Legalized Sex Trade Threatens More Homeless Youth

TORONTO, ON, June 13, 2013 – As the Supreme Court hears a case that could see prostitution legalized, the country’s largest homeless youth agency fears this possibility could threaten more vulnerable kids as it has in other countries where the sex trade is legal.

The top court is deciding on a federal appeal of last year’s landmark Ontario ruling that swept aside most of the country’s prostitution laws and would see legal brothels.

“We hope the court will reject legalization because more kids could be forced into the sex trade as they have in other countries with more lax prostitution laws,” says Carol Howes, Covenant House Toronto’s program director. “Often the kids who are struggling to survive on the street are easily manipulated into the sex trade or coerced with drugs and violence.”

Research show as many as 30 percent of Canadian street youth are involved in some form of selling sex. In Toronto, 23 percent of young women on the street reported trading sex for food.

Howes estimates that Covenant House sees about the same percentage among the 3,500 youth who use services at the downtown agency. But she adds that many are too fearful to disclose their experiences.

“Most kids are not making an informed choice to get into the sex trade. They are most often forced by dire circumstances and adults who know there is a lucrative market for the young,” Howes explains. “And many of those who become involved have been sexually abused as children.”

She says the toll of physical and emotional abuse and addiction that these young people often endure make them the most in need of counselling and support to turn their lives around.

Several European countries, including the Netherlands and Germany where prostitution is legal, are re-examining their laws in the wake of rising human trafficking and child prostitution. Australia and New Zealand also report increasing problems with illicit prostitution despite legalization.

Covenant House is Canada’s largest homeless youth agency that changes lives by providing the widest range of services and support under one roof. A national leader, we educate and advocate for change to help at-risk and homeless youth.


Contact: Rose Cino
Manager, Communications
(416) 204-7081

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