Queer Ontario is calling on the Harper government to reverse its recently enacted anti-sex-work provision.

Last week, the Conservatives quietly announced that operating a bawdyhouse will now be considered a “serious offence."

In a statement released today, Queer Ontario says the new provision puts sex workers’ lives at risk:

Indeed, this new regulation highlights the government’s misunderstanding of the nature of sex work, which is based largely on the Conservative Party’s staunch moralism regarding sex and sexuality. Not only does the Conservative government fail to recognize the legitimacy of the consensual, self-determined work of sex professionals — not to be confused with the exploitative practices of human trafficking, a true breach of fundamental human rights! — It also flies in the face of growing evidence suggesting that centralized workplaces like bawdy houses are much more beneficial to sex workers than the street or private residences most professionals are forced to seek out as a result of these puritanical laws. That is: bawdy houses, when properly operated, have been proven to provide sex workers with clean, safe, and accessible work environments that make sex work less dangerous for professionals and their clients.

By criminalizing bawdy houses and the people who operate them, the government is only serving to endanger the bodies and lives of our nation’s sex workers, effectively working against a protection of their rights. Rights which should be granted and protected unconditionally, given the fact that the government has no legitimate reason to regulate what consenting adults choose to do with their own bodies in private.

The queer activist group calls on the government to move towards the decriminalization of sex work. 

At a protest on Parliament Hill in 2008, activists call for the decriminalization of sex work.

Last week, NDP MP Libby Davies told Xtra that it’s “outrageous” that the Conservatives changed the bawdyhouse law while Parliament is on summer break. 

"If their intent is to put a tighter grip around bawdyhouses, then that will affect sex workers, and it will affect their safety and their rights,” Davies told Xtra. “We should be very concerned about what they’re up to here.”

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