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Home sweet hooker

Sex clubs are now legal, so why can't prostitutes work in the safety of their own abodes?


This past year ended with a big bang: the Supreme Court of Canada gave its seal of approval to sex clubs and orgies.

It's exciting to see the law slowly opening up to allow people to act on their sexual fantasies without state officials running in to tell everyone to cover up.

And it's about time the Supreme Court recognized that we don't need judges and politicians to set standards of sexual propriety.

Of course, some commentators have moaned about the court giving licence to Sodom and Gomorrah, but I suspect the criticism comes from people who can't get a kick-start even with Viagra.

Basically, the court ruled that the state must now prove that certain activities are harmful before the activity will be deemed indecent and illegal.

The key to the Montreal orgy case was the fact that entry to the club was restricted to members who had been warned about the activities inside. But is there truly a difference between paying for club membership with the expectation of getting your rocks off and paying directly for this pleasure?

If privacy is the key to avoiding legal intrusion, then shouldn't the same consideration apply to prostitutes, whose security and safety is compromised because the current law does not allow licensed bawdy houses?

Robert Pickton, the BC pig farmer who allegedly murdered dozens of prostitutes, will come to trial later this year, and as that trial unfolds, Project KARE, an RCMP task force, will continue to work feverishly on solving the disappearance or death of more than 70 women in the Prairies who were involved in what police have called "high-risk lifestyles."

While the recent Supreme Court decision may have ended the year with a wet dream, the Pickton case will be a rude awakening, shifting the debate to a more sinister and troubling aspect of the sex trade: those who die plying it.

No one will ever really know how many prostitutes are killed every year, because they often just go missing and no one cares enough to look for them. Official statistics show that between 1991 and 2001, 73 prostitutes were murdered while working the streets, 70 of those victims women.

Only a handful were murdered by pimps; they prefer to terrorize the living. The vast majority were killed by clients. Sex trade workers have had an enormous fall from grace from the sacred temple harlots of ancient times to the marginalized outcasts exposed to all manner of violence, abuse and ridicule of today.

In October 2003, a House of Commons subcommittee was established to review prostitution laws and recommend changes that would "reduce the exploitation of and violence against sex-trade workers."

The subcommittee will report this year, and I hope it has the courage to admit that we will continue to dig up dead bodies of prostitutes on pig farms and in secluded urban alleys if we maintain imbecilic criminal prohibitions on commercial sex.

It is perfectly legal to work as a prostitute, but a wide array of over-broad and outdated laws make it impossible for prostitutes to work in a safe and secure environment. Bawdy-house laws force them onto the streets, and laws relating to procuring and living off the avails prevent them from having managers, bodyguards or union representatives.

If we remove the blunt instrument of criminal law, a proper regulatory approach can be undertaken so that hookers can oust their pimps in exchange for a safe working environment. The pimp of today may become the union steward of tomorrow.

It remains unclear what it is we hope to accomplish with our current prohibitions on commercial sex. I can understand the concerns of property owners and members of the community who don't want their street corners turned into drive-through sex shops.

I would not want people copulating in my back yard (depending upon who they are), but this is a matter of proper regulation and the construction of red-light districts.

Prostitution may be offensive to some, just as orgies aren't everyone's cup of tea, but we have to recognize the reality of diverse sexual ethics.

You don't have to read Freud to know that our species is always on the lookout for sexual outlets, and when these don't present themselves, some will go to the marketplace to buy a fleeting moment of pleasure. There is nothing the state can do about this. We call prostitution the world's oldest profession for good reason.

Every time a prostitute is arrested, two more take her place. There's a bottomless market for their services. I'm sure some cops, lawyers and judges sometimes enter this market, but they can never admit it because it would undercut their authority to arrest, prosecute and punish those who gave them release the day before.

Whether one pays to participate in an orgy or to hire the services of a prostitute, I see no reason to bring in the heavy guns of the criminal law. When it comes to sex, I see only one legal rule of any real importance: for sex to be lawful there only needs to be consent, and it should not matter whether consent is secured by direct payment or weeks of expensive courtship with fine dining and false promises.

The criminal law has never stopped anyone from paying for fellatio, but it has made the modern prostitute easy prey for a wide array of predatory criminals. the end

Alan Young is a law professor at Osgoode Hall. His column appears every other week.

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About Toronto Toronto is the capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada, with a population of over 2.3 million residents. The original meaning behind Toronto remains apt and true, for it is still an ideal place in which people can meet. Toronto is a theatre capital - The city has over 70 theatres offering dramas, musicals, dance and opera to stand-up comedy routines.


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