Gender split reveals deep divide between men, women on issues surrounding the sex trade

CANADIAN women and men hold significantly divergent views on the buying and selling of sex, but those differences do not extend to their overall opinions of Bill C-36 – the Harper government’s proposed new prostitution law.

Those are the findings of the latest online survey from Angus Reid Global. The poll asks Canadian adults their opinions about specific aspects of the sex trade, as well as their support or opposition to Bill C-36.

The Gender Gap:
When it comes to specific issues addressed in the proposed legislation, including the buying and selling of sex in Canada, men and women do not agree.

* While the majority of men (62%) believe selling sex should be legal in Canada (it currently is, and would remain so under C-36), fewer than half of women (40%) feel the same way.

* On the issue of buying sex, views are inverted by gender. Where more than half of men – 56 per cent – say it should be legal to buy sex, only one-third (34%) of women say the same.

However, 55 per cent of women say it should be illegal to buy sex in Canada, while 34 per cent of men say the same.

* Canadian men support advertising the sale of sex two-to-one over women. While 39 per cent of men say this should be legal, 20 per cent of women say the same.

* More men than women support the legal operation of brothels. 57 per cent of men say this should be legal, while 38 per cent of women say the same.

* There is one piece of the proposed legislation where gender does not spilt opinion: whether it should be illegal to sell sex in public places where children may be present. On this, men and women – indeed – almost all Canadians regardless of their demographic makeup – are in agreement, saying it should be illegal (89% of Canadians overall, including 88% of men and 90% of women).

Legality versus Morality:

Separate from the issue of whether the buying and selling of sex should be legal, Angus Reid Global also canvassed opinions on whether it was justifiable.

Again, the gender divide was clear. Two-in-five women (43%) say selling sex can never be justified, nearly twice the number of men who say the same (23%). Half of women (50%) say that buying sex can never be justified; compared to a quarter (27%) of men who say the same.

Support for Bill C-36:

Overall, Canadian respondents are not particularly supportive of Bill C-36. About a third – 35 per cent – support the proposed law, compared to almost half – 47 per cent – who say they oppose it, and 18 per cent who say they aren’t sure.

This is notable, considering the strong views women have on the illegality of several aspects of the sex trade, and the fact that Bill C-36 makes most of these aspects illegal. While majorities of womens’ views on all but the selling of sex are in step with the proposed law, women are split; with most (41%) saying they oppose the law, 35 per cent saying they support it, and nearly one-quarter (24%) saying they aren’t sure.

By contrast, just over half of men (53%) say they oppose the law. This compares to 35 per cent who support it and 12 per cent who say they aren’t sure.

Rather than seeing public opinion split over gender lines, divisions are more evident depending on which political party respondents have supported in the past. Support for C-36 is highest among past Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) voters (45%). Opposition is highest among past Liberal Party voters (62%) followed by past NDP voters (56%).