Criminalizing Consent?

More than 120 countries criminalize some aspect of sex work or solicitation, including 13 that criminalize the customer, and eight where possession of a condom is deemed to be proof of sex work, and thus punishable. The impact of such laws is much more significant than many believe.

LONDON – Canada’s Parliament is debating a new anti-prostitution bill. Entitled the “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act,” the proposed legislation would criminalize the purchase of “sexual services.” For those who are uncertain about what might constitute a sexual service, the term is helpfully defined by Canada’s Department of Justice to include lap-dancing, but not stripping or “acts related to the production of pornography.”

Canada is not alone in seeking to criminalize transactional sex between consenting adults. More than 120 countries criminalize some aspect of sex work or solicitation, including 13 that, like the Canadian bill, criminalize the customer, and eight where possession of a condom is deemed to be proof of sex work, and thus punishable.

While the French Senate recently struck down a similar law, several European countries are pressing ahead. In February, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to outlaw the purchase of sexual services from anyone below the age of 21.

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