Wednesday, December 16, 1998

Group doesn't recommend decriminalizing prostitution

OTTAWA — Criticism has greeted a long-awaited report by the Working Group on Prostitution. After six full years of study, the group has decided against recommending the decriminalization of prostitution — but offered little relief to those trying protect women and children in the sex trade.

In Alberta, where prostitution is at the top of the public agenda, people dealing with the sex industry are calling Tuesday's report weak and short-sighted.

Heather Forsythe, a Calgary MLA who chaired Alberta's own task force on child prostitution two years ago, said the national committee fell short by not recommending tough measures.

"This country has to send a clear message to johns and pimps … that we've had it with you, you're not going to get away with this and we're going to throw the book at you," she told CBC News.

While the report does say maximum jail sentences for people who use underage prostitutes should be lengthened from 10 years to 14 years, Forsythe said it also should also have included things like mandatory jail sentences and a national education campaign.

The authors of the federal-provincial report admit they haven't been able to deliver clear and strong recommendations in several areas, blaming a lack of consensus among members of the task force.

The report did decide against recommending decriminalization because it may "send a message of endorsement of prostitution when there is much evidence of the victimization of its participants."

The group suggested authorities might consider giving some communities the authority to allow some prostitutes to operate at home to reduce problems associated with the street trade.

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Created: December 6, 2000
Last modified: February 2, 2001
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