Legalization of prostitution


An Overview of Prostitution in Canada

Primary jurisdiction is exercised in Canada through criminal law towards concerns relating to prostitution. Although adult prostitution is not legalized in Canada, there is an apparent prohibition of many activities that carry the nature of prostitution. Specifically, the prostitution related activities are well covered under the criminal code in sections 210 to 2013 (Barnett, 2014). The activities outlined include using common bawdy-houses, public solicitation and transportation of a person to a bawdy-house among others. Although the provisions under the criminal code regarding prostitution have formed the core of a contentious prostitution issue, the 1990 constitution challenge on the provisions did not find it appropriate to amend anything.

However, the provisions in sections 210 and 211 later came to get amended after an uproar by a group of sex workers back in 2010 through to 2013. As such, the criminal code contained that it is an indictable offence for anyone to keep a common bawdy-house offence that attracted not less than two-year imprisonment. Currently, the way Canada deals with prostitution has always come out as multifaceted one. There is an evident of criminal law, territorial laws and municipal related solutions that bring into view the different jurisdictional responsibilities. What comes out is a disharmony between what the laws outlined and what the population perceive the laws. Such activities as solicitation, operating a brothel, commercial sexual exploitation of children and trafficking of persons remain prohibited (Barnett, 2014). It is therefore evident that the current laws on prostitution remain unsatisfactory, and a functioning system of government regulated prostitution in necessary to maintain a safe environment for those who are affected.


The criminal justice system in Canada define prostitution as an act of exchange of sex for money or any other thing that may for a means of compensation for sex, such as meals, housing and drugs (Flowers, 1998). Obtaining the identity of a prostitute is legal but remains entirely illegal to practice prostitution anywhere in Canada. Somehow, this is where the bone of contention lies, and people who actively engage in prostitution feel that the laws should be revisited (LeBeuf, 2006). Communication that is perceived to lead to prostitution also remains banned and illegal. The current law enforcement only acts towards displacement of prostitutes to unknown, probably risky working areas, something that only predisposes them to isolation and vulnerability.

Although prostitution is advocated for by the ones already in it, it is also perceived as a source of harm. It is the activities that surround the prostitution that emphasize the harm in it, although women continue to indulge in it. Among other issues, the Canadian government is combating forced prostitution that is strongly linked with clandestine migration of people or through trafficking. As studies suggest, there is rarely enforcement of laws against prostitution in Canada in an event that the activities are off the streets. Legalization of prostitution and subsequent decriminalization is associated with protection of health of the vulnerable men and women (UBC Press, 2018). This is through the access the groups would get to safety programs and health services. Decriminalization of prostitution would also amount to significant decrease in the number of under-age sexual workers that procure prostitution services and subsequently reduce sexual exploitation of the genders. Furthermore, through the decriminalization of prostitution in Canada, the negative stigma would also be eliminated since sex workers would be treated as service-employed trade for people who are also subjected to taxes. Therefore, in the society, the prostitutes and other individuals in the commercial sex industry will come out openly without fear of discrimination or stigma whatsoever.

Sexual transmitted diseases

Although the better sections of Canadian federal law seem to criminalize prostitution and related activities, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases seem to be going up. Sexually transmitted diseases majorly affect the general health of an individual, with majority affecting the reproductive capacity of most infected individuals. Some types of STIs include chlamydia, genital herpes, human papilloma virus, syphilis and of course HIV/AIDS (Aggleton, 2006). To the effect of reduction of STIs, the Canadian government has established sexual health and sexually transmitted infections section under the country’s public health agency. The section works in collaboration with the NGOs and the healthcare providers in improvement and maintenance of sexual health of the Canadians. The function of the described unit of stakeholders is through prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections and the complications therein.

Unfortunately, the pursuit of minimization of STIs is partly hampered by enforcement of criminal sanctions that target commercial sex workers, through displacement of the sex workers to isolated areas that are unsafe for them. Consequently, there is lack of access to indoor work environment that is safe, leading to a risk of reduced negotiation power to condom uses with the clients, predisposing them to sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies (Shannon, 2010). As such, there is still much that the federal government ought to change with regard to control of prostitution if national containment in spread of STIs is to become a reality. Based on the challenges that commercial sex workers experience in Canada based on the management of sexually transmitted infections, the decriminalization of prostitution in the country will provide an opportunity for regulation to be implemented. In line with the Canadian department of health, regulations such as the use of condoms and sex education can effectively be undertaken to promote the health of the public especially in the commercial sex industry when the practice is decriminalized (Shannon, 2010). This is because through the decriminalization of prostitution in Canada, the healthcare sector can effectively integrate its services towards the prevention of sexually transmitted infection among commercial sex workers and other individuals involves in the industry openly without any concern for breaching the moral or ethical perspectives of the law that criminalizes prostitution. The overall results of such interventions from the healthcare sector will be the promotion of the health and wellbeing of the public through the new prevention measures against sexually transmitted infections in the country that involves commercial sex workers.

