Mar. 20, 2013 - Issue #909: Water Crisis
Body rub bylaw
A little over a year ago, a name change came into effect for Edmonton's 40-plus massage parlours. In January 2012, they became known as body-rub centres. Why? Well, licensed massage therapists didn't want their name associated with an occupation that is more rub-and-tug than full-body massage. It is also a way for the city to keep tabs on businesses with body-rub licences—to make sure girls offering the services are over the age of 18, and to check the criminal background of any body-rub centre owners. The city is also making money from the business licences.
On March 18, a new bylaw was passed: body-rub centres now have to be at least 100 metres away from schools, playgrounds and other places where groups of children can be found. That means eight of these businesses operating in Edmonton now have to move, and when council reexamines this bylaw in a few months to determine if the distance should be 300 metres away, 29 body rub centres could be packing up and looking for a new location.
What's the problem if these are licensed businesses? The problem is the grey area that exists around the legalities of body-rub centres. It is illegal for body-rub centres to encourage sex between their employees and clients by doing things like setting prices for different sex acts, but there's a tricky way around it. If a client goes in for a massage and discusses sex in the privacy of a room with his masseuse, that is legal because it's two consenting adults talking about sex—but it can only be a one-time thing. If it happens regularly, then the body-rub centre becomes a bawdy house.
Prostitution is a part of society that gets pushed to the outskirts, and the fight to keep it that way happened not that long ago for another segment of Edmonton when a massage parlour wanted to occupy a storefront on the newly revitalized 124 Street. Business owners made a lot of noise and in the end the massage parlour stayed away. Their reason? One shop owner said it was all about perception. If a prostitution-related business set up shop, that could deter people from browsing the shops, cafés and art galleries that give 124 Street its charm. Millions of dollars had been spent to make this a cultured neighbourhood and they wanted it to stay that way.
Council's decision pushes prostitution even farther afield, essentially saying that prostitution and the johns who come looking for it should not be plastered in the faces of children. V
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