Home    Prostitution    The history of women pay equity in Canada   Women’s right to divorce in Canada   Women in  Education 


The History of Prostitution  by Dunya Lann   


Prostitution is one of the most ancient “professions” in history. It is defined as the “act or practice of engaging in promiscuous sexual relations especially for money” (Shaver). Since thousands of years, women especially have given sexual services in return for money or other goods. Prostitution is a controversial subject, involving complex and contradictory interests, values and issues. Many people would rather see it banned and illegalized, as prostitution is often found in the dangerous areas of large cities and generally involves illegal procedures such as brothels and pimping. However, other people argue that men and women have the freedom and right to decide for themselves, and that prostitution will never really be eliminated, only moved elsewhere.  In Canada, the buying and selling of sexual services are not illegal, but most surrounding activities, such as public communication for the purpose of prostitution, brothels and procuring a prostitute are outlawed (Pain). This makes the act of selling sex very complex to achieve. However, while the prohibition of the activities surrounding the sex trade makes it difficult to practice prostitution without breaking any law, the act of exchanging sex for money has never been illegal in Canada. Laws concerning prostitution were passed on by the United Kingdom when the country was still one of its colonies. The first recorded laws dealing with prostitution were in Nova Scotia in 1759 and were intended to make the status of being a prostitute or streetwalker an offense (Shaver). “Throughout the 1800s, prostitution in Canada was organized primarily around brothels” (Shaver) and was practiced in different parts of the large Canadian cities, depending on the city. During that time, the development of transcontinental railways also helped prostitution to flourish. Because mainly single men were working on the railways and sent West, brothels were created near those working areas and became very popular and lucrative (Shaver). 

Following the Canadian Confederation, the laws regarding prostitution were consolidated in the Criminal Code. These dealt principally with pimping, procuring prostitutes, operating brothels and soliciting. When the Criminal Code was finalized in 1892, street walking and bawdy houses were outlawed in an attempt to make certain city areas more controlled and, consequently, safer (The Canadian). The sex industry continued with little public comment and no major changes for the next 50 years. Only minor changes to the bawdy house section took place in 1947. The maximum sentence for keepers and inmates was elevated to three years and a new offence was added. Hereafter, knowingly transporting someone to a bawdy house was considered a crime. Also during that period, mostly women were arrested and punished for prostitution. Men seeking it or paying for it were only seldom penalized for their actions. This was often criticized, as prostitution and the women offering sexual services were mostly present due to the men who requested it and would consequently make the profession lucrative.

 In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the increased visibility of street-based prostitution in residential neighbourhoods caused some major public protests. Mainly, the population demanded for stricter laws concerning the solicitation of prostitution on the streets (The Canadian). In 1972, a law making soliciting illegal was implanted. In 1983, laws were finally established to make the “buyer” of prostitution just as guilty as the “seller.” Essentially, men who procured themselves sex for money were also arrested and punished for encouraging this often dangerous profession. This was followed by the criminalisation of even simply "attempting to communicate for the purpose of prostitution” (Shaver) in 1985. It had then become illegal to even speak about offering or asking for sex for money elsewhere than in a private location. New organisations were also created in order to protect prostitutes and their rights: “The Canadian Organization for the Rights of Prostitutes (CORP) began in Toronto in 1983 and the Alliance for the Safety of Prostitutes (ASP) was founded in Vancouver in the early 1980s” (Shaver).

During the 1990s, the terms used for describing the act of selling sex for money were officially changed. Prostitution became “sex work” and a prostitute was now called a “sex worker” (Shaver). Throughout those years, debates concerning this profession took a different turn. With the expanding globalisation, laws and restrictions from other countries were introduced to these debates, forcing a more open-minded opinion. It became clearer that instead of punishing sex workers, it was more important to protect them from the dangerous world they live in. Basically, making their environment safer would cause major changes regarding the drugs and violence often found within the prostitution world.  Also, with the massive immigration and traveling, the spreading of HIV and AIDS became a precarious problem.

