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Moral panic over sex work has created suffocating prostitution law

October 07, 2022

The Toronto Star summarizes some of the arguments made in a challenge to prostitution laws

GP lawyers were in court this week joining a challenge to Canada’s prostitution laws. The Toronto Star explains how paternalistic attitudes underlying laws supposedly aimed at targeting human trafficking actually harm sex workers themselves and the support networks around them. The article quotes some of the submissions made by Geetha Philipupillai, on behalf of the Black Legal Action Centre, and Adriel Weaver, on behalf of Egale Canada and Enchanté Network:

A compounding set of stereotypes similarly hurt Black sex workers. Geetha Philipupillai, counsel for the Black Legal Action Centre pointed out to the court the stereotypes attached to Blackness: criminality, violence and immorality. Add to this three stereotypes in particular associated with Black women: hypersexuality, disposability and being accomplices to violence.

“For Black sex workers, anti-Black racism, sexism and transphobia operate together such that the stigmas associated with being Black are compounded with the stigmas associated with being a sex worker,” she said.

These factors, combined with the laws criminalizing communications, lead sex workers to work in private encounters and in secluded locations, which cuts out essential processes such as advance screening and terms of services.

This inability to openly communicate further puts trans and cisgender male sex workers at risk. Adriel Weaver, representing Egale Canada and Enchante Network, told the court it displaces sex work to more remote areas. It takes the workers away from sites they know — where they have community support and where clients come specifically for their services — to areas that expose them to great risk of violence and trans-misogyny. It leaves them little time to communicate about gender identity or to screen clients for transphobia and homophobia.

You can read the entire article here, including some of the terrific arguments made by other interveners.

You can read the factum of the Black Legal Action Centre here and the factum of Egale Canada and Enchanté Network here.


Geetha Philipupillai, Adriel Weaver

Practice Areas

Constitutional Law