An excellent op/ed by Stuart Chambers, Ph.D., who teaches in the school of political studies at the University of Ottawa
Canada’s prostitution law is untenable.
In 2014, the Harper government passed Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. Based on the Nordic model, Bill C-36 adopts a radical feminist definition of prostitution as a form of male violence against women. As a way of redistributing guilt from seller to buyer, the bill criminalizes the demand side of prostitution (mostly heterosexual men) and provides exit strategies for the supply side (mostly heterosexual women).
In its first mandate, the Trudeau government failed to address the act’s major deficiencies. Here are five reasons why Bill C-36 must be jettisoned.
First, it criminalizes consensual sex. Under Canadian law, voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity signifies consent — that is, unless financial considerations are involved. In circumstances surrounding paid sexual services, abolitionists maintain that prostitutes cannot consent to their own exploitation. Within feminist discourse, however, this position is highly contested.
For instance, third-wave feminists embrace individual choice and find the idea that women are somehow brainwashed or manipulated insulting. Postmodern feminists argue that grand narratives describing sex work as oppressive are open to interpretation. Influenced by John Stuart Mill, liberal feminists place the freedom of sex workers and their clients above state paternalism. Yet, as commentator Colby Cash acknowledges, Bill C-36 did not involve a balance of competing feminist perspectives. It was, in fact, shaped by radical feminist ideology.