The laws regarding prostitution have not really changed and remain the same today. Buying sex or talking about buying sex with someone under the age of eighteen or in a public place is still considered an offence. Engaging in a sexual act in a public place is considered indecent and punishable by the law as well. Also, running a “bawdy-house”, working in one, or allowing someone to run one in a place that is under one’s control is illegal and can be penalized by several years of imprisonment. “Pimping” or any other acts of persuading and forcing people into prostitution can be punished by up to fourteen years in prison (Pain). Prostitution is in itself not illegal in Canada, but the laws that surround it are very strict, making it very complex and confusing to legally work as a prostitute.   



Works Cited

Canadian, The. “Prostitution Laws In Canada.” The Canadian.  N.P. 2007. http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/home/Sexuality/2006/03/06/01153.html retrieved on November 21, 2011.

Pain, Tushar K. “Is Prostitution Legal In Canada?” Toronto Criminal Defence Article. N.P. 2011. http://torontocriminaldefence.com/articles/EEAFZllkEEfGCBJCfp.php retrieved on November 21, 2011.

Shaver, Frances M. “Prostitution.” The Canadian Encyclopaedi. N.P. 2006. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0006521 retrieved on November 21, 2011.



The History of Women’s Pay Equity in Canada by Melissa Wuthrich 

In the past, women in Canada experienced inequality in the public and the private spheres. Rules were strictly governed by patriarchy, forcing women to conform to laws even though they were unjust. In today’s Canadian society, women have more rights than in the past, but they have not reached complete equality with men yet. This can be demonstrated by the pay equity of Canadian men and women. According to Statistics Canada, women who work full time for a full year with a university degree will earn 30% less than a man possessing the same characteristics (Statistics Canada, n.p.). While investigating more about this statistic, articles have proved that female university professors and nurses still do not make the same income as men even though their careers are of equal value. The government needs to make a change and enforce better laws for women in the work force.

A study was made to compare the wages of full time University professors according to gender differences. Researchers used data from Statistics Canada that were collected from all Canadian universities. The study showed that between the 1980s and early 1990s, the wage gap started to decrease, allowing women to earn a decent salary. The reason for this could be because there are more women studying to be professors. In the 1990s, the income gender gap decreased even more, but the females still did not have the same wage as the men, even though they had the same education. Some believe that men get a greater salary because they work more hours and take less time off work for family purposes, but does this hypothesis still stand for women who do not have children to take care of?  Men take time off work for their families too; it is not just the role of the women in today’s society. Females work just as hard as men do and deserve complete equality (Warman, Woolley, and Worswick, 3-9). Statistics Canada’s data showed that between the years of 2002 to 2003, women earned $13, 000 less than the men teaching in the same field at a University level. More precisely, a female lecturer or an instructor for health sciences in a university will earn around $3000 more than a male since the majority are females in that domain, but when having the position of an assistant professor for health sciences, the male will earn more. Male health science teachers, when achieving the highest position of a completely certified professor, the male will again earn over $12, 000 more than the female per year (Sussman and Yssaad , table 5).  

Another article, written by the New Brunswick Nurses Union, stated that even though 94% of nurses are female and 87% of women work in health related fields, women are still being underpaid. When comparing to the majority of males in engineering, the Nurses Union believes that nursing is just as important and as equal as engineering and that nurses or other health related fields should get the same wage. The people in the Nurses Union feel that they are being undervalued for their work even though it has the same value as engineers. Even though the majority of people working in the health field are women, the men are still privileged. “In 2002 the average hourly earnings of full-time women in New Brunswick, who have Community College/ CEGEP education, including nursing school, or a Bachelor’s degree is 79% of what full-time men with similar education earn” (The New Brunswick Nurses Union, 3). Today, although the Nurse Union argued for salary equality, their hourly income is 19% less than men’s. This proves that there needs to be a law avoiding this discrimination towards women in the Canadian provinces (The New Brunswick Nurses Union, 2-6).  

