By Soheil Koushan and Mahan Nekoui
“Prostitution is a controversial topic, one that provokes heated and heartfelt debate about morality, equality, personal autonomy and public safety.”
So wrote the judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal, who today made a historic decision in ruling current prostitution laws as unconstitutional, and striking down the current ban on brothels. This was a victory for some, though a controversial one. The ruling boiled down to what the court calls “a balanced approach”.
The prohibition on brothels is set to be lifted within a year as there is significant evidence to show that prostitutes on the street are at a high risk of abuse: a violation of the charter right to “life, liberty and security of the person.” However, section 213 of the criminal code, designed to keep the sex trade away from public view, remains in full force.
Anti-prostitution groups also attended the meeting, arguing that the only way to keep these citizens safe is to outlaw the profession altogether. The dilemma remains on the nation to decide the best way to protect the citizens while maintaining their constitutional freedoms: parliament has been given one year to think things over before the ruling takes effect. There is a strong possibility that the case will be appealed to the nation’s Supreme Court.
The fact of the matter is that at least for now, we as a nation have decided that prostitutes, who are law-abiding citizens, are persons and should be protected under the same Constitutional rights and freedoms as anyone else. And despite fact that the profession will continue to be a last resort for many, despite the fact that the profession will regrettably be a difficult one to get out of, perhaps today the Ontario Court of Appeal improved circumstances by holding true to their legal duty to protect the constitutional rights of the people.