Huge victory for human rights–Canada high court strikes down prostitution laws

This morning sex workers, people in the sex trade, and allies around the world were moved to cheers and tears by the decision of the Canadian Supreme Court in the Bedford case. In a unanimous ruling, the high court struck the entirety of Canada’s prostitution laws from the books, finding that the

“provisions, primarily concerned with preventing public nuisance as well as the exploitation of prostitutes, do not pass Charter muster: they infringe the s. 7 rights of prostitutes by depriving them of security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

The sex workers who brought the case were visibly overjoyed and emotional on television after the decision was released.

The justices gave the Canadian government a year to react to the judgment–and already anti-sex worker rights groups have discussed introducing the so-called Nordic system of criminalizing clients. But human rights groups in Canada have already rejected that approach, and the Bedford plaintiffs and their lawyers strongly cautioned the government against such laws as well.

While it takes time for laws, and society, to change, meaning many folks involved in commercial sex will not immediately benefit from the Court’s ruling, the decision is nonetheless momentous. It has the potential to affect the fight for recognition of sex workers’ rights well beyond the borders of Canada. We send a salute to the tireless advocates and activists who fought this battle and won.