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18 Rev. Const. Stud. 161 (2013)
Marital Rape, Polygamy, and Prostitution: Trading Sex Equality for Agency and Choice

handle is hein.journals/revicos18 and id is 167 raw text is: Marital Rape, Polygamy, and Prostitution:
Trading Sex Equality for Agency and
Choice?
Janine Benedet*

In this article, the author considers three cases in
which criminal laws apply to gendered harms:
sexual assault, polygamy and prostitution. The
first of these, the Supreme Court of Canada's
decision in R v. JA was framed as being about
the legal recognition ofadvance consent to sexual
activity while unconscious. While the Court
reached a positive result/or women in rejecting
this doctrine, it did so in a way that obscured
the realities for women of domestic violence
and sexual assault in spousal relationships.
Instead the case was framed by both sides in the
language of choice, agency and autonomy. The
author argues that similar tensions are present
in the Charter challenges to the criminal
laws on polygamy and prostitution. In the
Polygamy Reference, the BC Supreme Court
was unconvinced by evidence of individual
choice, instead focusing on the gendered harms
of polygamy as practiced. In Bedford, the
Ontario Court of Appeal treated prostitution
as a question of women's individual choice,
leading to a focus on the locations in which
women choose to prostitute rather than choice
Ofmen to buy sex or the inequalities that drive
women into prostitution. The author argues
that all of these practices should be understood
as causing gendered harms that can justif3 legal
intervention to address them.

Dans cet article, I'auteure examine trois cas
oh les lois criminelles s'appliquent aux maux
sexues : l'agression sexuelle, la polygamie et la
prostitution. Lepremier, lejugement de la Cour
suprlme du Canada dans R c. J.A., a eteabordd
du point de vue de la reconnaissance juridique
du consentement h une activite sexuelle donne
avant une periode d'inconscience. Bien que
la Cour soit arrivie h un rdsultat positifpour
les femmes en rejetant cette doctrine, sa fafon
de faire a obscurci les realitis des femmes qui
connaissent la violence familiale et lagression
sexuelle dans leur relation conjugale. Les deux
parties ont plutdt parld de choix, de libre
arbitre et d'autonomie. L'aureure sourient
qu'il existe des tensions similaires dans les
contestations fondees sur la Charte aux lois
criminelles relatives h la polygamie et la
prostitution. Dans son renvoi sur la polygamie,
la Cour supreme de la Colombie-Britannique
n'a pas ete convaincue par la presence de choix
personnel, se concentrant plutat sur les maux
sexues lies h la polygamie tel que pratiqu.
Dans Bedford, la Cour d'appel de l'Ontario
a considerd la prostitution comme une question
de choix personnel des fimmes, ce qui a mend
la cour d accorder la prioriti aux endroits oh
les frmmes choisissent de se prostituer plutot
que sur le choix des hommes d'acheter le sexe
ou les inegalits qui poussent les femmes h se
prostituer. L'auteure soutient qu'il devrait etre
entendu que toutes ces pratiques causent des
maux sexues pouvant justifer une intervention
juridique pour les aborder.

Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia. . I would like to thank the
anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments and Rebecca Coad (JD 2013) for her research
assistance.

161

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