Last Friday Xtra put out an article entitled “Critics slam Conservative MP’s pitch to make buying sex illegal in Canada,” in response to MP Joy Smith’s National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking. The article is available here.
One of MP Smith’s proposals was for Canada to adopt the Swedish model of reducing demand for paid sex. In Sweden, the men who purchase sex from prostituted women are criminalized, while the girls who sell it do not suffer penalties but are instead offered help to leave the industry. Because many of these girls and women are in fact victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking, decreasing demand for paid sex is the only way to ensure that trafficking dries up.
But as the Xtra article demonstrates, there are some who oppose the Swedish model and claim that prostitution and human trafficking are separate issues altogether. Our thoughts:
- In response to MP Smith’s proposal, Liberal Justice Critic Marlene Jennings stated the following: “Typical Conservative, simplistic, not based on evidence, not based on fact…Human trafficking and prostitution are two different things, and that’s what the Conservatives like to mix up. They like to mix it up together in the same bowl so that they can confuse people and they can make outrageous statements.”
Our response: Ms. Jennings, how dare you make this a partisan issue? Your remark is distasteful and immature, as we are talking about exploitation on a national and global scale. Busting out the Conservative card makes it sound like you did not read the entire report, but merely base your comments on your disdain for an opposing party. For the record, we are not Conservatives. But if you insist on playing partisan ball, may we remind you that your party, the Liberals, wholly supported the Status of Women report from 2007 which contained evidence and recommendations supporting the Swedish model? Your statements fly in the face of your party’s previous decisions, making you guilty of some serious political flip-flopping.
- Next in the article, University of Ottawa criminologist Christine Bruckert says that “pushing the industry underground makes sex workers more likely to turn to people they feel can support them, such as pimps.” We can’t picture sex workers like Sweden’s Pye Jacobsson aligning with pimps for protection and support just because buying sex is a crime in her country. (Which it is. And no, she is not).
- Bruckert goes on to say that “if [we] really want to address sex workers, if [we] really want to make things better for sex workers, give sex workers rights.” There seems to be some confusion here. MP Smith’s first priority is to help trafficking victims, not sex workers who want more rights. The aim is to criminalize Johns for buying sex and decriminalizing prostituted women who want to get out of the industry. Several studies have concluded that trafficking increases in countries where prostitution is legalized, so giving sex workers ‘rights’ comes at the expense of the trafficking victims that are funneled into the country to fill demand. The goal is to abolish human trafficking – and if the end of the sex trade is a be a by-product of that, so be it.
- Regarding the statement that there is nothing coming out of Sweden indicating that there is a link between the Swedish model and decreased trafficking, please refer to the July 2010 Swedish Justice Department Report stating that the ban on buying sexual services acts as a barrier to human traffickers who want to set up shop in Sweden. An article by Gunilla Ekberg explains in more detail why this is the case.
- Finally, Green Party leader Elizabeth May tops off the debate with a bang by saying that the Swedish model is a “disastrous and dangerous idea”, and offers the following statement: “Since the Conservative government has committed to building $9 billion in new prisons and the crime rate is going down, I guess they want to create some new crimes to fill the prisons.”
While we appreciate many of May’s excellent ideas concerning the environment and her service to our country, we feel that she is literally out in “left field” on this one. If attempting to rescue victims of the world’s most hideous atrocity against women is a “disastrous and dangerous idea”, then we suggest that Ms. May attend Jon Stewart’s upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity.
For more reading, check out the following:
- Evaluation on the Ban on Purchase of Sexual Services by The Ministry of Justice, Sweden
- The Booming Escort Service Industry, Another Reason Why Legalization of Prostitution is a Bad Idea by Hope for the Sold
- Proposal for a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking by MP Joy Smith
- Prohibiting Purchase of Sex in Sweden: Impact, Obstacles, Potential and Supporting Escape by Max Waltman
With Much Concern for the Status of Exploited Women,
Jay & Michelle Brock