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CMAJ. 2010 November 23; 182(17): 1886.
PMCID: PMC2988541

Decriminalize prostituted women

Janine L. Benedet, Associate professor

It is inaccurate to describe prostitution as a legal activity in Canada. It is an activity that is criminally prohibited indirectly rather than directly, making it illegal in almost all instances.

Shannon1 treats decriminalization as monolithic, when in fact Sweden and other Nordic countries have decriminalized prostituted persons, who are overwhelmingly women, while continuing to criminalize johns and pimps. Women are also offered support to find other sources of income, something most women in prostitution say they want. This approach, which has been quite successful in reducing trafficking and sexual exploitation, ought to be adopted in Canada.


1. Shannon K. The hypocrisy of Canada’s prostitution legislation. CMAJ. 2010;182:1388. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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