Why the prostitution laws are essential, part 1: Prostitution preys on vulnerabilities

01 March 2022

As Christians, we seek the well-being of those who are being prostituted and who are vulnerable to exploitation. We want to uphold their human dignity, ensure their needs are met and that they have safe, secure, dignified options.  

Prostitution isn’t merely a series of interactions between purchaser and purchased that exist independently of one another. Prostitution is part of a system of exploitation that is based on structural inequalities and preys on vulnerabilities.  

An individual’s entry into the system of prostitution is substantially influenced by risk factors and socioeconomic factors that create vulnerability.  

Other risk factors include mental health issues, disability, family breakdown or disruption, early home leaving, being in government care, or a history of childhood abuse or neglect.  

The vast majority of victims in sex-trade-related offences are women, primarily young women. The most recent statistics, since the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) was introduced, indicate that 94% of victims are women. More than 4 in 10 victims in violent offences involving at least one sex-trade-related offence are 12- to 17-years old. The median age of women victims was 17 years of age before PCEPA, and is now 20 years of age.  

Indigenous women and girls are highly over-represented among victims and uniquely vulnerable to exploitation due, at least in part, to the lasting effects of colonization and the residential schools system. Indigenous women and girls are only four percent of the population, yet they are the majority of those trafficked and prostituted on the streets of Canada.  

In a study of sexual exploitation and trafficking of Aboriginal persons in Winnipeg, the average age of entry into sexual exploitation was 13.8 years of age and most participants remained entrenched an average of 9.75 years. 

When there are Canadians living in poverty, unable to afford housing, experiencing racism and marginalization or lack of social support, we must respond with genuine options to address those needs, rather than accepting the sale of the person’s sexuality as the answer.  

Canada can and must do better than to accept prostitution as a solution to poverty, racism, and a range of other underlying social issues. The current prostitution laws, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) are a critical tool in fighting sexual exploitation. 

Based on the EFC submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), February 25, 2022. 

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