The Canadian Human Rights Act is a law that states that it is illegal to give a higher wage to males or females when both sexes do jobs or have careers with the same value. If the employer fails to conform to the Act, the employees need to send a complaint to the Canadian Human Right Commissions or to the Tribunal, depending on the case. The disadvantages to this procedure are that it costs a great deal of money and it takes time if both parties cannot come to an agreement, and this Act does not work in every work field. For example, it took Canada Post over 25 years so settle a work inequality case with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The complaint started in 1983 and it is said that they spent 2 million dollars per year to fight for their rights for equal pay. In 1997, the Pay Equity Act was  enforced only in Quebec and Ontario because the previous act was not working and was against women’s equality. This law was finally a success (Côté and Lassonde 3-4, 7). Elsewhere in Canada is a different story. In 2004, the Pay Equity Task Force did a research on pay equity and strongly believed that women should have equal rights in the work force if the work has equal value to that of the males. It took them three years to conduct the study and they even found solutions to the problem. Although the research made sense and showed fairness, in 2009 the federal government did not accept the Task Forces solutions and research. Instead, the federal government made a new Act creating a worse situation. It stated that employers do not have any time limit to increase the wage of females, meaning that they do not need to give women an equal pay in the public sector. The worst part is that if a woman wants to file a complaint, they are allowed to, but they cannot get help from their union or else they get a huge fine (Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action and Canadian Labour Congress, 23-25). “The federal government in Canada, and most governments at the provincial level have failed to provide Canadian women with effective laws and procedures for redressing discrimination in pay (Proactive pay equity legislation covering both the private and public sectors exists only in two provinces, Ontario and Quebec)” (Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action and Canadian Labour Congress, 25).   

The perception of women has evolved when comparing it to the past. In the last thirty years, the income difference between men and women has decreased. Even though women have the same level of education and have an equally valued job as men, they are still not treated equally, as shown when looking at university professors and nurses income. The federal government is not helping this situation in Canada by enforcing laws that are not fair to women. Regulations need to be changed in Canada and women must keep fighting for their equal rights. Women must not let their hard work and effort be undervalued!  



Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action and Canadian Labour Congress. “Reality

Check: Women in Canada and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action Fifteen Years on” A Canadian Civil Society Response. 2010 from http://www.fafia-afai.org/files/2010-02-22-Canada-Beijing+15-NGO-Report-EN.pdf

Côté, A. and Lassonde, J. “Status report on pay equity in Canada” 2007 from

http://www.nawl.ca/ns/en/is-wmnwrk-pe.html#report. http://www.nawl.ca/ns/en/documents/200709NAWLReportPayEquity.pdf

Statistics Canada. “Women in Canada” Economic and well-being. Consulted on November 20,

2011 from  http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/101216/dq101216c-eng.htm

Sussman, D., and Yssaad, L. “Perspectives on Labour and Income” Women earn less than their

male colleagues. 2005. Vol 6, no. 2 retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x /10205/art-1-table-5.gif


The New Brunswick Nurses Union. “Brief on the Pay Equity Act to the New Brunswick

Standing Committee on Law Amendments” 2004 from http://www.equite-equity.com/userfiles/file/NB%20Nurses%20Union_doc.pdf

Warman, C., Woolley, F., and Worswick, C. “The Evolution of Male-Female Wages

Differentials in Canadian Universities: 1970-2001. 2006. Consulted on November 20,

2011 from http://www.fqppu.org/assets/files/babillard/donnees_statistiques/Evolution_Male-Female_1970-2001.pdf



The History of Women's Right to Divorce in Canad  by Jean-Sébastien M.Gatineau

The XXth century has been an era during which many things have changed in different areas. We can think about the social sphere. Indeed, society has evolved, especially for women. A few years ago, women were living in difficult conditions. Some women stood up to help these women to become stronger, to decide of their future, and to be equal as men. In fact, now women can make their own choices. But unfortunately, a few years ago, it was not the case. For example, we only have to think about the women’s right to divorce. Women did not have the chance to express their ideas and their feelings for different reasons. Certainly, in this paper, I will demonstrate the history of women’s right to divorce in Canada. In fact, they were living in a patriarchal society in which religion had power.

