Buy Me Love: Realizing the Economic Potential of Sex Work Decriminalization

Segal, Nathalie (2013): Buy Me Love: Realizing the Economic Potential of Sex Work Decriminalization, Martin Prostperity Institute.

Full paper available here.

Not long ago, same sex marriage in Canada was illegal. Same sex couples experienced discrimination, were labeled as inferior, suffered from harm and violence and were prohibited from marriage and family creation with the consenting adult of their choice. However, in 2005, same sex marriage was legalized (“Bill C-38: The Civil Marriage Act (LS-502E),” n.d.). This spawned an array of changing attitudes around LGTBQI rights that transformed same sex couple status in our society and
created a more tolerant, respectful and prosperous Country as a result. So much so that World Pride 2014 will be held in Toronto, Canada (“Tourism Toronto | World Pride 2014,” n.d.).

Changed attitudes and perceptions toward LGTBQI rights created a more inclusive Canada for more people who live here. This inclusivity also generated vast economic gains; Gay Pride grew into a multi-million dollar source of revenue, with unofficial estimated revenues for Toronto’s Pride Week 2010 alone estimated in excess of $136 million.

Like same sex couples prior to 2005, sex workers today face regular stigmatization, experience discrimination, are labeled as inferior, and suffer from harm and violence. Sex workers are perceived as criminals whose basic human rights are not observed or respected: “For some, being ‘marked’ or labeled as a ‘prostitute’ is experienced as a mark for life — a label that cannot be shed, and one that is a constant reminder of one’s inferior status in the world”. Due to this lack of acceptance or, at
very least, tolerance, for professions some may find personally immoral, many sex workers (female, male and transgender) suffer maltreatment and abuse, feel unsafe requesting police protection and are precluded from practicing their personal freedoms such as the right to practice the profession of their choice, the right to freely negotiate services and the right to personal security. Such conditions are neither innate nor exclusive to sex work; they are rather the outcome of the stigmatization of sex workers (“Redefining Prostitution as Sex Work on the International Agenda,” n.d.). This lack of acceptance and equal respect for all citizens’ rights regardless of their personal choice of profession increases sex worker vulnerability to harassment, violence and other forms of ill treatment (Monto, 2004).

Improved attitudes and perceptions toward sex workers and sex worker rights will create a more inclusive, more open and accepting Canada. This inclusivity will generate economic gains. To this end, the outcome of the Bedford v. Canada case, which will appear before the Supreme Court in June of 2013, although a civil rights issue, may also affect Canada’s economy.

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