit of others.

Joy Smith, MP

Kildonan-St. Paul


The romantic notion that sex trade workers are freelance entrepreneurs offering the public service for a fee belongs with the fictional tales of the Prisoner of Zenda and Zorro. The reality is that sex trade customers include a significant number of dangerous deviants who are willing and able to inflict serious physical harm on the sex trade workers they engage. Pimps prey on this vulnerability and provide protection to sex trade workers for the price of enslavement.

Human traffickers are even less scrupulous, enticing and acquiring girls, boys and women as slaves to service the sex trade. They use a variety of techniques from simple coercion, to beatings, to gang rapes and drug dependency to break down their slaves and ensure obedience.

Laws that focus on sex trade customers help to reduce the demand for services by making the cost of services too high. Laws that focus on lengthy prison terms for pimps and traffickers get these predators off our streets and out of society.

Decriminalizing the sex trade enables predators to continue to ply their reprehensible slave trade and leaves vulnerable people open to enslavement. It is a very bad idea.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2009 A19

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