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Bill C-36, the Canadian government’s prostitution bill, passes

The Conservative government’s prostitution bill – Bill C-36 – passed in the
House of Commons by a 156-124 vote.

In 2007, a case challenging Canada’s prostitution laws as unconstitutional
resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada throwing out the laws criminalizing
pimping, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, and running a
brothel. The federal government was therefore tasked with coming up with new

The new legislation, brought forth in June by Justice Minister Peter McKay,
explicitly names pimps and johns as exploiters, criminalizing the purchase
of sex while decriminalizing prostituted women.

The bill states that the Parliament of Canada “has grave concerns about the
exploitation that is inherent in prostitution and the risks of violence
posed to those who engage in it” and “recognizes the social harm caused by
the objectification of the human body and the commodification of sexual

The intention behind this kind of legislation is to work towards an eventual
end to prostitution and follows in the footsteps of countries like Sweden,
Norway, and Iceland. The EU passed a resolution last year encouraging member
states to “reevaluate their policies on sex work,” with the Nordic model as
a framework.

That this legislation was considered and then adopted by the Canadian
government in its current form is thanks, in large part, to feminists across
the country who worked tirelessly on the issue, ensuring a feminist analysis
was central to the legislation and bringing forth research, studies,
analysis, evidence from the front line, and testimonies of their own
experiences working in the sex industry.

The legislation represents a new approach to prostitution that says men do
not have the right to access women’s bodies, women deserve more than
prostitution, prostitution does not promote gender equality, and that we can
do better for women in Canada. And we have.

Congratulations, brothers and sisters.

Meghan Murphy
Feminist Current