Defend Dignity Applauds Ontario Superior Court’s Decision to Uphold PCEPA

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Today the Ontario Superior Court released its decision to uphold PCEPA, Canada’s prostitution laws, thereby dismissing the constitutional challenge brought forward against it by sex industry advocacy groups in 2021. Defend Dignity applauds this crucial decision to uphold laws that fight sexual exploitation and reduce the demand for paid sex.

“This decision recognizes the harms that prostitution involves and the importance of continuing to hold the perpetrators of these harms accountable: sex buyers, pimps, and exploitative businesses” said Defend Dignity’s director Wendy Lowe about Monday’s decision. “They are the ones threatening women’s physical and psychological health in pursuit of their own gratification and profit.”

Defend Dignity was privileged to appear as a court-approved intervener during this hearing and offer testimony on the importance and value of laws like PCEPA. We will continue to support these progressive laws alongside survivors of prostitution, service providers, and advocates across the country and globe.

As a survivor-informed organization Defend Dignity has advocated for the foundational principles of PCEPA since our inception in 2010. We have been guided by the voices and stories of survivors who tell us that prostitution is inherently violence against women and that most people in prostitution would leave it if they could. A recent government study confirms this: of 2,291 individuals engaged in prostitution—almost entirely women and girls— 67% said they were coerced into selling sex and 81% wanted to exit prostitution.[1]

The system of prostitution is built on and perpetuates gender inequality. While most prostituted individuals are women and girls, nearly all sex buyers are men. The negative attitudes and behaviours of men who buy sex are well-documented in research, including their lack of concern for the wellbeing of the individuals selling sex, overt objectification, and disregard for signs of exploitation.[2] 

As Superior Court Justice Robert Goldstein states in his decision, “there is a large amount of evidence that there are many involved in the sex trade – mostly men – who exploit and profit from the sexual labour of others – mostly women. That exploitation is not only parasitic and misogynistic; it is also frequently violent and manipulative.”

Today’s decisions shows that Canada is continuing to reject this toxic male entitlement, champion gender equality, and respect international commitments[3] by ensuring the purchase of sex remains illegal.

We thank Justice Goldstein for his thoughtful analysis of the issues, and we call on the government to continue championing equality by ensuring PCEPA is utilized across the country, raising public awareness on the purpose of the laws, and providing long term funding for support services.

[1] Badets, N., & Wichmann, C. (2022). A Review of the Measures to Address Prostitution Initiative (MAPI). Department of Justice Canada.

[2] Leung, R., & Gray-Beerman, M. (2023). Sex buyers’ attitudes: A study of Toronto’s online “Escort Review Board”. Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being, 8(1), 18–22.

[3] For example, The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women call on signatories to address the demand for paid sex


Comments 1

  1. It is so encouraging that this decision has been made to protect and advocate for sex trade workers. Thank you for all the work that went into it over the last years.

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