Canadian Bishops Explain Why Prostitution Should Not Be Decriminalized

The Canadian Commission for Justice and Peace reiterates that prostitution must continue to be criminalized. He says that treating sex as “work” masks the physical, psychological and sexual violence inflicted on the prostitute.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Justice and Peace Commission of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has released a new pastoral letter on human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Canada. Entitled “For Liberty, Christ Set Us Free”, the document focuses on trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation from the point of view of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, as well as current Canadian law. , the protection of communities and the Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA).

The aim is to draw attention to the “inherently exploitative and abusive nature” of the purchase of sexual services and the need to continue criminalizing this practice in order to protect vulnerable people.

Disturbing figures

The introduction reminds in particular that sex trafficking is an extremely lucrative crime and for the most part goes unpunished, with average annual profits of a single $ 280,000 in Canada alone.

The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.8 million people in the world trapped in forced sexual exploitation. Between 2009 and 2018, Canada recorded a total of 1,708 police-reported human trafficking incidents, of which 63% involved prostitution offenses and the number of such incidents has steadily increased since 2010. However, the letter notes that the actual numbers are much higher, due to the clandestine nature of the crime and the reluctance of witnesses and victims to report to the police.

A violation of the principles of the CST

The nine-page infographic version of the letter published on the CCCB website then underlines that the purchase of sexual services violates several fundamental principles of Catholic Social Doctrine, but particularly those relating to the life and dignity of the human person. ; the rights and duties of the human person; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; the option for the poor and the vulnerable.

Prostitution is not a personal choice

He then explains why prostitution cannot be seen as a form of “work” or simply as a personal choice. “Treating sex as ‘work’ masks the physical, psychological and sexual violence inflicted on the prostitute. Prostitution is about selling something which by its nature cannot be bought or sold and is therefore inherently exploitative, ”the letter said.

The letter then lists a series of questions and answers regarding the buyers; the victims; what legalization / decriminalization means, what survivors need to get out of prostitution and finally what is the responsibility of Catholics on this issue.

97% of victims are girls and women

He drew attention to the fact that in Canada 97% of victims are girls and women and that most prostitutes belong to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups: indigenous girls fleeing violence and neglect; Asian women in brothels with no ID and limited English; immigrants who have minimal social support and find it difficult to adjust to a new country; girls living in group homes, homeless shelters, host families and those attracted to the Internet, malls and schoolyards. The vast majority cannot be forced to stay, they have no other option to survive.

The Vviolent and exploitative nature of prostitution

Noting the violent and exploitative nature of prostitution, the Canadian Justice and Peace Commission reiterates that it should not be decriminalized or legalized. “Buyers, pimps and traffickers must be held accountable for the damage they cause” and “stopping the demand to purchase sex is the only way to prevent more crime,” says Pastoral Letter.

Catholics called to act

Quoting Pope Francis’ Message for World Day of Peace 2015, the Episcopal Commission therefore calls on Catholics “to open their eyes to the misery of those who are completely deprived of their dignity and their freedom and to hear their call to rescue ”. : “Catholics are called to follow the example of Jesus Christ who showed compassion towards all, especially those who suffer, the marginalized, the marginalized and those who hide their needs out of shame,” he said.

In closing the letter, the Justice and Peace Commission also urges the Canadian authorities to “ensure that the law is respected in order to put an end to the continuing violations of human dignity in our country”.

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