Survey Shows Canada Divided on Sex Worker Policy; Majority Thinks Selling Sex Should Not Be Considered Illegal

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | June 3, 2014 4:16 PM EST

Laura Maria do Espiritu Santo, vice-president of the Association of Prostitutes of Minas Gerais, arranges a basket of condoms while awaiting clients in a hotel in Belo Horizonte, November 4, 2013. A group of sex workers are taking English classes once a week in preparation for the World Cup. They hope these lessons will help them communicate better with soccer fans coming to Brazil who might use their services. During the classes, they not only learn basic vocabulary like the days of the week, but also sexual words and phrases that they use on the job. Picture taken November 4, 2013. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP EDUCATION SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 12 OF 13 FOR PACKAGE 'BRAZIL 2014 - DOWN AND DIRTY ENGLISH LESSONS' TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'SEX MINAS GERAIS'
Laura Maria do Espiritu Santo, vice-president of the Association of Prostitutes of Minas Gerais, arranges a basket of condoms while awaiting clients in a hotel in Belo Horizonte, November 4, 2013. A group of sex workers are taking English classes once a week in preparation for the World Cup. They hope these lessons will help them communicate better with soccer fans coming to Brazil who might use their services. During the classes, they not only learn basic vocabulary like the days of the week, but also sexual words and phrases that they use on the job. Picture taken November 4, 2013. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP EDUCATION SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 12 OF 13 FOR PACKAGE 'BRAZIL 2014 - DOWN AND DIRTY ENGLISH LESSONS' TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'SEX MINAS GERAIS'

A survey conducted by the Canadian government on prostitution has the residents divided on the issue. While some Canadians responded that buying sex should be illegal, selling it should not be considered a criminal offence.

Canada's Department of Justice initiated an online survey on February 2014 to measure the public's attitude toward prostitution, following a December 2013 ruling by the Supreme Court that struck down Canada's anti-prostitution laws. More than 31,000 people responded to the online survey.

Results from the survey showed majority believed those that should be punished should be the people who solicited or profited from prostitution rather than prostitutes themselves. About 56 per cent said purchasing sexual services should be a criminal offence, while those who said it shouldn't be criminalised were 44 per cent.

However, 66 per cent said selling sex should not be a criminal offence, while 34 per cent said it should be.

Canadian law generally treats prostitution in one of three ways:

  • Decriminalisation/legalisation: seeks to reduce the harms associated with prostitution by decriminalising both the purchase and sale of sexual services and regulating the way in which prostitution takes place (implemented in Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia);
  • Prohibition: seeks to eradicate prostitution through the prohibition of both the purchase and sale of sexual services, as well as the involvement of third parties in prostitution (implemented in the U.S., except in Nevada); and
  • Abolition (the "Nordic Model"): seeks to abolish prostitution through criminalisation of those who exploit prostitutes (clients and third parties) and decriminalisation of prostitutes themselves, who are viewed as victims of sexual exploitation and assisted through programs (implemented in Sweden, Norway and Iceland).

Canadians were invited to respond to the online public consultation by filling out and submitting the online form through the following questions:

  1. Do you think that purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
  2. Do you think that selling sexual services by an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
  3. If you support allowing the sale or purchase of sexual services, what limitations should there be, if any, on where or how this can be conducted? Please explain.
  4. Do you think that it should be a criminal offence for a person to benefit economically from the prostitution of an adult? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
  5. Are there any other comments you wish to offer to inform the Government's response to the Bedford decision?
  6. Are you writing on behalf of an organization? If so, please identify the organization and your title or role.

"The volume of responses to the department's online consultation on prostitution-related offences is indicative of the significant level of public interest in, and engagement on, the issue of prostitution in Canada," the report said.

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(Photo: / )
Laura Maria do Espiritu Santo, vice-president of the Association of Prostitutes of Minas Gerais, arranges a basket of condoms while awaiting clients in a hotel in Belo Horizonte, November 4, 2013. A group of sex workers are taking English classes once a week in preparation for the World Cup. They hope these lessons will help them communicate better with soccer fans coming to Brazil who might use their services. During the classes, they not only learn basic vocabulary like the days of the week, but also sexual words and phrases that they use on the job. Picture taken November 4, 2013. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP EDUCATION SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 12 OF 13 FOR PACKAGE 'BRAZIL 2014 - DOWN AND DIRTY ENGLISH LESSONS' TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'SEX MINAS GERAIS'
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