Reproductive & Sexual Rights

See podcasts and written summaries from our 2013-14 seminar series.

Sex work laws in India and Canada

CHRR director Prof. Karen Busby and Dr. Sarasu Esther Thomas from the National Law School of India University are comparing sex-work-related laws that have seen drastic changes over the last few years in both countries.

Sex work by itself was not a crime in either country, though many activities associated with sex work were, such as street solicitation or sharing accommodation and expenses with another sex worker. There are many similarities between the two countries: sex workers come from socially excluded and vulnerable groups, sexual offences have low conviction rates, and sex workers are still vulnerable to arrest for soliciting and other offences.

In Canada, the law changed in 2013, when the Supreme Court of Canada declared unconstitutional various offences in the Criminal Code of Canada relating to prostitution, on the basis that they violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canadian government was given 12 months to introduce new legislation and passed in 2014 the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which amended the Criminal Code’s provisions related to prostitution. The new legislation, based to some extent on the Swedish/Nordic model, criminalizes the transaction of paying for sex for the first time in Canadian history.

In India, the law took a different trajectory with the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 2013 that defined the offence of trafficking to include cases where women had consented, taking away the agency of women in sex work, who are now seen as victims of crime. Some people are also advocating for implementation of the Nordic model in India, without an understanding of how that would impact the rights of sex workers.

The research is funded in part by an Institutional Collaborative Research Grant from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute.

Influences on Young Muslim Women

Prof. Karen Busby and Sara Mahboob, a doctoral student at McGill University, interviewed 15 key informants in summer 2014 about their perceptions of family and community pressures placed on young Muslim women in Winnipeg when making important life decisions.

Read the preliminary report or a summary and a related newspaper column.

Assisted human reproduction

CJWL coverCentre for Human Rights Research director Karen Busby co-edited a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law devoted to feminist approaches to assisted human reproduction.

She was interviewed in 2016 about potential changes to regulations related to assisted human reproduction.

 

Sexual assault law

Busby is also a frequent commentator on sexual assault cases before Canadian courts. Every Breath You Take is her analysis of how the courts deal with erotic asphyxiation. She has also been interviewed on such topics as the conduct of judges in sexual assault trials and on university sexual assault policies.

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