by Agnes a Paris
Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 03:15:50 PM EST
A sub-committee within the Canadian Parliament is currently examining the possibility of making prostitution a legal trade, which would imply amending the criminal code. Depenalisation would either be applied to the whole "industry " (ie prostitutes as well as customers and pimps) or be limited to prostitutes, with the underlying idea of their being victims who need to be protected, a set of measures to punish pimps and deter customers complementing this safety net.
The debate is still open, but some points can already be made : if a legal framework discriminates between the guilty and the victims, this will not cut the roots of organised traffic networks who will be prompted into clandestinity even further. It will be more difficult for authorities to measure and regulate the activity of prostitution networks, all the more so as the image of a prostitute working on a stand-alone basis (ie without a pimp) is a myth.
The Canadian think tank seems to take for granted that full legalisation involves a significant growth in prostitution, both legal and illegal, and allegedly causes an aggravation of women and children trade. Legalisation is accounted for a degradation in the "work" conditions and a growth in clandestinity (which does not appear very logical). In the Netherlands, for example, the number of clandestine prostitutes is quoted as making up as much as 70 % of the cases; under-age prostitution also soared: from 5 000 to 15 000 children between 1996 and 2001.
Sweden has taken the path of discriminating between responsibility, and potential prosecution, of the 3 key parties : the prostitute, the customer and the pimp. The penal code was amended in January 1999 towards penalising the "purchasers of sexual services", in other words, customers were the ones to be penalised. According to a survey conducted in Feb. 2005, 86 % of the Swedish population support this law. Opponents claim that hidden prostitution has eversince increased in Sweden.
As for France, clients are those who benefit from the victim status. Indeed, the Sarkozy law enacted in 2003 penalises prostitutes harassing customers who would not be interested otherwise (!)
It is difficult to find a fully adequate solution to a problem of such magnitude (and with so much tax-free money at stake), but all measures increasing the need for clandestinity are bound to prove unproductive.