Public Opinion on Prostitution Law Reform in Canada

By Lowman, John; Louie, Christine | Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, April 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Public Opinion on Prostitution Law Reform in Canada


Lowman, John, Louie, Christine, Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice


One of the most controversial issues currently facing Canadians concerns the legal status of consensual adult prostitution. (2) Despite general agreement that the current prostitution laws are "unacceptable" (Report of the Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws 2006: 86) and with numerous calls for their wholesale revision, dating back to 1985 (Fraser Committee report 1985), politicians have been unable to agree on what direction law reform should take (Lowman 2011). At the heart of the impasse is their disagreement over the degree to which consensual adult prostitution should be prohibited, if at all. The ensuing research note describes public opinion about the various models of prostitution law currently under debate.

Two models of prohibition have been advanced:

1. The conservative version would criminalize both the buying and selling of sexual services and any third-party profit from prostitution. This is the law in the United States, with the exception of parts of Nevada.

2. The radical-feminist version--the "Nordic model"--would criminalize sex buying and third-party profit from prostitution, while sex selling would be legal on the grounds that the seller is a victim of male violence against women. In 1999 Sweden was the first country to adopt demand-side prohibition.

Although they are often conflated, two models of legal prostitution have been advanced:

1. Legalization entails the specific regulation and licensing of consensual adult prostitution in brothels or other venues, combined with various criminal prohibitions. For example, in Nevada prostitution is a criminal offence apart from in 10 rural counties where brothel prostitution is permitted and regulated.

2. Decriminalization would remove all references to adult prostitution from the Criminal Code. Prostitution would be regulated with generic business and other civil laws rather than creating a specific system of prostitution regulation and licensing. In 2003 New Zealand decriminalized prostitution.

Prostitution law reform in Canada gained a renewed sense of urgency in September 2010, when the Superior Court of Justice for Ontario struck down the Criminal Code sections prohibiting communicating in public for the purpose of buying or selling sex (s 213), bawdy houses (s 210), and living on the avails of prostitution of another person (s 212.(1)(j)) on the grounds that they violate several Charter rights, including a prostitute's right to security of the person (Bedford v Canada 2010). (3) Should this decision be upheld, the government will be forced either to criminalize the sale and/or the purchase of sex or empower provinces and/or municipalities to regulate consensual adult prostitution indirectly or directly.

Should Bedford v Canada be upheld, claims about public opinion will likely come to play an important part in the ensuing debate about how to revise prostitution laws. Indeed, claims about public opinion on prostitution already did play a part in that case.

In its quest to convince the Ontario Superior Court to uphold the impugned provisions, the Christian Legal Fellowship, REAL Women of Canada, and the Catholic Civil Rights League (CLF)--a coalition of Christian organizations that was granted intervener status in Bedford--claimed that public opinion surveys establish that the majority of Canadians believe that prostitution is "unacceptable" and should be prohibited. More recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asserted that the majority of Canadians support the prostitution laws that the Ontario Superior Court struck down, hence his government's decision to appeal that ruling.

The research note that follows evaluates these claims by reviewing the findings of seven public opinion surveys dating back to 1984 (Peat Marwick 1984; Environics 1986, 1995, 2005; Angus Reid 2009, 2010, 2011) to ascertain the extent to which Canadians believe that consensual adult prostitution should be prohibited.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Public Opinion on Prostitution Law Reform in Canada
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?