Prostitution in Canada
RESEARCH PAPER Prostitution in Canada Table of Contents Introduction3 History of prostitution in Canada3 Definition of prostitution4 * What is prostitution? 4 * Causes of women entering prostitution4 * Troubled childhood5 * Homelessness, poverty, employment and drugs5 * Friends6 * The most dangerous places6 Consequences of prostitution7 * Health and Safety Risks7 * Health Risks7 * Safety Risks8 How to prevent prostitution? 9 * Legalization9 * How to quit prostitution? 9 Conclusion9 Works Cited11 Prostitution in Canada Introduction
Prostitution is a controversial subject, involving complex and contradictory interests, values and issues. The most visible evidence of prostitution, street solicitation, is an acute problem in large Canadian cities. This essay focuses mainly on street prostitution in Canada, and on women, who represent the majority (75%) of prostitute workers. It mainly attempts to describe prostitution, its social, health and safety consequences. Is prostitution a problem itself, or is it part of a bigger problem? History of prostitution in Canada Throughout the 1800s, prostitution in Canada was organized primarily around brothels.
The houses were grouped together, often sharing their neighbourhood with taverns in the poorer parts of town (Gray, 1971, pp. 24-26). In his book, Gray explains that at the turn of the century, with the development of the transcontinental railways, there was a mass migration of single men, “which created an environment in which prostitution flourished”. Brothels were located close to the railway stations (1971, pp. 78-85). Little was done to close them, since the authorities felt that prostitution had to be tolerated because it could not be eradicated.
From 1890 on, legal repression made it more difficult to operate brothels, and street prostitution became more common (Bullough and Bullough, 1987, p. 67). Levels of prostitution increased during World War I when there was little employment for women, and decreased during World War II, possibly as a result of the “greater economic opportunities for lower-class women in war-related industries”. Immediately following the war, the levels of prostitution continued to fall and became much more decentralized (Gray, 1971, pp. 120).
Brothels, call-girl operations, often called escorts, still exist today, but street prostitution is the most visible form of prostitution and receives the most attention. Yet in Canada as elsewhere, street prostitution represents only a small proportion of the sex trade, estimated at ranging from 10% to 33% (Lowman, 1992). Definition of prostitution What is Prostitution? Arriving at a workable definition of what is prostitution is very difficult, since not even the government can agree on what exactly constitutes the offence. Prostitution is the exchange of sexual favours for money or other material goods, devoid of any emotional involvement” (Gomme, 1993, p. 12; Garner, 1999, p. 1238) The commercial sex industry includes street prostitution, massage brothels, escort services, outcall services, strip clubs, lapdancing, phone sex, adult and child pornography, video and internet pornography, and prostitution tourism. In Canada, it’s perfectly legal to exchange money for sex. Although prostitution has never been illegal in Canada (Davies, 1990, p. 12; Lowman, 2004, p. 148; Maich, 2010 p. 9; “Prostitution laws”, 2004, p. 9), many of the activities closely related with it are illegal; advertising and soliciting prostitution, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, keeping a common “bawdy house” or brothel, “pimping”, procuring, and living off the gains of prostitution are some examples of the type of activities that are criminalized according to the legal system (Lowman, 1992, p. 7; Shannon, 2010, p. 1388). Prostitution is described by some as the world’s oldest profession.
Whether it is or not, let’s face it, it is a profession; Maich indeed argues that “there is a market value on sex in every human society, and there have always been people who make their living in that market” (2010, p. 9). However, even if prostitution is legal for sex trade workers who enter this lifestyle freely and deliberately, it is important to look at the choice and constraints in the performance of this deviant activity. Is prostitution a form of sexual deviance, a paid work, or a troubled response to childhood abuse? Causes of Women entering Prostitution
Most street prostitutes have common backgrounds; they are women and men who come from the lower socio-economic strata, and who are or were greatly dissatisfied with some aspects of their home life (Lowman, 1992, p. 54). Research on prostitution shows some basic patterns in the family backgrounds of people involved in prostitution. Often less than 18 years of age, most have few qualifications for other work. Various reasons can be invoked as to why young adults turn to prostitution; poverty, mental illness, homelessness, a history of childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse.
Troubled childhood Usually, prostitutes leave home at a very early age (67% of prostitutes enter the profession under the age of eighteen). The average age of sex workers is 13 years old (Silbert, ; Pines, 1982, p. 122). However, some are as young as young as 11 years old, as Wayne Chamberlain (1998) notes. All the factors influencing this decision involve great dissatisfaction with members of the family. Relationships are often characterized by physical violence, and emotional and sexual abuse.
