A judge in Canada has struck down key parts of the country’s federal anti-prostitution laws, stating that the laws meant to protect prostitutes actually harm them. The ruling could pave the way for legalized brothels among other things. Anchor Lisa Mullins speaks with Terri-Jean Bedford, a self-described dominatrix and one of the litigants in the case.
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LISA MULLINS: A judge in Canada has struck down key parts of the country’s federal anti-prostitution law. The decision could open the way for, among other things, legally-operated brothels north of the US border. The judge in this case said Canadian laws meant to protect prostitutes actually harm them. But she gave the federal government in Ottawa time to consider its response. Terri-Jean Bedford is a self-described dominatrix who was one of the litigants in the case. She is now in Toronto. Miss Bedford, it sounds like this ruling took you by surprise. Same thing for the two prostitutes who were your co-litigants. Is that true?
TERRI-JEAN BEDFORD: Do you remember the look on Jesse Jackson’s face when Barack Obama was elected president?
MULLINS: He was crying as I believe.
BEDFORD: Yeah, that was me. [LAUGHING]
MULLINS: Why were you crying?
BEDFORD: Tears of joy. Tears of joy, freedom, civil liberties have just been afforded to a small group of minority women in Canada. Our judge couldn’t have made a better, more clear decision. So I don’t think it’s going to hold up in appeal.
MULLINS: Okay, well we can see what happens regarding the appeal. In the meantime this ruling’s supposed to go into effect in about 30 days time. Now we should just reiterate that the reason she has come down with this decision is that she said that the laws that were intended to provide safety and protection for prostitutes such as yourself actually force them into more dangerous situations like furtively engaging in transactions at less than desirable locations. Was that the case as you found it? I don’t know how long you’ve been doing this. We should say the prostitution is indeed legal.
BEDFORD: First of all, I’m a dominatrix, I’m not a prostitute. However, I’ve worked in every aspect of the sex trade industry. And I started out as a street walker in my teens.
MULLINS: Okay, [OVERLAPPING]
BEDFORD: I’ve had no choice. I had no choices.
MULLINS: Okay, Terri-Jean, hold on one second. Just to be clear about this dominatrix versus prostitution. Is the difference in part regarding finances, money?
BEDFORD: No. The difference is I don’t have sex with my clients. I don’t promote, condone or condemn prostitution. I’ve walked a mile in their shoes and I know what the dangers are and I know how they can be avoided.
MULLINS: Have you experienced yourself the nature of a law like this, which is designed to protect, but supposedly does just the opposite?
BEDFORD: Oh, of course. I’ve been thrown in jail for two years for being a madam. I lived in this small city, [SOUNDS LIKE] winter, and I took 18 girls off the street because I knew that there was dangers out there that I had come in contact with and I wanted to see and make sure that none of these girls wound up dead.
MULLINS: So if this ruling does go into effect in 30 days, what is it going to mean for someone like you?
BEDFORD: For me, I can go to bed knowing that there are women out there a little safer tonight. If I do decide to reopen, I don’t have to worry about being shut down and thrown out of my house and home and left on the street.
MULLINS: Do you think that – I mean you’ve taken in young women, girls you say, who were in danger on the streets. Do you really believe that by lifting these laws that other prostitutes or that prostitutes themselves will be safer from being robbed or raped or murdered?
BEDFORD: Well, of course. It gives them more options. It gives them an option to have a place to go. I mean a hotel owner’s not going to be charged with [INDISCERNIBLE] if he rents her a room to do her business. They don’t have to jump in a car and run around to the back alley to negotiate with their client. They can stand right there like any other citizen talking to a friend.
MULLINS: Alright. Terri-Jean Bedford, thank you very much.
BEDFORD: Thank you, ma’am.
MULLINS: Self-described dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford talking about a judicial ruling in Ontario that strikes down parts of Canada’s prostitution laws.
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