Canada’s Supreme Court has lifted all restrictions on prostitution. All nine justices agreed that the current laws are “grossly disproportionate.” Although prostitution is currently legal in Canada, strict laws limit workers in the sex trade. The women who filed the court challenge argued that current laws restrict the safety and health of prostitutes.
The current laws ban brothels, prohibit public communication with clients, and forbid profiting from prostitution. In the Supreme Court’s decision, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said the existing laws risk the “health, safety, and lives of prostitutes.”
She further explained that the restrictions prevent sex trade workers “from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks” associated with the business. Justice McLachlin pointed out that many women have “little choice but to sell their bodies for money.”
The lawsuit was filed by Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott, who argued that current laws prevent them from working in a safe and healthy environment. The high court agreed that the women deserve the right to work out of brothels, which provide a safe and secure place to conduct their business.
As reported by BBC, the parliament was given 12 months to revise legislation to lift the regulations on Canada’s prostitution. The current laws will remain in effect until the legislation is rewritten.
NBC News reports that prostitution is legal is numerous countries throughout Europe and Latin America. Although the practice is legal, it is regulated by a variety of laws. Justice McLachlin is not opposed to regulation of the sex trade. However, she believes the regulations need to be in the best interest of the prostitutes.
The safety of prostitutes received increased attention following the deaths of several women at the hands of serial killer Robert Pickton. The convicted killer preyed on Canada’s prostitutes, specifically those working in downtown Vancouver.