Prostitution law: a matter of fairness

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Whack! Whack! – is only one of the things Terri-Jean Bedford, a former dominatrix, is well known for, but her crack down on Canada’s prostitution laws has brought her unparalleled attention in the country as she fights for the security of women taking part in the sex-trade industry. Since the first trial in 2009, Bedford has been fighting to amend the legislature which makes it legal to practice prostitution, but finds the exchange of money, living off the avails of sex work and the operation of a common bawdy house unlawful.

“The issue is fairness,” says Bedford. “[Justice Susan Himel] was clear. The laws discriminate against women. The laws allow a segment of society engaged in legal activity to protect themselves while participants in other legal activities are unable. The laws are vague as to what prostitution is and is not. Laws need to be clear to be fair.”

In 2010, the federal government along with Ontario’s provincial government appealed Justice Himel’s decision to strike down the current prostitution laws. To this day, the appeal is under review.

“Prostitution is booming and it will boom no matter what public policy is,” explain Bedford. “A significant portion of the population wants the freedom ti pay for and be paid for acts of prostitution and do so with the safety and choices available to other people.”

Bedford believes Prime Minister Stephen Harper “lacks the courage to deal with this.” She says that the lack of definition to the term “prostitution,” makes the entire trial process unfair and unclear.

An issue of safety

Beyond decriminalizing prostitution, Bedford says this case is about the security of women in the trade.

As seen in a variety of cases, including Robert Pickton’s trial, women who are pushed out of cities by authorities and the law’s obstruction to practice sex work freely can be prove to be dangerous.

“The government is just kicking the can down the road while women continue to face danger,” said Bedford. “My reaction [to the appeal] was one of disappointment, but I am not surprised.”

The real fight, she says, will begin once the term “prostitute” is clearly defined within the legislature and women stand a chance to defend their jobs.