European & International News

Canada and Ireland Pass Landmark Legislation to Combat Sex Trade

[Press release of the Coalition against trafficking in women, New York, December 1, 2014] The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) applauds the legislatures of Canada and Ireland for their historic passage of laws that respectively target the demand for prostitution or buyers of sex, and decriminalize prostituted individuals. In Ireland, on November 25, 2014, the Cabinet passed the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill of 2014 that criminalizes solely the purchase of sex, while strengthening Irish laws against sexual grooming, child pornography and harassment. The law will come into effect on January 1, 2015.

Similarly, the government of Canada enacted the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, known as Bill C-36, which also holds accountable buyers of sex, as well as any third party activity that benefits from commercial sexual exploitation. Having received Royal Assent, the pro-forma approval of Canada’s constitutional monarch, the law comes into force on December 6, 2014, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Canada’s legislation, which will replace a prior prostitution law found unconstitutional last year, also mandates the delivery of services to individuals who wish to exit the sex trade.

"Canada has gained a new tool in combatting gender inequality, poverty, racism, colonialism and other factors that foster prostitution," says Trisha Baptie, founder of EVE. "For the first time we will address the root causes of prostitution; the law will go the source of the exploitation and allow women and girls to exit prostitution while criminalizing the purchase of bodies. Targeting the demand will hasten an end to this systemic injustice."

Other countries currently deliberating demand-focused legislation include France, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and Israel. They follow in the footsteps of Sweden, Norway and Iceland, which passed a set of laws, known as the "Nordic Model," that penalizes the purchase of sex, exempts prostituted individuals from punishment and recognizes prostitution as a cause and consequence of gender violence and discrimination.

"These laws are ground-breaking victories towards ending the sex trade and sex trafficking," says Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of CATW. "We congratulate the survivors in Ireland and Canada, who have courageously recounted the unspeakable violence they endured at the hands of their pimps and so-called clients. We also commend the legislators who believed them and who want to end these human rights violations."

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women CATW is a non-governmental organization that works to end human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls worldwide. CATW is one of the world’s first organizations to fight human trafficking internationally. CATW engages in advocacy, education, victim services and prevention programs for victims of trafficking and prostitution in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America.

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