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Prostitution laws in Canada

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Throughout Canada's history, prostitution has actually been 'legal'. However, a visitor or even a citizen may never be aware of this fact. This is due to the impeding laws stated in the Canadian criminal code. Canada has a very clear position on prostitution in theory. Part VII of the Canadian criminal code; Laws pertaining to prostitution, state that "bawdy houses" are illegal (Criminal Code sections 210 and 211), procuring and living on the avails of prostitution of another person are also prohibited (section 212). Procuring and living on the avails are indictable offences, which carry terms up to ten years in prison. If a person under the age of 18 is involved, the term increases to 14 years in prison. A common bawdy house is a place, which is occupied or used by at least one person for the purposes of prostitution. "Keeping" a bawdy house is an indictable offence liable to up to two years in prison (section 210 (1)). Being found in a bawdy house is a summary offence; the offender will receive a maximum term of six months in prison and/or a $2000 fine (sections 210 (2) and 211). Offences in relation to Prostitution focus mainly on acts committed in the public eye, including women attempting to stop moving vehicles, impeding the regular flow of pedestrians, or making an attempt to communicate with others with the intent to offer sexual services (section 213(1)), these are all considered summary offences.

Prostitution laws in Canada  

Although the written laws against prostitution are relatively clear, the overall goal of Canadian prostitution is not. There is no prohibition of the buying and selling of sexual services. This is what makes the Canadian law on prostitution unclear. A set of codes has been created so that it would be very difficult for a person to prostitute without breaking the laws, however the avenue of prostitution is still accessible. One may conclude from the criminal code that the government's purpose in regard to prostitution is to keep it off the streets and out of the public eye.

There are many large municipalities who facilitate the off-street trade by means of licensing it and regulating it. In this case, laws against prostitution are rarely enforced. At the same time, most Canadian politicians have entirely abolitionist views concerning prostitution, regardless of the fact that prostitution itself is legal.

The "prostitution problem", which erupted in the early 1980's, was not so much concerning prostitution itself, but the spread of the street trade. The Fraser Committee1, the Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution was established in 1983 to make recommendations for Prostitution policy making.

In 1977, in Toronto there was a 'clampdown' on massage parlours and other venues after the sexual assault of a shoeshine boy on Toronto's Yonge Street. However, after making tighter regulations, the un-expected result was only more street prostitution. The Fraser Committee concluded that the main problem in Canadian prostitution law is that "it is at odds with itself". If prostitution is to remain legal, the legislature must decide where it is to be permitted and under what circumstances.

Canadian laws of prostitution are definitely un-clear. Many Canadians may be led to believe that the act of prostitution is illegal, because it is treated so. The problem remains on the streets of major cities and 'slums' because it is not tolerated anywhere else. Political leaders maintain their abolitionist views and citizens voice complaints about the effects of street prostitution (noise, traffic congestion, litter and harassment). Moreover in a Judeo-Christian influenced society, the citizens uphold moral values, which are not uniform to other beliefs around the globe. Prostitution, on the most part, is viewed as socially un-acceptable and morally wrong.

Prostitutes have been generalized in the Western world, although it is not a respectable position, many people have credited to the fact that prostitutes are often the victims.

The Canadian contact sex service trade, labels different 'ranges' of prostitution and prostitution motives, because it is the initiative of the women to involve her-self in the business. The scale goes from female sexual slavery (the gorilla pimp) and survival sex (sale of sexual services by persons with very few other options, such as homeless youth and women in poverty) through to more 'middle class' forms of sex trade (including some street prostitution). However, the Standing Committee was not overly sensitive to these issues.

The Government of Canada t does nevertheless offer social programmes to assist prostitutes, yet women can only apply for this if they are exiting prostitution. Although prostitution is legal, the government and authorities' view on prostitution is mainly abolitionist. They provide no areas in which females are able to traffic their bodies according to the legality of the law. All actions that hint prostitution or lead to it are illegal, while there is no prohibition of prostitution itself. What is left is a system that is un-inviting to the trafficking of female women and a society (like almost any other) where it is impossible to abolish prostitution completely. Although the Government has made an attempt to keep it behind closed doors, there are not enough venues for these women to conduct their business (outside of public places). Until there is a significant change, the streets of Canada's larger cities will continue to supply call girls.

