CASAC Submission to the Public Consultation on Prostitution-Related Offences in Canada

The Government of Canada’s online consultation to seek public input on how the criminal law should respond to adult prostitution closed March 17, 2014

The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault centre submission to the consultation is posted here in full.  

1.      Do you think that purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.

The phrase “purchasing sexual services form an adult” obscures what we know about prostitution; namely that prostitution is a practice of sex inequality. Most of those prostituted are women and girls. Almost all buyers/johns are men. The extraordinary level of danger that women in prostitution face comes from johns, brothel owners, pimps and profiteers who enforce and demand male sexual access to women’s bodies in a commercially exploitative industry. Therefore we call upon the government of Canada to create legislation that criminalizes the buyers/johns.  

2.      Do you think that selling sexual services by an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.

We understand prostitution as a form of violence against women and there is no reason to criminalize victims of violence against women. Prostitution is not engaged in by a random cross-section of the domestic and international population. The sexual exploitation, coercion, and violence that define prostitution are practices committed overwhelmingly by men against women. This sexual and sexualized inequality is compounded by other systemic inequalities that determine who enters and remains in prostitution and that amplify the power of those who buy and profit from prostituted women. Many women enter prostitution as children, often after being sexually abused and/or placed in state care. Many women are pushed into and remain in prostitution because of poverty, homelessness, low levels of education, and disability, including addictions. Many women in prostitution are racialized or have precarious immigration status. Therefore we call on the government of Canada to create legislation that – without exception – decriminalizes prostituted women.


3.      Do you think that it should be a criminal offence for a person to benefit economically from the prostitution of an adult? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.

We know that most pimps/profiteers are men and that these men benefit from the exploitation of women in prostitution. The economic benefit to pimps/profiteers creates a source of additional pressure for women to remain in prostitution. Prostituted women must engage in more prostitution with more johns if they must provide some or all of their income to others. This increases harm to women in prostitution, including the risk of physical and sexual violence. Therefore we call on the government of Canada to criminalize those who benefit economically from the prostitution of another person. 

4.      Are there any other comments you wish to offer to inform the Government’s response to the Bedford decision?

In 2005, the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres / Association canadienne des centres contre les aggressions a caractere sexuel (CASAC/ACCCACS) passed the following resolution:

Prostitution is Violence Against Women CASAC stands in solidarity with all those who are sexually exploited. We believe in a world free from prostitution and all forms of sexual exploitation We declare that the prostitution system is profoundly sexist and racist. It is based on the existing inequalities between men and women, adults and children, rich and poor, between countries of the north and south and racialized inequalities.

We declare that the root cause of prostitution is the demand for women and children for sexual exploitation that is those men who see it as their unlimitable right to purchase and sexually exploit women and girls.

We declare that prostitution is usually the consequence of women living in economic and affective misery, as well as different forms of sexual violence and social and political inequalities. It is linked to the sexualization of young women and girls. It is therefore not a “choice” of work or a “right” to dispose of one’s body as one wishes.

We believe that sexually exploited women are drawn into a prostitution culture by buyers, procurers and traffickers over a period of time due to the violence of men, to poverty, to the terrible cycle of drug addiction, and to the precarious status of immigrants in this country. We believe that sexual exploitation based on the commercialization of women’s bodies and is situated on a continuum that includes: pornography, prostitution, all forms of sexual violence (pedophilia), domestic and international sexual trafficking and sexual slavery.

We believe that the globalization of sexual trafficking feeds the sex industry’s constant demand for “new blood” and “exoticism”. It touches the life of millions of people, mostly women and girls from southern countries, Eastern Europe, but also within Canada. We denounce the sex industry which in the context of globalization exploits the misery and the vulnerability of the most fragile members of society and those made vulnerable due to war, armed conflicts and economics, social, political and environmental crises.

We reaffirm that the struggle against all the forms of sexual exploitation is an integral part of the battle for the respect of human rights, sexual equality, and the equality between all peoples.

Therefore be it resolved: We consider prostitution a form of violence against women and demand the criminal prosecution of all procurers and traffickers. We demand that the Canadian government respects the commitments that it made signing and ratifying the United Nations Palermo protocol by ensuring the security, protection of and assistance to trafficked persons and people, and ceasing all detention and deportation of victims of trafficking.

5. Are you writing on behalf of an organization? If so, please identify the organization and your title or role:

I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres / Association canadienne des centres contre les aggressions a caractere sexuel (CASAC/ACCCACS). CASAC/ACCCACS is a Pan Canadian group of sexual assault centres who have come together to implement the legal, social and attitudinal changes necessary to prevent, and ultimately eradicate, rape and sexual assault. As feminists we recognize that violence against women is one of the strongest indicators of prevailing societal attitudes towards women. The intent of the Canadian Association is to act as a force for social change regarding violence against women at the individual, the institutional and the political level. We will also support and encourage efforts to create a society in which all members of that society have the rights of social, economic and political equality.