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Banning brothels could endanger prostitutes, Canadian court rules

March 26, 2012 | 10:23 am

Photo: Terri-Jean Bedford, left, sits alongside lawyer Alan Young during a press conference in Toronto on Monday after Ontario's Court of Appeal struck down a ban on brothels, saying a ban on brothels puts prostitutes at risk and is unconstitutional. Credit: Aaron Vincent Elkaim / Associated Press/The Canadian PressA Canadian appeals court in Ontario ruled Monday that banning brothels is unconstitutional and could put prostitutes in danger by not allowing them to work in a safe location.

Such a ban would "prevent prostitutes from taking the basic safety precaution of moving indoors to locations under their control," the court wrote in its decision Monday.

The case could set a legal precedent for challenging laws against prostitution in Canada. Though sex work is legal in Canada, running a brothel or "bawdy house" has been banned, along with other activities linked to prostitution.

"The feds and the province did not have the evidence to prove that these laws are constitutional and are effective," dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, one of the parties in the legal battle, told the Toronto Star. "They’re totally opposite. They force women underground into dark segments of society in harm's way."

In its decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld part of a ruling two years ago that struck down several laws that restricted sex work. However, the court disagreed with another part of that decision, saying prostitutes should still be prohibited from soliciting clients in public places.

The court has given the government one year to rewrite the law if it chooses to, the Associated Press reported. The decision is expected to be appealed to the Canadian Supreme Court.

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— Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Terri-Jean Bedford, left, sits alongside lawyer Alan Young during a press conference in Toronto on Monday after Ontario's Court of Appeal struck down a ban on brothels, saying a ban on brothels puts prostitutes at risk and is unconstitutional. Credit: Aaron Vincent Elkaim / Associated Press / The Canadian Press

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