Suit against prostitution laws tossed out

Tue Dec 16, 2008 6:32pm EST
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A Canadian judge tossed out a lawsuit on Tuesday that claimed the country's prostitution laws were unconstitutional, ruling that a group of former and current prostitutes did not have the legal standing to sue.

The group of current and former sex trade workers in Vancouver had argued that the laws, including making it illegal to operating a brothel, endangered them by forcing prostitutes to ply their trade on the streets.

The court accepted the government's claim that the group and a former prostitute who was the lead plaintiff could not actually challenge the law because their private interests had not been violated.

The government argued that laws are normally challenged by people who have been charged with a crime, but that was not the case in this lawsuit. The suit's backers argued that few prostitutes would be willing to be part of a legal challenge.

Justice William Ehrcke said the lawsuit did raise serious questions about the law, and just because he was tossing it out did not mean the prostitution legislation was "effectively immune from judicial scrutiny."

The case had been scheduled to go to trial early next year.

Prostitution itself is legal in Canada, however solicitation, procuring or living off the avails of prostitution can land you in jail.

A group of Canadian sex trade workers has said it would like to set up a legal "co-op" brothel in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

A similar suit challenging the law has also been filed in Ontario.