Fact Sheet

Sex work and the law

  • Enacted in December, 2014, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) makes it a crime to
    – purchase sex
    – communicate for the purpose of purchasing sex
    – habitually keep the company of or benefit materially from a sex worker, unless you are in a legitimate family or business relationship, provided you can prove that you are not forcing or encouraging the sex worker to sell sex; you are not involved together in a commercial sex enterprise; and you are not providing alcohol or drugs
    -sex workers are prohibited from working or communicating near schools, playgrounds, day-care centres
    -it is illegal to advertise sex services provided by anyone but the sex worker, and his/her advertising must not explicitly offer sex for sale.  [1]

    • Solicitation of a sex worker who is a minor (under 18 years of age) is always illegal. Using the defense that the customer BELIEVED the sex worker was 18 years old is not an acceptable defense.

     

    Safety

    • In general, street-based sex workers are at a far higher risk of violence than those working in indoor locations.[2]
    • There has been an increasing level of violence experienced by sex workers in the last decade in Vancouver, according to Vancouver: Amnesty International.[3]
    • Sex workers working indoors are less likely to face violence than those working on the street. A study of indoor sex workers in Vancouver found that 63 per cent of the study participants—who work in massage parlours, for escort agencies or independently out of their homes—had never experienced violent behaviour.[4]

     

    Health

    • Street-level sex workers have a higher risk for HIV/AIDS transmission. In 2007, the MAKA Project in Vancouver found that drug use, working in public spaces, working away from main streets because of policing and violence from clients makes it more difficult for street-level sex workers to negotiate condom use with clients.[5]
    • Homelessness and an inability to access drug treatment for female street-level sex workers are associated with an increase in physical and client-perpetrated violence.[6]

    Demographics

    • 5 to 20 per cent of sex work takes place on the street. The remainder occurs through independent escort agencies and in massage parlours, private residences, brothels, bars, clubs, trick pads and bathhouses.[7]
    • Both men and women are engaged in sex work. An estimated 75 to 80 per cent of sex workers are female, and between 25 to 30 per cent of sex workers are male and transgender.[8]
    • Sex workers come from all ages, ethnicities, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds.

    Marginalization

    • Aboriginal women are highly overrepresented in street-level sex work among women. [9]  This is due to the ongoing impacts of colonization and racism which has resulted in high rates of poverty, a lack of education and employment opportunities, substance misuse, and family breakdown. Often Aboriginal women are left with few options other than street-level sex work in order to meet their needs.

    Sex buyers

    • Almost all sex buyers are male. Of the participants in a 2010 study, 99.4 per cent of sex buyers were male.[10]
    • A 2010 study found that sex buyers come from all educational, ethnic, occupational backgrounds, ages and all sexual orientations.[11]

     




     

     

     

[1] Criminal Code of Canada.

[2] Church, S., Henderson, M., Barnard, M., and Hart, G.  2001 Violence by clients towards female prostitutes in different work settings. BMJ, 322:  524-25.

[3] (Amnesty International. 2004. Stolen Sisters: Discrimination and violence against indigenous women in Canada. Vancouver: Amnesty International)

[4] O’Doherty, T. (2007) Off-street commercial sex: an exploratory study. MA Thesis. Vancouver: Simon Fraser University. http://mypage.uniserve.ca/~lowman/

[5] Shannon, K. et al. (2009). Structural and Environmental Barriers to Condom Use Negotiation With Clients Among Female Sex Workers: Implications for HIV-Prevention Strategies and Policy. American Journal of Public Health. 99(4), 659-665.

[6] Shannon, K. et al. (2009) Prevalence and structural correlates of gender based violence among a prospective cohort of female sex workers. BMJ. 339:b2939.

[7] Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (2006) The Challenge of Change: A Study of Canada’s Criminal Prostitution. Ottawa: Government of Canada, p. 5.

[8] Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (2006) The Challenge of Change: A Study of Canada’s Criminal Prostitution. Ottawa: Government of Canada, p. 10.

[9] Sikka, A.  2009.  Trafficking of Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. [Aboriginal Policy Research Series].  Ottawa, Canada:  Institute on Governance.

[10] Atchison, C. (2010). Johns’ Voice: A study of adult Canadian sex buyers. www.johnsvoice.ca.

[11] Atchison, C. (2010). Johns’ Voice: A study of adult Canadian sex buyers. www.johnsvoice.ca.

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