Indeed, a study interviewing forty-seven women involved in prostitution from three western Canadian provinces reported than more than two thirds of the women interviewed had become involved at age 15 or younger (Nixon et al. , 2002, p. 1016). The prostitutes interviewed described high rates of history of violence perpetrated against them in their childhood. They reported considerable childhood sexual abuse, most often by a family member or by caretakers. Another study reports that eighty to eighty-five percent were fleeing sexual abuse, which started at home in most cases (Lowman, ; Fraser, 1996).
Another important study testifies to this, alleging that eighty-two percent of sex workers had a history of childhood abuse, seventy-two percent had a childhood of physical abuse (Silbert, ; Pines, 1982, p. 122). Homelessness, poverty, employment and drugs Furthermore, troubled teens are in a search for autonomy and freedom. The long years of abuse and neglect suffered at home serve to erode the young person’s self-esteem, making her vulnerable to self-destructive decisions. Prostitutes usually leave home at a very early age. Initially, when a girl leaves home she does not intend to become a prostitute.
Due to a lack of a suitable employment or marketable skills, prostitution becomes the only possible way to support herself. Poverty is indeed a major factor influencing young girls to prostitute. Often, people have a lack of education or job skills. Most types of prostitutes are remunerated more than any other conventional employment. In addition to this, young women with limited education and skills cannot expect to have a well-paying job. To add to this problem, young girls often quit school. In other words, prostitution is often the only way to survive and pay for their basic needs.
People with drug addiction, which is often the cause of their dropping out of school and home, make it even more difficult to find employment (“Prostitution Laws”, p. 109). Indeed, in a survey conducted on 183 sex workers in Canada, fifty-eight percent worked to support a drug habit (Macqueen, 2010, p. 23). Nowadays, Lowman (2000) argues that the majority of those who sell sex on streets are heroin, drugs or alcohol addicts. Lowman states that eighty-two percent have drug or alcohol problems and need money to continue to use them. Most of them would need treatments to stop.
Friends, if we can call them this way A few women enter the profession because they are emotionally attached to someone, a lover or a friend, who coerces them to take up the trade. In the report based on the findings of the Fraser Committee, it was stated that in Vancouver, between fifty to sixty percent of prostitutes claimed they were introduced to the “the life” by other people (Gomme, 1993, p. 294). Others become sex workers through friends, husbands, and even family, but the majority is through pimps, who recruit them (Lowman, & Fraser, 1996).
The Most Dangerous Places In a 1995 research on prostitution in Canada, Statistics Canada reports that arrests in street prostitution tend to occur more often in large cities. This Statistics Canada survey tells us that Regina, in Saskatchewan, was the one city that had the most arrests and communications of prostitution, with roughly around 110 arrests a year for 100,000 people. These arrests were made only in the metropolitan areas. Next comes Vancouver, with roughly 65 arrests for 100,000 of population, then Edmonton and Halifax with around 45 arrests.
For Montreal, the statistics show around 4o arrests for 100,000 of population. However, these are arrests, not incidents. Incidents related to prostitution, such as murders, rape, serial killers and so on, are concentrated in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto (Statistics Canada, 1995). Indeed, 96% of incidents happened in those metropolitan areas. Therefore, these places are the most dangerous places for prostitutes to live in. In fact, in Vancouver, Robert Pickton, a serial killer, is presumed to have killed at least 49 prostitutes, from 1997 to 2002 (MacQueen, 2010, p. 22).
This case is most definitely the most horrible occurrence in the history of prostitution, in Canada. A study on homicide statistics in Canada states that from 1993 to 1995, 41 prostitutes were killed in Canada only. The study mentions that prostitution is the “occupation that involves the most personal risk to personal safety” (Lowman, 2000, p. 987), along with taxi drivers. This report even states that those numbers are most definitely underrepresented. Moreover, conviction rates for killers of prostitutes as of December 1997 was 27%, while the rate of conviction for killers was 77 to 85% (Lowman, 2000, p. 88). Consequences of Prostitution According to Lowman, “prostitutes are a group of people who have greater than average health and social needs and the health professions have, by and large, failed them abysmally” (Goodyear et al. , 2005, p. 1265). There are many dangers and risks associated with this profession. It may be one of the most dangerous professions in the world. Health and Safety Risks Health Risks First and foremost, being sexually active at a young age is a risk factor. Young prostitutes have less power to defend themselves and there is a high demand of young prostitutes.
