Home > Releases > Queer Ontario Urges Harper to Reverse New Regulations to Bawdy House Laws

Queer Ontario Urges Harper to Reverse New Regulations to Bawdy House Laws

August 6th, 2010

Queer Ontario is fundamentally opposed to the regulatory changes to the bawdyhouse laws that were secretly passed by the Conservative government on July 13, 2010, and the undemocratic process that was used to pass them.

By designating bawdyhouses as ‘criminal organizations’ and by designating their operation as a ‘serious offence’ under the law, the Harper government has once again demonstrated that it is incapable of passing provisions that are publicly accountable. In advancing their tough-on-crime agenda above any nuanced understanding of organized crime in Canada; above any consideration for the lived realities of sex professionals; and above polls demonstrating the statistical drop in crime and the low priority crime-fighting has among Canadians, the Conservative government has made yet another unwarranted decision. Unfortunately, these measures are only exacerbated by the fact that the regulation was passed behind closed doors, without any opportunity for informed debate from either fellow MPs or the stakeholders who were to be affected by these amendments.

Indeed, this new regulation highlights the government’s misunderstanding of the nature of sex work, which is based largely on the Conservative Party’s staunch moralism regarding sex and sexuality. Not only does the Conservative government fail to recognize the legitimacy of the consensual, self-determined work of sex professionals — not to be confused with the exploitative practices of human trafficking, a true breach of fundamental human rights! — It also flies in the face of growing evidence suggesting that centralized workplaces like bawdy houses are much more beneficial to sex workers than the street or private residences most professionals are forced to seek out as a result of these puritanical laws. That is: bawdy houses, when properly operated, have been proven to provide sex workers with clean, safe, and accessible work environments that make sex work less dangerous for professionals and their clients.

By criminalizing bawdy houses and the people who operate them, the government is only serving to endanger the bodies and lives of our nation’s sex workers, effectively working against a protection of their rights. Rights which should be granted and protected unconditionally, given the fact that the government has no legitimate reason to regulate what consenting adults choose to do with their own bodies in private.

Rather than continue to marginalize sex workers in attempts to further its ideological tough-on-crime agenda, the Harper government should be working towards garnering a better understanding of the sex trade with the aims of ultimately decriminalizing it, as a handful of nations have successfully done so in the past. To this end Queer Ontario calls on the Harper government to reverse its changes and to initiate a bona fide public consultation to make these reforms happen.

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