Unfortunate ruling on prostitution laws

  • October 7, 2010
In striking down three prostitution laws an Ontario judge sparked a firestorm of debate about various legal and safety issues related to the so-called world’s oldest profession. But, at heart, prostitution is a moral issue and until society stops running from that fundamental truth no court decision or legislative amendment will make the streets safer for the women trapped in this dehumanizing lifestyle.

The unfortunate decision by Madam Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court has prompted commentators to call for further liberalization of prostitution laws. Since prostitution is so prevalent, the argument goes, it should be decriminalized or even legalized. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. These advocates applaud Judge Himel’s ruling that would permit prostitutes to maintain a bawdy house, advertise, keep business hours, hire accountants and operate as openly as your neighbourhood bakery.

These are the same people who opt for the friendlier term of sex worker over prostitute and who liken prostitution to a career choice no different than teacher, plumber or banker. Even Judge Himel dismissed prostitution as nothing more than a “social nuisance.” In our upside-down, politically-correct, morally-confused world, the courts and legislators seem content to nudge prostitution up a ladder of social acceptability to join divorce, gay marriage and abortion as the new norms of the modern world.

The trend is alarming. Prostitution is indecent, demeaning and sinful. It inflicts physical, emotional and psychological harm. It is among the oldest exploitive practises of mankind.

Prostitution persists because society ignores such root causes as poverty, addiction, family breakdown and mental illness. The world is increasingly hedonistic, promiscuous and less spiritual. Media of all types, but particularly web sites, blur the lines between right and wrong as they devalue integrity and morality.

Judge Himel struck down three prostitution-related laws she said increased “the risk of harm to street prostitutes.” But making it easier to live from the avails of prostitution or operate a bawdy house will only cause more prostitution and a corresponding rise in its most harmful effects: assault, human trafficking, child exploitation, disease, addiction, abortions, family breakup and so on.

The way to save women from harm is to reduce prostitution, not cultivate conditions for its expansion.  And reducing prostitution is as much about society rediscovering its moral underpinning as it is about actions by legislators and judges.

Prostitution and related scourges reflect an erosion in sexual morality. On this, Pope Benedict has called for a “spiritual and human awakening.” Curtailing prostitution requires a similar awakening. It needs invigoration of such Christian moral values as fidelity, integrity, dignity and respect, and it needs laws based on those values to genuinely protect the vulnerable.

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