To begin with, a few years ago, women were living in a patriarchal society. In fact, in Canada, the past society has been patriarchies, in the sense of being controlled by men. “Patriarchy began in classical antiquity and ended in the nineteenth century with the granting of civil rights to women and married women in particular”(Lerner, 1986, p.239). Definitely, women could not express themselves. Men wanted to have power and keep it. If woman were not comfortable in their marriage, they had to keep silence, and let the man decided. Definitely, women were kept in the private sphere. Also, women could not express themselves in the public sphere. This might be a reason that women could not think about divorce, because it would give the idea to the “public” that the woman was not happy in the relationship and indeed, that would have been a bad image for the man.

During the past years, religion was an important value that people had to respect. In Canada, people were more guided by religion. Indeed, one of the important value was at marriage had to last for life. The divorce was seen as a shame for the family. In fact, for a married couple in Canada, divorce was particularly unusual until after World War II. Until that time, Canada had one of the lowest divorce rates in the Western world (Government of Canada). During and after WWII, women began to work. Indeed, they became more independent of their revenue. Certainly, before the war, women could not live without their husband. This was poor conditions if women wanted to divorce because they would live in poverty. Even today, the high number of women in poverty in Canada is partially due to divorce and its economic effects.

 Most of the people were guided by social and religious leaders who condemned divorce as a threat to the family, and the strength of this opinion prevented the reduction of Canadian divorces. Consequently, access to divorce in Canada was extremely limited until 1968. The divorce rate has been increasing since the first major change in the divorce law in 1968. Indeed, this law promoted that divorce could be obtained on the basis of a matrimonial offence or on the basis of marriage breakdown. Since that time, the increase has continued to augment with a second peak in the late 1980s following another revision of the Divorce Act (Government of Canada). However, as we can read in the catholic school book for women in the 1960’s, women were still controlled by religion and men. For example, at school, they were learning how to satisfy their husband. Indeed, women could not think or act in an opposite way as their husband. Even if they were not happy in their marriage, they could not express themselves, they had to keep silent and follow the religion or the man.

Before 1986, if the reason of the divorce was a conjugal breakdown, the couple had to have lived three years apart before they could obtain a divorce. In 1986 a revised Divorce Act (1985) was proclaimed in force. The revised act included a "no-fault" divorce and the sole reason for divorce now is marriage breakdown, which is defined as either living apart for at least one year or committing adultery or treating the other spouse with physical or mental cruelty (Government of Canada).

As we can notice, religion was not as important as before. People were still religious, but they were thinking more about their rights and their relationships. Moreover, women had more security because they were less economically independent. Women obtained more rights, which help them to express themselves and to be stronger.

To conclude, during the past years, women’s conditions have changed for the best in different spheres. Now women can express their feeling and be autonomous. The women’s right to divorce is only one of many progresses that women have lived. For example, we only have to think about their right to vote or the salary equality. In fact, there is still work to do to obtain the full equality. Canada could be an example of the progress we have made because in different cultures, women are still living in difficult conditions.



Eichler, M. Marriage and Divorce. The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2011.

Douglas, K. Law and Government Division. Revised 27 March 2001

Lerner, G. The creation of patriarchy. Oxford University Press. 1986

Ward, P. History of Marriage and Divorce. The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2011



The History of Women’s Education by Catherine Jean-Baptiste


            Throughout history, women’s education has gone through many stages, and many fights. Many women have fought heart and soul for a better education for their peers, children, and future generations. Nowadays, if women can enjoy a good, successful education, and very similar, if not almost identical to men’s, it is because of these many battles. 

            Indeed, before today’s education, women had to go through many different stages, losses, and wins, in order to build what can be called a good system of education for the female kind. Women’s education has been awfully neglected over history as men did not see the importance of educating their wives and daughters. Harvard University was established in 1636. However, it took two other centuries before the first college admitted women. Moreover, it took until 1980 for the number of male and female students attending college to be equal (NHWM 2007).

            In the 1700s, women’s education relied on race, location, and class. Wealthy women being taught very little, middle class and poor women had obviously little to no access to any kind of education or teaching. Wealthy girls and women had the opportunity to be taught by governesses or to be sent to a convent school. Education for women at that time was oriented towards what men expected from their wives. Therefore, women’s ambition was to become skilled in household duties (NWHM 2007).

