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Canada’s House of Commons Approves Bill C-36 Targeting the Demand for Commercial Sex

[Press release of CATW International, October 9, 2014, USA] The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) applauds the passage of Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, in Canada’s House of Commons on October 6, 2014. As it enters the Senate, we call on its members to pass this legislation. If adopted into law, it will explicitly criminalize pimps and buyers of commercial sex, who fuel the sex industry and sex trafficking. Bill C-36 also provides for the delivery of services to individuals who seek to leave prostitution.

“We heard from a lot of people, including front-line support workers, police services, chiefs, and experts from the legal profession […],” stated Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, Joy Smith, one of the bill’s staunchest supporters. “I am especially impressed by all of the victims […] and the survivors who came to testify at both committees, because that is what this is all about – survivors finally talking about what happened to them. Law enforcement agencies and survivors expressed their overall support for the Bill and applauded the strong message it sends that pimps and johns will be targeted for exploiting women and youth.”

This groundbreaking bill is based on the Nordic Model, a legal framework initiated in Sweden in 1999 that recognizes prostitution as a form of gender-based violence and discrimination. Norway and Iceland followed suit enacting similar laws in 2008 and 2009, respectively. These laws target the demand for commercial sex, while decriminalizing those who are prostituted and affording them exit strategies, if desired. In addition to Canada, the governments of France, Israel, Ireland and Northern Ireland are currently deliberating the enactment of demand-focused legislation.

CATW and our partners had hoped that Bill C-36 would exempt all prostituted persons from prosecution, including those found soliciting sexual services in a public place in proximity to a school, playground, or daycare center, a group that will unfortunately still be at risk of arrest by law enforcement. Bill C-36 nevertheless embodies a significant step towards addressing exploitation in the sex trade and changing societal attitudes in recognizing prostitution as a human rights violation.

As we wait for the Senate’s passage of Bill C-36, CATW sends its sincere congratulations to all those who worked tirelessly in Canada to help pass this bill in the House of Commons. Special thanks to our Canadian partners who remain at the forefront of this arduous battle: Sex Trade 101, the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Professor Janine Benedet, LaCLES (La Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle), L’Imposture, Abolition EVE, Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (IWASI) and other feminist groups whose extraordinary commitment to equality for all made this victory possible. We also applaud the courageous Canadian survivor leaders who speak the truth every day about the realities of prostitution: Trisha Baptie, Natasha Falle, Bridget Perrier, Cherry Smiley and all those whose names we do not yet know but with whom we stand in solidarity.

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