Bill C-36, the Canadian Government’s Prostitution Bill that Penalizes Sex Buyers, Passes in House of Commons

On Monday, October 6 the Canadian 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 scrapping 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 laws.

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 objectifcation of the human body and the commodification of sexual activity.”

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.

The bill now goes to Senate and will then very likely be made into law. The anticipated adoption of this bill is due to the hard work of people who have applied a gendered analysis to prostitution, prayed for justice to be done, dared to challenge those who profit from the sale of women’s bodies, and testified from their own experience in the sex industry.

This legislation represents a new approach to prostitution that says men do not have the right for paid access to women’s bodies, women deserve more than prostitution, prostitution does not promote gender equality, and that we can – and did – ask for more women.