Canada court ruling would allow legal brothels

Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:07pm EDT
 
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By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario's highest court has struck down a national law that outlaws brothels but upheld an effective ban on street prostitution, a partial victory for those arguing Canada's laws put sex workers in harm's way.

If the landmark decision stands - it will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada - the federal government will have to find new ways to regulate prostitution, perhaps by accepting legalized brothels of the sort found in Nevada.

Accepting money in return for sex is not illegal in Canada, but most related activities have been.

In a judgment released on Monday, Ontario's Court of Appeal found the laws violated the constitutional rights of sex workers by preventing them from taking safety precautions such as hiring bodyguards or working out of their own homes.

In hearings last June, the federal and provincial governments argued that it is prostitution itself, not the laws that govern it, that put prostitutes at risk.

"Prostitution is a controversial topic, one that provokes heated, heartfelt debate about morality," the court wrote in its opinion. "It is not the court's role to engage in that debate."

But the court's ruling was only a partial endorsement of Justice Susan Himel's 2010 ruling that had found all three laws unconstitutional.

A narrow majority on the panel upheld a law that primarily restricts street prostitution, banning public communication to buy or sell sexual services. In a dissenting opinion, two of the five judges found that law unconstitutional as well.   Continued...