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Canada has taken a large step towards decriminalising prostitution after a judge agreed with a dominatrix that current laws put sex workers at increased risk from violent clients.
Prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada, but there are laws which criminalize most aspects of the trade. However, at Ontario Superior Court, Justice Susan Himel repealed three of those laws to allow 'communicating for the purposes of prostitution, pimping and operating a brothel.
Dominatrix: The case was brought by prostitute Terri-Jean Bedford, whose Bondage Bungalow was raided by police in The ruling came in a case brought by Toronto dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, whose Bondage Bungalow in northern Toronto has previously been raided by police. Ms Bedford, described in court documents as a prostitute who had been beaten and raped while working in the streets of Windsor, Calgary and Vancouver, argued the laws force sex workers from the safety of their homes to face violence on the streets.
Night lights: Justice Himel ruled the risk to the public of Ontario is outweighed by the risk to the safety of sex workers. Justice Himel said the laws violated a provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantee 'the right to life, liberty and security' and agreed that the dangers prostitutes face far outweigh any potential harm to the public. In a page ruling, Justice Himel said: 'These laws Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitc, the other two women who launched the challenge along with Bedford, said the legal changes meant sex workers could now pick up the phone and call the police to report a violent client.
The ruling - which currently only applies to Ontario - is subject to a day delay because Justice Himel gave the Canadian government time to consider how to deal with the potential emergence of unlicensed brothels.