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19-Feb-2016 05:20

In her ruling on the historic Supreme Court case , Chief Justice Beverley Mc Lachlin wrote that the three offending provisions of the Criminal Code that dealt directly with prostitution were in violation of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and were an infringement on the rights of sex workers to security of the person.

“They do not merely impose conditions on how prostitutes operate,” wrote Mc Lachlin, “they go a critical step further, by imposing dangerous conditions on prostitution; they prevent people engaging in a risky—but legal—activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks.” This case provided the opening for change.

No one was naïve enough to think that the political climate would change overnight, but there was hope.

“This decision marks a huge step forward for sex workers’ rights and human rights in Canada,” wrote Pivot Legal Society on their website the day the Supreme Court handed down their ruling. Though C-36 uses the language of feminist intervention and humanitarianism, its effects may be the opposite.

The old section 212, which criminalized various “third parties” from living off the avails of prostitution, was replaced with provisions 286.2 and 286.3, which are nominally meant to prosecute pimps and human traffickers from materially benefitting from the forced sexual labour of others.

However, the language of the new provisions is so broad that they could also be used to prosecute sex workers who are working together, sex workers’ bodyguards, and even friends or family who are “receiving a material benefit” from a sex worker’s labour.

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Invariably, there are high heels in the foreground and a car in the background.It was with the help of some better-endowed allies that Bedford, Scott, and Lebovitch brought forth their claims on behalf of the sex worker rights movement, which has been fighting these laws since the 1970s.