Resolution 2012.01: Criminalization of the Purchasing of Sexual Services

November 04, 2013


Submitted by B.C.& Yukon Provincial Council

Whereas, The criminalization of the purchase of sexual services has been proven to significantly reduce prostitution and human trafficking in Sweden; and

Whereas, Prostitution and trafficking for the purposes of the sex trade exist because of a demand created by customers; therefore, be it

Resolved, That the national council of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada in 92nd annual national convention assembled urge the federal government to strongly enforce the criminalization of the purchase of sexual services.

BRIEF: Criminalization of the Purchasing of Sexual Services

The criminalization of the purchase, but not the sale of sexual services, commonly known as the Nordic Model offers support and rehabilitation opportunities for prostituted women. (Prohibition p.29) Under the Nordic Model persons convicted of buying sexual services face imprisonment or fines, and are also educated and encouraged to change their attitudes and behaviours. Women selling sex are seen as victims, not criminals, and are offered assistance to exit prostitution. (Prohibition p.33) Studies have shown that most women who become involved in prostitution have suffered some trauma, such as sexual abuse, drug abuse, or homelessness, (Perrin p.214)

In countries such as the Netherlands and Germany prostitution has been made legal. However, studies have shown that such legalization has failed to protect women from exploitation and violence. (Perrin p.215) The Nordic Model, enacted into law by the Swedish Government in 1999 has been shown to reduce prostitution significantly and has resulted in a decrease in the amount of trafficking of women into Sweden for the purposes of prostitution (Perrin p.212). This model recognizes that the root cause of the exploitation of women through prostitution is the demand of male customers, without which the global industry of trafficking and prostitution would collapse. (Ekberg p.1189)

Since the law was enacted in Sweden, a decrease of 30-35% has been seen in the number of street prostitutes with no corresponding increase in the offering of sex through internet avenues. (Prohibition pgs.34&35). Trafficking for the purposes of prostitution has also decreased. Overall, the law has been successful in changing public opinion with over 70% of the population of Sweden supporting the law. (Prohibition p.37)

By contrast, in the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, trafficking is much more prevalent with approximately 80% of women working in brothels having been recruited and transported from other countries. (Raymond p.8) The number of women working as prostitutes in Denmark, where the Nordic Model has not been enacted, has increased from 2,000 women in the early 1990’s to 5,500-7,800 by 2004, whereas Sweden had an approximate total of 500 women working as street prostitutes by 2004. (Ekberg pgs.1193&1194) A study from the University of London showed that where legalization of prostitution is the model, there is a corresponding increase in the sex trade, in organized criminal involvement, in child prostitution, in trafficking, and in violence against women. (De Santis p.3)

Presently, the Criminal Code of Canada Section 210 covers maintaining a bawdy house, Section 211 everyone who transports someone to a bawdy house and Section 212 deals with third parties such as pimps who procure or provide the services of a prostitute for another person – all of which are indictable offences. Section 213 is the only one that deals with prostitutes and customers purchasing their services and it states, 1)Every person who in a public place or in any place open to public view (a) stops or attempts to stop any motor vehicle, (b) impedes the freeflow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic or ingress to or egress from premises adjacent to that place, or (c) stops or attempts to stop any person or in any manner communicates or attempts to communicate with any person for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or of obtaining the sexual services of a prostitute is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction(Criminal Code of Canada) which is a less serious offence and the majority of the time only the prostitutes are charged.

Joy Smith, MP for Kildonan-St. Paul, MB advocates the adoption of the Nordic Model and has expressed interest in drafting a private member’s bill to amend Section 213 of the Criminal Code of Canada to criminalize only the purchasers of sexual services, reflecting the Nordic Model. (Joy’s HT Updates- July 2011)


  • Criminal Code of Canada, Revised Statutes of Canada (R.S.C.), 1985, chapter C-46 Sect. 210-213
  • Department of Justice Canada, Policy Centre for Victim Issues: A Crime Victim`s Guide to the Criminal Justice System (2008)
  • De Santis, Marie, Sweden’s Prostitution Solution: Why Hasn’t Anyone Tried This Before? Women’s Justice Center (2010)
  • Ekberg, Gunilla. The Swedish Law That Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Services: Best Practices for Prevention of Prostitution and Trafficking in Human Beings. (2004)
  • Human Trafficking – Joy`s HT Updates – July 2011 Update,3&cat_ID=27&sub_ID=106&sub2_ID=46
  • Perrin, Benjamin. Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking. Toronto: Penguin Group (2010).
  • Prohibition of the purchase of sexual services: an evaluation (1999-2008)
  • Raymond, Janice G., Guide to the New UN Trafficking Protocol (2012)


  • Write letters to federal government, including the prime minister, minister of justice, and local members of parliament, urging them to support the adoption of the Nordic model.
  • Educate members on the issues of prostitution, trafficking, and the application of the Nordic model.
  • Support local non-governmental agencies that assist women to exit prostitution.