The West Ender
Thursday, July 9, 1998


John School plan is criticized

How puzzling that in your recent article regarding Vancouver's own "john school" ("Sex-buying john sent to classroom," July 2), the most congent argument against such an initiative -- namely, that prostitution is legal in Canada -- gets left to the very last sentence without any further comment.

In modelling this project after similar programs operating in the U.S. Councillor Kennedy and the police board have failed to recognize that the laws surrounding prostitution are vastly different in Canada that they are in the U.S. As such, programs to deal with prostitution-related offenses cannot be handled in the same finger-wagging manner. In Canada, it is legal to exchange sex for money, provided the negotiations and the exchange are conducted in private (with the notable exception of brothels.) Johns break the law only when they solicit a prostitute in public, and the same dialogue conducted over a private phone line is perfectly legal. In short, Canadian prostitution laws are about geography, not morality.

John schools are designed to shame johns into believing that even if they engage in consensual, protected sex for money, they are moral degenerates.

The schools make no effort to instruct johns how to go about hiring a prostitute discreetly and legally, as the underlying premise is that prostitution is wrong and must be abolished at all costs -- legal status notwithstanding. Just who are these teachers who thing they have the right to speak on behalf of all prostitutes without even bothering to ask for their input, anyway?

Perhaps the most troubling aspect about john schools is that they give absolutely no consideration to the people they are designed to help. A john school's mandate is to shame johns into mending their evil ways, efffectively starving prostitutes off the street or prompting them to take more risks in order to earn a living. It is also curious that john schools target only clients of female prostitutes and not of male prostitutes -- who are technically breaking the exact same law as their heterosexual counterparts when they solicit hustlers on the street -- but that's another matter entirely.

If Kennedy and the police board were genuinely concerned about the welfare of street workers, perhaps they should be asking themselves what socioeconomic factors lead these people to work the street in the first place, especially when safer, legal indoor alternatives are available.

J. Marlowe

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Created: July 11, 1998
Last modified: July 11, 1998

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