Being involved in prostitution also heightens the risk of attempting or committing suicide. However, the greatest health consequences of prostitution are drug abuse, violence, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)/AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), gonorrhea, pelvic inflammatory disease, and syphilis. (Wood et al. , 2007, p. 322). The risk for HIV infection is increased because of multiple partners and limited safe sex practices, as some customers are willing to pay more if they do not have to use a condom. Based on research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of HIV infection for prostitutes is three times higher if they smoke crack cocaine”. Intravenous drug use also increases the risk of HIV infections for prostitutes (Wood et al. , 2007, p. 323). Safety Risks Living in the streets is a dangerous lifestyle, associated with drugs and crimes. A research by Lowman and Fraser (1996) proved that women involved in prostitution are 60 to 120 times more likely to be murdered than the general public. In addition, between 1991 and 1995, sixty-seven known prostitutes were murdered: sixty females and seven juveniles.
Fifty of them were killed by their clients, eight by their pimps, and the others were drug-related incidents. Sadly, in street prostitution, sexual and physical abuse is common. Juristat writes that in four cases of prostitution out of ten, there was another violation of the criminal code, from rape to physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Sometimes, they add, “assaults are serious enough to cause death”. The organization “The Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education (PACE) Society”, interviewed 183 sex trade workers between 1999 and 2001.
It found, not surprisingly, that “fifty-eight per cent worked to support a drug habit, and that violent “bad dates” were a frequent occurrence”. More than half said they had been robbed while working the streets; thirty-nine per cent said they had been kidnapped or confined; one-third said they had survived attempts to murder them. Remarkably, forty per cent of those who claimed to have been targets for murder said they didn’t report the incident to police. The survey found a “gulf between acts of violence suffered and acts of violence reported, indicative of a profound distrust of authorities” (MacQueen, 2010, p. 3). Exploitation, mostly by pimps, is another danger associated with prostitution. Although coercion is not a very common method of recruitment, it is often used by pimps as a way to keep the prostitutes working on the streets. According to Lautt, who has conducted extensive research on the prairies, “exploitation is most frequent in the recruitment of girls between the ages of 12 to 16” (Gomme, 1993, p. 290). Pimps look for young, naive girls around bus stops, airports, train stations and other places of access to the city. The pimp will be nice and take careof the girl.
He may perhaps offer her a place to stay. Soon the young girl will become emotionally and economically dependent on her new “friend”; then the young person is asked to prostitute herself. If she refuses, threats of violence or violence will be employed by the pimp (Gomme, 1993, p. 291). How to prevent prostitution? Legalization Dr. John Lowman is in favour of the legalization of prostitution in Canada. He believes that “many sex workers choose to prostitute because of the rewards it brings” and that often, “prostitution is more about opportunity than it is desperation”.
He believes that to legalize prostitution would eliminate the exploitation of women. He is one of the rare who is in favour of legalization. The majority are opposed to this idea. Indeed, there are two major consequences of the legalization of prostitution. First, the legalization of sex markets strengthens the activities of organized “pimping” and organized crime. Secondly, such strengthening, accompanied by a significant increase in prostitution-related activities brings a deterioration not only in the general condition of women and children, but also, in particular, that of prostituted people.
While the total decriminalization of prostitution is not regarded favourably by any country, the legalization of prostitution brings with it a number of problems. The alternative is the policy adopted by Sweden, which criminalizes those who benefit from prostitution, the pimps and the customers, and decriminalizes the activities of the prostituted people, who are regarded as the prey and the victims of organized pimping. How to quit prostitution? It is hard for prostitutes to stop. Indeed, it is difficult to find a job that pays as well as prostituting.
Most often than not, prostitutes are there because they had problems, no education; therefore a lack of choice. They won’t have more choices or education when they get out of this life. Most exit through giving birth of a child or finding a “good partner”. There are also support and special relationships that cause them to want to quit this dangerous lifestyle. They need motivation. Unfortunately, because it is not legal, there are not a lot of places that offer them support, motivation, and ways to get out. Conclusion
Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in history; it is also unlikely that it will be disappearing any time soon. The major cause for the existence of the trade is that men have been socialized to view sex as a commodity that they can buy, and women as objects whose sole purpose is to provide sexual satisfaction. As long as there are men who are willing to pay for sex there will be women willing to provide it. Youth are the society’s future and better supporting them can lead to less prostitution, as prostitution comes from other of society’s problems.
We should stop looking at prostitution negatively, as we can be the ones responsible for it. This sexual deviance is interconnected with other deviances; which often teens unfortunately get caught up into. Young people are innocent, and society, by lacking appropriate education and closing its eyes on abuse, takes this away, leaving children with no other choice. Works Cited Bullough, V. & Bullough, B. (1987). Women and Prostitution: A Social History. Prometheus Books. Chamberlain, W. (1998). Half of Sudbury Prostitutes Under 15 Years Old: Streetwalkers a growing problem in Nickel City.
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