Bill C-36, for the protection of communities and exploited persons act, because who can say no protecting communities and exploited persons, right?
This Bill is in response to the Bedford decision, which (if you are a regular reader of this blog, you should know by now) ruled three sections of Canada’s anti-prostitution laws as unconstitutional: the communication law, the bawdyhouse law and the living on the avails law.
The preamble of this Bill is framed in such a way that is worded to fight against gender inequality. Yet, despite all evidence pointing the contrary, this Bill will cause more harm especially for what the Bill has labelled the most marginalized and the most vulnerable, including Indigenous women and girls. On one hand, I haven’t seen a more backwards response to gender inequality if I have seen one. On the other, I guess it is expected in a colonial country like Canada. And who can so no to fighting against gender inequality? Maybe if you are a barefaced racist.
The Bill’s preamble also states that it must protect all women and girls from prostitution, as if all women and girls are in prostitution or enter prostitution for the same reasons. Just no to all of this. The Bill also assumes that all women and girls are affected by the criminalization of prostitution universally. That would be lovely if all women and girls were a homogenous, uniform group, wouldn’t it? Imagine, white women and girls facing the same issues and realities as Indigenous women? And since when did a Harper/Conservative government start caring about gender equality issues? Framing Bill C-36 as gender equality Bill is preposterous on all accounts.
The Bill has also been framed as “decriminalizing the women” involved in prostitution by criminalizing the “pimps” and “johns” (despite procuring provisions in the Criminal Code of Code remaining). Targeting the pimps and the johns is sometimes referred to as the Swedish-model or the Nordic model. Yet, if you actually read the Bill, it doesn’t actually do any of that: decriminalize the women. The Bill, if you read it in its entirety, acts like an outright criminalization of prostitution. The Bill also has a grand (mostly unattainable) objective of eradicating prostitution, and even politicians have noted that the Bill won’t even get rid of it in its entirety.
When it comes to the vulnerable and exploited, there are already laws within the Criminal Code of Canada. The Bill’s deliberate disregard for this is so patently obvious that if you believe that this Bill will help the exploited by creating more bad laws, then you are poorly misinformed. Just as Katrina Pacey of Pivot legal says, “[The] proposed legislation is both complex and confusing.” Just how these complex and confusing Bill will actually harm sex workers, it may potentially create more issues with helping the vulnerable and exploited.
If the Bill defines prostitution as inherently violent and exploitative, then lets fight against the violence and exploitation. Diverting resources into futile anti-prostitution campaigns does nothing for the neither the vulnerable and exploited nor does it do anything for gender equality when it directly criminalizes the most marginalized and vulnerable, Indigenous women. I ask then, gender equality and protection for who?
When we assume that all prostitution is inherently violent, what follows is the same argument that failed at the SCC level: if prostitution is inherently violent and a sex worker engages in the selling of sexual services, the only way to avoid that violence is to not engage in the violent activity. Bill C-36 also sees all prostitutes as victims who cannot consent to this supposed violence and exploitation despite many advocates for sex workers speaking out against the harms the Bill will create for consenting sex workers. Ultimately, Bill C-36 creates victims where there may be none.
In the end, Bill C-36, with all its assumptions about prostitution and sex workers, is in essence a Bill that blames the victims for the violence they may experience. Shame on you sex workers for engaging in an inherently violent activity, but we told you! And, I say no to Bill C-36 for these reasons.