            Most of the things that were taught to women had a very specific purpose, and it was never for their own pleasure of learning. For example, they were taught to read only in order to read the Bible. Also, some of them were taught arithmetic and writing to record household expenses. The rest of their knowledge laid in needlework, etiquette, music, cooking, and nursing, and were meant to be used in the daily lives of housewives, housekeepers, and mothers (NHWM, 2007).

During the Victorian era, especially at the beginning of the century, girls were educated for fashionable purposes. Since women found significance in men’s lives through their body and appearance as it was used for reproduction, and ‘’seen as temples’’ (Licciardi-Lenci), society educated them from childhood to adulthood to meet these requirements.

In Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre published in 1847, this idea of women’s education being narrowed down to fashionable accomplishments is more than once very well illustrated. Jane Eyre’s own education reflects these skills that women were required to have at that time as she is taught French and English, and other meaningless subjects such as drawing and music. Through the entire novel, all the occupations that take place in the main character’s routine reside in the hobbies mentioned earlier. When she visits her dying aunt and spends time with her cousins, when she stays at Rochester’s house, and when she stays with Diana and Mary, St-John’s sisters, she spends her time drawing, playing music, and reading. The following excerpt tells more about it:

Eliza would sit half the day sewing, reading, or writing, and scarcely utter a word either to me or her sister. Georgiana would chatter nonsense to her canary bird by the hour, and take no notice of me. [...] Provided with a case of pencils, and some sheets of paper, I used to take a seat apart from then, near the window, and busy myself in sketching fancy vignettes, representing any scene that happened momentarily to shape itself in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of imagination’ (Jane Eyre, p.268).

 None of these occupations have any impact, matter or importance in the society or public sphere. This novel illustrates women’s education history very appropriately. Also, in this novel, the history of women’s education is demonstrated as Jane is sent to a convent school to do her education.

In the United States, after the Revolutionary War (1775-1883), changes in women’s education were done because of external factors and goals. Indeed, as they needed to build a Republican country, they realized the importance of educating women in depth in order for them to raise patriotic sons, and to teach them independence and self-reliance values. Also, young men began to choose their spouses according to romance and companionship more than according to their parents’ wants and needs. Therefore, fathers felt the need to educate their daughters to make them more attractive, and give them better chances to marry a good and wealthy husband.

In the 1800s, the implantation of secondary schools, also called academies or seminaries, started. Women began to be taught subjects such as ‘’philosophy, chemistry, ancient and modern history, geography, grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, moral philosophy, natural theology, and Latin’’ (NHWM 2007). However, even though they were taught pretty much the same things as their fellow men companions, it took until the late 1800s to the mid 1960s for education to be heterosexual. Indeed, women presence was not thought to have a positive effect on men’s education. As said in the online exhibit of the National History of Women Museum of Alexandria, Virginia, society thought that women would suffer of nervous breakdowns if they were to compete in a man’s world, be corrupted, lose their purity, and harm their reproductive system. It was also a general idea that a learned women might not end up being a good wife or mother, and that education would ‘’masculinise’’ women (NHWM 2007).

To conclude, the history of women’s education is punctuated with many awful opinions that society had over the centuries, and with many fights for a better instruction. Thankfully, today, women can enjoy good education in most of the world. Nowadays, the number of women attending university is generally more important than the number of man, especially in North America. I believe we can be thankful and proud and of what our sisters and mothers have done over the past to give us this education opportunity and choice.



Works Cited


Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. London: Penguin Classics, 1847.

Licciardi, S. and Lenci, E. “The Role of Women in the Victorian Age.” Online Posting. 25 Jan. 2009. English4us. 23 Nov. 2011. <http://5b-english4us.blogspot.com/2009 /01/role-of-women-in-victorian-age.html> .

“The History of Women and Education.” Online exhibit. National Women’s History Museum, Alexandria, 2007. 23 Nov. 2011 <http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/education/ Introduction.html> .




©Martine Pelletier