A Toronto-based group, Sex Professionals of Canada, is suing the federal government for maintaining laws criminalizing prostitution and thereby, they claim, endangering the lives of “sex trade workers.”

The group’s executive director, Valerie Scott, said that communicating and bawdyhouse laws “are arbitrary,” and “do more harm than good.” The group is challenging Canada’s solicitation laws on constitutional grounds.

SPOC calls itself a “grassroots, volunteer organization made up of current ‘sex workers,’ former sex workers and their allies.” The group claims to promote “workplace safety” by maintaining a list of “undesirable clients,” and by political lobbying for decriminalization.

“We’ll be filing in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.” Scott said her group would take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada if necessary.

In 2004, SPOC organized a march to pressure the government to erase the last legal prohibitions to activities related to prostitution. Chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, your sexist laws have got to go,” the march was staged in conjunction with other feminist organizations including the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, and the group Multicultural Women Against Rape.

No one disputes the danger of prostitution: Statistics Canada reports show that between 1991 and 2004, 171 female prostitutes were killed. But getting women out of prostitution and into safe and legitimate work, however, is not the goal of the international movement for legalization that is intimately coupled with the feminist movement.