What is particularly interesting about comparing Canada and Thailand is the irony that exists within their prostitution policies. In Thailand adult prostitution with an adult is technically illegal, theoretically punishable by up to 10 years in prison, however the practice of prostitution is almost entirely accepted, especially in brothel-type setting, which in Thai law carries a higher penalties. However these brothel-bars are flourishing within Patpong and Bangkok. In the Canadian system, the legislation developed a double jeopardy situation, which is a complete contradiction of the law. Prostitution is allowed in the privacy of one's own home, but they are not allowed to go to any designated area, like red-light districts, or brothel houses, to procure a girl. This leaves a sex industry in Canada that is still widely tolerated, however underground.

The sex industry in Thailand is one of the most famous sex industries of the world. Thailand is a country that has lured travelers for hundreds of years, with the promises of exotic delights. Today Thailand still offers such pleasures, including a unique sex trade, including one designed specifically for the 'Farang', or the Caucasian tourist. It should be noted that the vast majority of the sex industry in Thailand is operated for Thai's only. Only a very small, very limited, and very touristy area is operating for Westerners. Thailand does however have a sex-tourism industry that Canada absolutely does not have.

Travelers from all over the world come to Thailand specifically for the sex. Selling sex is technically illegal, but buying sex is not, and rarely is anyone arrested in the Thai sex industry except for the occasional child-offender. Unlike Canada, Thailand has a more visible and much more exotic industry.

The age of consent for sex in Thailand is 15 and for those working in the sex industry or soliciting sex, it is 18. Although 16 and 17 year old girls are frequent throughout the city. They often do not make attempts to conceal their age, and most don't see their actions as having substantial consequences. Thai law is much stricter when dealing with sexual offences involving minors, because of the countless numbers of youth who are pressured into the industry. Illegal female trafficking is prevalent in Thailand, although Thailand feels that the rest of the world exaggerates these claims.

In 1996 the Thai Government introduced new legislation designed to proactively combat the negative effects of prostitution. Although the Act introduced more legislation, it is generally more tolerant towards prostitution than previous laws, however one can easily see the influence of anti-child pornography sentimentalities. As of 1996 penalty for prostitution was much reduced, to being almost officially tolerated. However customers found using the sexual service of a child prostitute (under the age of 18) will be punished with mandatory jail sentences.

Penalties remain for managers, producers, supervisors, and owners of prostitution rings. More serious penalties were established in respect to child trafficking, making it easier for the government to punish the common act of families placing their children into sexual servitude.. To what extent this has reduced this awful practice is not yet fully known, but child trafficking remains a serious problem in Thailand. Much more so than in Canada.

Taking aside the specific legal differences in prostitution policy between Canada and Thailand, what are the moral differences between the two countries? The most striking difference between them is the general acceptance of prostitution in Thailand compared to the still very traditional and very repressive Western attitude that discourages sexual business. It seems that the predominant opinion in Western society is that all prostitution hurts women. This leads to an incredible social stigma that surrounds prostitutes in Canada that does not affect prostitutes in Thailand. Prostitutes can be easily found all over the world, yet why do so many tourists flock to Bangkok just for sex?

The most common response is Thai women appear to comparatively enjoy their work more in an environment where prostitution has been socio-culturally accepted. Thai girls don't feel as if they are selling away some sacred vestment, but more as if they are girlfriends for rent. Many Thai prostitutes are only interested in keeping one client at a time, so long as the client is paying for the girl's basic needs. This type of behaviour is widely accepted in the tourist districts of Thailand, and these girls who service the Farangs are part of an established subculture.

What does the future hold for Canada and Thailand? Although Canada has recently been increasing criminilization policies, the effects of these policies are just now being looked at. In 1995 many provinces worked together to form the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on prostitution. The Working Group has been since trying to reform prostitution laws throughout Canada. Referring once again to that Judeo-Christian ethic, the biggest problem in handling prostitution for Western countries is that nobody wants to enact any law that seemingly condones prostitution. The growing opinion is however that the problems of prostitution are not problems of social morality, but problems of social order, and accepting prostitution is the quickest way to control it. As far as Thailand goes, they may not have the technology or industry of the Western nations, but they are advanced enough to have already realized that sex for sale is not a threat. It seems as if the state of affairs will continue in Thailand, as they are now, for quite some time.

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