I don't often take on op-eds in rival papers but this one -- "Legalizing the purchase of women for sex won't make them safe'' -- just begged for a takedown. Authored by Janine Benedet of the University of British Columbia's law faculty, it is both misleading and inaccurate.
Right now, the sex trade is in the headlines because of the constitutional challenge to Canada's Criminal Code by three Ontario pros. Here's my take from yesterday -- and here's The Star's Rosie DiManno's coverage of the first day of the hearing.
So, anyway, Benedet...
Supporters of the prostitution industry want us to believe that women would be safe if men's purchase of women for sex is legalized.
Wrong. First off, they don't want the business ''legalized'' -- it already is legal -- but they want the right not to get killed while plying their trade. There's a distinction.
In the name of women's security, they are arguing in an Ontario court this week that male johns and pimps have a constitutional right to buy and sell women.
Wrong again. They are arguing that they have a constituional right not to get killed on the job. They are arguing that, among other things, they should be able to have safe houses in which to operate, hire bodyguards and security or be able to put their live-in kids through school without their being busted for ''living off the avails,'' and that they be able to communicate with clients without getting into dangerous situations like some stranger's truck cab where they can be hauled off and murdered.
They are claiming that prostitution is women's work and that legalizing it would advance women's liberty.
Wrong again again. There are male prostitutes too. And these guys have every right to do their thing as well without getting slaughtered, beaten up or busted for a legal act.
A closer look at the violent reality of prostitution exposes the utter fallacy of these claims.
First clause correct. Second clause, yes, well we just proved how fallacious they are, didn't we?
Now, obviously, Benedet, who writes from the murdered prostitutes capital of Canada, is much closer to the situation than I. So it's kind of strange that she spends the next 11 paragraphs on one isolated case without ever mentioning, oh, um, Robert Pickton.
Instead, she focuses on the recent conviction for second-degree murder of Andrew Evans, guilty of the 2007 killing of Nicole Parisien, 33, whom he hired via Craigslist.
It should be noted here that Parisien, like hundreds of other missing women in Canada, was aboriginal -- and that the Aboriginal Women's Action Network opposes decriminalization. (Read more here.) No question that most of these women would benefit far more from strategies that would keep them from harm from the moment they are conceived. Too many aboriginal women suffer from alcohol and abuse even before they have a choice in the matter.
But it does not seem that Parisien was one of these street women. Here's Benedet again:
Mr. Evans was by all accounts a regular guy – a former member of his university rugby team who had volunteered as a peer counsellor. But he was possessed of a sense of male sexual entitlement that led him to believe that he should be able to buy a woman who would meet his sexual demands and that she was worth so little that she could be physically assaulted when she failed to do so.
(And people accuse me of misandry?)
The guy was an alcoholic who admitted to heavily drinking plus taking drugs that night. This does not excuse him of course, particularly, as Benedet notes, Evans blamed his victim for his inability to sustain his erection.
That's why he blew up, beat and strangled her, wrapped up her body in the bedding, dragged it out of the apartment building through the rear and dumped it in the bushes.
Now, do you think Evans would have managed all that had there been some beefy security type standing outside the bedroom door? But that beefy security type is ILLEGAL because he (or she) would be ''living off the avails.''
Oh sure, as Benedet writes, there was a security camera, but was it monitored in such a way to do the victim any good?
Which brings us to her sloppy conclusion:
We need laws that support the abolition of prostitution rather than its normalization. But if the courts strike down the prostitution laws because they find that men have a Charter-protected right to buy women's bodies, it will become much more difficult for Parliament to enact a law that recognizes prostitution as fundamentally contrary to women's equality.
Yeah. because prostitution is a declining business we can legislate away. Because clients should have a Charter-protected right to beat and kill women -- which is how the law is now structured. Because we need laws to tell us how to manage our bodies without giving us the right to protect ourselves from those who want to destroy our bodies.
Give us a break.