Propping up the budget with bedposts

Cities lack the funding they need to build expensive infrastructure. A creeping sprawl like Calgary needs increasing amounts of pipes, roads, electrical wires and sewers as it continues to grow. The obvious shortfall in funding was one of the issues addressed in the recent federal elections. Layton, Harper, and Martin debated giving back gasoline tax money and initiating transfer payments as some of the many options to assist dwindling city reserves. What the leaders missed, however, is the option walking the municipalities’ streets and servicing its businessmen: prostitutes.

Numerous attempts across the world have been made to legalize prostitution with varying levels of success. Countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Australia failed to create support for the prostitutes once the laws were loosened. Just legalizing prostitution is not the end of the issue. The sex trade industry would have to be heavily monitored and have resources available to deal with the problems that would occur. If prostitution was legalized in Canada, part of the new tax revenue generated by the industry would have to go towards the protection of its workers.

From 1995 until his arrest in early 2002, BC pig farmer Robert Pickton allegedly murdered over 30 women, most of them sex-trade workers from Vancouver’s East Side. Despite the frequency of disappearances over seven years, no heavy investigation was launched until shortly before Pickton’s arrest. Prostitutes live a very high-risk life style, susceptible not only to abductions and murder, but also to STIs and drug addictions. A regulated industry through a system of registration, scheduled check-ups and examinations, though by no means eliminating all the risk, would greatly reduce the daily threats a prostitute would face.

Prostitution remains an issue of moral contempt with legislators and certain advocacy groups. Women, forced with the choice of starvation or making their living as a sex-trade worker, are subverted to a lifestyle that they do not want. Though a legalized sex industry would face the same problem, the women would be under much better conditions than they would be with the current system. Allowing them to operate out of licensed bordellos instead of on the street, presents a much better option. As a society, Canada shouldn’t ignore that some people are forced into subverting their personal morals just to eat. Along with legalizing prostitution, Canada should take other steps towards reducing the number of women who are forced to make this choice by offering education programs–funded by the money the sex trade industry would generate.

At its core, prostitution is a problem that exists for cities. Cities have to fund the police to enforce anti-prostitution laws, cities have to deal with the unattractive sight of working girls walking seedy looking neighbourhoods, and cities have to deal with complaints from its citizens. Prostitution needs to be under municipal authority. Not only to choose whether or not to allow prostitution to occur at all, but to enforce the regulations of the industry and to benefit from the generated revenues. Though some cities would be inclined to maintain the status quo, they would lose out on the money created and continue to face the same problems.

Prostitution exists, has always existed and will continue to exist in society whether it is regulated or not. It is up to society to choose whether or not we should allow prostitution to be marginalized and kept in the seedy under belly of the worst sections of cities, or legitimized as an actual form of employment. If women have a choice, they must be protected if they make that choice, and since there is a visible benefit to society, there should be no problem with turning the oldest profession into a regulated industry. Growing cities need extra revenue, and it doesn’t seem to be forthcoming from anywhere else.

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