Organized Sex work and Human Trafficking

According to RCMP human trafficking awareness program, human trafficking is viewed as a significant issue, though there is little documentation of the information that has clear cut information of the Canadian situation. Not even data from police headquarters can be perceived as elaborate to that effect. Human trafficking is strongly linked with forced prostitution, something that the Canadian federal laws are against (LeBeuf, 2006). Through elaboration, human trafficking can be through smuggling or trafficking. Smuggling involve illegal transportation of immigrants whereas trafficking entails transportation, exploitation, recruiting of people especially ladies and children, significantly for sexual purposes. Among the fights that the Canadian government is combating is human trafficking, something that can be viewed as beneficial to the commercial sex workers bid for freedom to exercise prostitution without coercion.

Although buying and selling of sex has remained legal, organized sex work continues to remain hampered due to opposing criminal code provisions. The provisions remain clear yet against prostitution on communication, leaving off the avails of prostitution and bawdy houses (Shannon, 2010). As such, it has remained close to impossible to practicing prostitution behind organized set ups, something that has been associated with murdering of women prostitutes, trauma, drug-related harm and HIV and other related infections. In the commercial sex industry, the decriminalization of prostitution is likely to reduce sex trafficking whereby individuals are brought into the country for the purpose of selling sex and other favors in the commercial sex industry. This is because through the decriminalization of prostitution, individuals operating in the industry will be registered and regulatory standards set in the brothels and red light districts that will definitely reduce trafficking of individuals to the country mainly for the purpose of selling sex.

Possible Tax Revenue

Decriminalization of prostitution will have far reaching benefits, some of which are associated with revenue generation to the Canadian government (Barnett, 2014). Some of the advocates towards legalization of prostitution have highlighted with certainty that this would work towards offsetting the already overwhelming budget deficit, some courts legalizing brothels, while still adding that the current laws than run prostitution are unconstitutional and broad. The tax generation from legally running prostitution business can also contribute to increased revenue collection in the country as well as ensure proper regulation are undertaken such as age restriction in the business and sex slave. However, with the law remaining unclear on prostitution business, the collection of the taxes could raise public outcry on why a government would tax a service that it partly labels as illegal under the federal laws.

By 2006, the laws against prostitution were still rarely enforced, probably as a result of the revenue that the municipalities used to pay during that period, and still continue to pay (LeBeuf, 2006). The off the street prostitution accounts for 80% prostitution level in Canada, a form of prostitution allowed by the Canadian federal laws. The owners of the massage parlors, nude dancers and escort agencies must always pay license fee to the municipalities for them to run the prostitution business. It is due to this reason that there is an evidence of off-street prostitution trade that if properly run could earn the government even higher revenue income.

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Concerns raised by legalized prostitution

Various concerns have been raised in the event that prostitution is legalized. First, illegal prostitution would still continue, coupled with related illegal activities, such as theft and drug abuse (LeBeuf, 2006). The move would also create and raise a culture of prostitution, with the number of the sex workers likely to shoot. Some sex workers are also likely to fail to register themselves since they do not stay in identified areas. Under-age participants are also likely to get into prostitution. Judging from other nations that have legalized prostitution, there may be no decrease in the number of crimes that are known to blend with prostitution.


There continues to be a sense of moral unease, divided opinion among feminists and society on the nature of prostitution. Some view prostitution as women right and others as commodification of women. The situation seems to also be replicated by the Canadian federal laws, though the law has legalized buying and selling of sex among adults (Department of Justice, Canada, 2014). However, other codes in constitution have made the practice almost impossible. As such, the people who are in prostitution have reported their agony to that effect, including death and HIV/AIDS and insecurity. Therefore, a functioning system of government regulated prostitution need to be formulated to secure those who are in prostitution.

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  1. Aggleton, P. (Ed.). (2006). Men who sell sex: international perspectives on male prostitution and HIV/AIDS. Temple University Press.
  2. Barnett, L. (2014). Prostitution in Canada: International Obligation, Federal law, Provincial and Municipal Juridiction (3rd ed.).
  3. Department of Justice, Canada. (2014). Online public consultation on prostitution-related offences in Canada.
  4. Flowers, R. B. (1998). The prostitution of women and girls. McFarland.
  5. LeBeuf, M. (2006). Control or Regulation of Prostitution in Canada – Implications for the Police. Ottawa: Public Safety Canada.
  6. (2018). Search Questions and Answers – Answer – National Criminal Justice Reference Service | Retrieved 30 January 2018, from
  7. Shannon, K. (2010). The hypocrisy of Canada’s prostitution legislation. Canadian Medical Association Journal182(12), 1388-1388.
  8. UBC Press. (2018). UBC Press | Selling Sex – Experience, Advocacy, and Research on Sex Work in Canada Edited by Emily van der Meulen Edited by Elya M. Durisin Edited by Victoria LoveUBC Press. Retrieved 30 January 2018, from
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