Sex Worker Rights Upheld in Court

Jul 14, 2023

In a significant legal victory for sex workers in Canada, a former sex worker named Brogan Sheehan emerged triumphant in her court case against a client who refused to pay for her services. This article explores the details of the case, the implications for sex work laws in Canada, and the ongoing challenges faced by sex workers in a partially criminalized industry.

The Case: Upholding Sex Worker Rights

Sheehan took her previous client, Bradley Samuelson, to court after he attempted to evade payment for the services she provided. Despite the decriminalization of the selling of sex in Canada, legal penalties still apply to buyers. Samuelson wrongly believed that he could legally refuse to pay Sheehan due to the illegal nature of their transaction. However, the court ruled in favor of Sheehan, ordering Samuelson to pay the $1,800 owed to her.

It is important to note that Sheehan’s victory occurred in a small claims court, and therefore, it does not establish a legal precedent for future cases. The decision solely applies to the specific circumstances of Sheehan’s case. Nonetheless, the outcome represents a significant milestone in recognizing and upholding the rights of sex workers.

The case sheds light on the risks faced by sex workers when engaging in legal battles within a partially criminalized industry. The threat of legal consequences often deters sex workers from seeking recourse or justice for non-payment or other injustices they may face. Sheehan’s courageous decision to take her client to court underscores the inherent challenges and legal uncertainties that sex workers navigate daily.

The case also highlights a concerning negotiating tactic employed by the client, who believed he held the upper hand due to the legal risks faced by sex workers. This dynamic reinforces the concerns raised by sex workers regarding the implementation of “end demand” laws, where clients assume an advantage over sex workers. Such laws can perpetuate power imbalances and potentially expose sex workers to exploitative situations.

Continued Advocacy for Sex Worker Rights

While Sheehan’s victory is a step forward, it is crucial to recognize the ongoing challenges faced by sex workers and advocate for their rights and safety. Canada’s laws surrounding sex work remain complex, and a comprehensive approach is necessary to ensure the well-being and agency of sex workers. Initiatives should focus on harm reduction, destigmatization, and providing support and resources to empower sex workers.