Sexual Exploitation: The Legal Debate

Others, Exploitation , Law

Contributed by: Hope Restored

Hope Restored Canada recognizes and honours the inherent worth and value of all human beings. Sexual exploitation undermines the dignity of women, men, and children regardless of race, religion, creed, or gender identity. It is harmful – physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically – for those directly impacted and for family, friends, and community.

The laws that guide communities to uphold the safety and well-being of all its citizens shouldn’t be ignored, forgotten, or discarded.

With a rising awareness of human trafficking, sex trafficking and sexual exploitation included, there continues to be great debate over decriminalization or legalization of the selling of sexual services by a 3rd party, as well as the purchase of sexual services.  Whether a person winds up in the sex trade by choice, circumstance or coercion, there should be laws in place to protect exploited persons and communities from further degradation, violence or abuse.


What is Canada’s Current Law?

On  Dec. 6, 2014, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act or Bill C-36 became law. This criminalized the purchase (but not the sale) of sexual services and restricted the advertisement of sexual services and communication in public for the purpose of prostitution. The bill replaced legislation, overturned in December 2013 by Canada’s Supreme Court which criminalized acts associated with selling sexual services.

Bill C-36 follows the example of Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, where the purchase – but not the sale – of sex was criminalized in legislation passed since the late 1990s.

Bill C-36 recognizes the multiple challenges that prostituted people experience and their vulnerability to exploitation. The intent of the legislation is to protect them from exploitation and not to hold them criminally responsible. The law sets society on a course to shape behaviour and norms.  Bill C-36, with its focus on the criminalization of the purchase of sex, sends a strong message that it is never OK to purchase another human being for sexual services.

We believe this law contributes to Canada’s strength, and in turn leads to a nation where all people will be treated with dignity and equality.

Hope Restored Canada recognizes that the current law is imperfect. However, we affirm The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act and encourage the ongoing work towards better systems and programs in this nation to promote true healing and wellness for its citizens.


The Global Debate: Legal vs Illegal

Governments and citizens around the world are debating: Should Prostitution be legal, illegal, or decriminalized? Watch this video from Exodus Cry :

(Youtube Video:

*Disclaimer, the above video refers to men as the “buyer” and women as the gender being exploited. Although we agree with the primary context of this video from Exodus Cry, we acknowledge that there are also males who are being trafficked and sexually exploited.  It is understood that a small percentage of sexually exploited persons globally are men and boys.


Addressing the Full Decriminalization Debate

Does it actually make it safer and more empowering?

  • “No, in countries that have put this into place have actually seen an exponential increase in demand for prostitution. More men are enticed to buy sex and profit from a woman’s body. Leading to more pimps and brothel owners
  • The increase in demand leads to more extreme sex acts to be performed and to be paid less. Women become even more objectified and exploited “She’s a prostitute, not a person… when I strip her of her humanity and she is just an object, then I can do whatever I want to it and have no remorse”

Consequences of this mindset

  • “Instead of preventing rape, assault, and trauma- it is perpetuated
  • New Zealand survivor said: “I thought legalizing prostitution would give more power and rights to the women, but I soon realized the opposite was true”
  • While legalization fuels the demand for men who want to buy sex, there are never enough women to meet the demand
  • Because of the demand- in every country that embraces legalization, there are higher rates of sex trafficking, and crime.  
  • This drives more men to use and abuse women for sex- meaning more women and children to experience more violence, abuse, rape and inequality”*

For these reasons

  • “The act of buying and selling sex should not be permitted and promoted
  • Those who are exploited in prostitution should be given a viable means of escape including services to support a life outside of the sex industry”

*The above quotes are taken from the video of Exodus Cry “Should Prostitution Be Legal


Upholding our Current Law


Bill C- 36 (Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act) is a critical first step in changing the paradigm of how prostitution is addressed in Canada, in law, in policy, and in public attitude. The preamble to the legislation conveys clearly that prostitution is harmful to individuals and communities, that it needs to be discouraged, and that human dignity must be protected. It identifies that the purchase of sex creates a demand for prostitution and is therefore prohibited. The current law has the following objectives:

1)  Reducing the demand for sexual services

2) Protecting those who sell their sexual services from exploitation

3) Protecting communities from the harms caused by prostitution.


What Can You Do?

Here are a few simple ways to support the current laws in Canada

  • 1. Become educated
  • 2. Volunteer
  • 3. Advocate : Write letters to your member of parliament  

  We believe that with upholding and strengthening the current laws that surround sexual exploitation and doing our part to take action, that this will lead to a Canada where all women will be treated with dignity and equality’… Click here to read more.


Additional Resources