Prostitution to remain illegal in Canada for now

A court ruling effectively decriminalised prostitution in Canada until April.

Ottawa: Canada`s Court of Appeal on Thursday blocked a court ruling that effectively decriminalised prostitution in Canada until April to allow for an appeal.

The Ontario Superior Court declared in September that portions of a law banning brothels and soliciting were unconstitutional, lifting key barriers to prostitution.

But the government has announced it will appeal that ruling, which applies only in the province of Ontario, but could halt enforcement of anti-prostitution laws across Canada if upheld.

"The challenged criminal code provisions will remain in place until April 29th, 2011 or until the appeal is heard by the Court of Appeal, whichever comes first," Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said.

"The government of Canada believes that these provisions are constitutional and that they have a disincentive effect in terms of the most harmful effects of prostitution and the criminal activity surrounding it," he added.

"It also guarantees that police officers have the tools they need to continue to address the harms that flow from prostitution both for those practising it and the communities."

Three Toronto women challenged anti-prostitution laws in October 2009, arguing that prohibiting solicitation endangers prostitutes by forcing them to seek customers on street corners.

They called for decriminalising prostitution and for the right to open brothels to provide a safer environment for prostitutes.

The court agreed, saying "the danger faced by prostitutes greatly outweighs any harm which may be faced by the public."