Life on the street is an age-old problem regarding survival and occupation. Prostitution laws have been deemed unconstitutional by the Ontario Court of Appeal on March 26 with hopes to make the business safer providing open communication with clients in brothels where they have protection against outside threats.
Just days after this announcement, it was reported that a “John Sweep” of Downtown Galt resulted in six arrests. Will the legalization of brothels have any long term effect on the “working girls?”
“This type of decision at the end of the day doesn’t solve the problem,” said Ward 2 Councilor Ben Tucci. “I would attempt to find a way to have controlling by-laws.”
Tucci doesn’t think the law will pull through allowing brothels to operate, but if it were to happen he said municipalities would have to restrict it.
“Too often the judicial system looks at the rights as what they believe are rights,” said Tucci. “The decision to allow brothels is flawed.”
Tucci said he was on a ride along sting with the police and said he saw them arrest some “johns”. He said that the police do what they can.
Councilor Frank Monteiro served as a police officer for 35 years saying that he initiated a sting last month and one earlier in the fall. Monteiro said that the police do a sting about every four to six months and that they’re the best way to deal with prostitution. He also said there should be an officer specifically assigned to the matter creating a visual presence.
“When it’s done behind closed doors how are you going to stop it?” said Monteiro in a telephone interview. “The police are trying to clean this up the best they can with the resources they have.”
He said there’s no way of telling what happens off the streets, and if brothels are permitted it may increase. Monteiro agrees there’s a prostitution problem in downtown Cambridge, but there’s also a perceived problem regarding fear people may have with the street presence.
“There’s no way of telling, they’re just going to hide,” said Monteiro. “It goes away and comes back no matter what you do.”
Marian Best, outreach director at the homeless shelter Bridges in downtown Galt, says there’s a difference between sex trade workers and the people doing it in brothels as more of a career choice.
“I think a lot of people are mixing up the brothel with the streets,” said Best. “The people I work with are involved with the sex trade as a means of survival.”
She doesn’t think changing the law and allowing brothels will further protect or value women by saying that it’s ok to pay for sex.
“Its good to decriminalize it, but how to take care of it is the big question,” said Best. “Human trafficking may exist behind closed doors.”
A 49-year-old former prostitute that worked in Cambridge for about eight years gave up the trade two years ago partially because the law being that jail stops many people from continuing that type of lifestyle. She requested anonymity and has chosen a different path in life.
“I feel more comfortable with myself and more approachable now,” she said. “You feel like you’re hiding because it’s not an acceptable way of life.”
She says if prostitution was allowed it may become more acceptable in society and that the next generation wouldn’t have to hide it like she did.
“It’s the young people you should be concerned about,” she said. “Having to hide puts you back.”