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Outgoing Letters and Public Statements

October 20, 2011

RE: Why Anti-John Laws Don't Work (October 19, 2011)

To the editor of the Toronto Star,

Just over ten years ago, Sweden became the first nation to criminalize the sex buyer, and decriminalize the sold. The Swedish approach has two goals: to deter people from purchasing sexual services and to establish a new social norm that says no man, woman, boy or girl can be bought or sold. Heeding studies from around the world that have shown that 85 per cent and upwards of prostituted women say they would get out if they could, they put in place a national strategy to encourage and allow women who wanted to exit prostitution to do so safely and with support.  And, recognizing that curbing the demand for purchase of women’s bodies would require more than simply punitive measures, they also put in place a national awareness campaign, aimed at targeting the very idea that it is acceptable for any person to purchase another for sexual services.

Kelly and Pacey state that the Swedish approach to prostitution has proven “ineffective and harmful”, and that prostitution has merely been ‘reshuffled’ as a result of the ban on the purchase of sexual services. They call Sweden’s efforts to eliminate the demand for prostitution an ‘imaginary scenario.’

Yet there is substantial evidence to show that their approach has been successful not only in dramatically reducing rates of prostitution in Sweden, but also the establishment of organized criminal activity and the trafficking of foreign women into the sex trade. These findings, laid out in an independent inquiry into the effectiveness of the ban and in numerous other studies, have been replicated in other nations that have followed Sweden’s example. No, they have not succeeded in eliminating prostitution and trafficking altogether; these remain significant concerns. But relative to other approaches (decriminalization or legalization) they have had the most success by far in reducing exploitation.

MP Joy Smith has worked tirelessly to address the exploitation of women and children both in Canada and abroad, and has rightly concluded that an essential component to fighting sex trafficking is to target the demand for purchase of women and children’s bodies. There is simply no sense in trying to curb human sex trafficking if we are not willing to address demand.

It is our hope that regardless of how the Ontario Court of Appeal rules in the weeks or months to come, our Government will assess the Swedish model on its well documented merits and consider following their example.

Julia Beazley
Policy Analyst, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Outgoing Letters


EFC President Bruce J. Clemenger writes regular commentaries about public policy issues. The EFC magazine Faith Today often publishes articles and essays that examine such issues.

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