Changing prostitution discourse in Canadian common law from 2010 to 2018
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Since the first iteration of prostitution legislation in 1759, the language and discourses used to refer to ‘prostitution’ has undergone many changes. The constitutional challenge of Bedford v. Canada (2010 ONSC 4264) resulted in legislative amendments of prostitution laws (Bill C-36). Bill C-36, implemented in 2014, resulted in several significant changes, including the eradication of the word ‘prostitution’ from the Criminal Code, and the criminalization of buying, but not selling, sexual services. Given Bill C-36, this research inquires: How has prostitution discourse changed in Canadian common law from 2010 to 2018? A discourse analysis of 58 court decisions compared the language used before and after 2014; this revealed courts’ frameworks for understanding sex work have not changed significantly despite the Bedford ruling, since exploitation remains the major discursive underpinning. The theoretical framework integrates anti-carceral feminist theory and governmentality, to render visible the marginalization, discrimination and stigmatization of the paternalistic punitive system on sex workers.