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More than human rights groups are calling on whichever federal party forms the government after the next election to decriminalize sex work as a way to protect the health and safety of those involved in the industry. It comes as legislation to decriminalize sex work has been put forward in the U. A number of current U. And the Liberals are being criticized for not tackling the issue during their time in government. In , the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper implemented Bill C, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which made it a crime to pay for sex work, but not to be a sex worker.
These sex work laws are among the most restrictive in the Western world. In , New Zealand decriminalized sex work, and a study of the situation found improved working conditions for sex workers who were more willing to report acts of violence and abuse to police. The court gave the Conservative government one year to come up with new laws. Though the law purported to eliminate sex work altogether, and made references to protecting sex workers from harm, neither has happened.
Sex workers say the laws have made things worse for them because punishing their clients is akin to punishing them. And a number of MPs and Liberal candidates talked about the need to reform the laws the following year on the campaign trail in And a position put forward in by the Young Liberals of Canada at the Liberal National Convention called on the party to repeal the sex work laws was not picked up by Liberals and is not mentioned in its platform.
According to Statistics Canada , there were homicides of sex workers between and A third of those murders were unsolved as of , more than 10 per cent higher than the unsolved rate for murders that do not involve sex workers. A recent study by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that since C came into effect, the number of cisgender and transgender sex workers in B. Cossman pointed to page 45 of the Liberal platform under the heading Sexual and Reproductive Health.
But, she speculates that other issues such as cannabis legalization took precedence. This includes sex workers who work on the streets who now have to act very quickly when interacting with a client over fears of getting caught by law enforcement.