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The victor: Terri-Jean Bedford spent 20 years fighting prostitution laws

Terri-Jean Bedford flashes a victory sign as she speaks with the media after learning Canada's highest court struck down the country's prostitution laws at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa Friday December 20, 2013.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Twenty years ago, Terri-Jean Bedford was a dominatrix running her own business, the Bondage Bungalow, with a male security guard, in suburban Thornhill, Ont., when the police raided her operation. She was ultimately convicted of operating a bawdy house.

She has been fighting governments ever since over prostitution laws. On Friday, she said she felt vindicated after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country's major prostitution laws.

"I'm taking off my shackles. It's emancipation day," the 54-year-old, who was born in Collingwood, Ont., said in an interview.

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"I never thought I was a criminal. All my life I was trying to eke out a living, doing what I like to do."

Ms. Bedford is one of three current and former prostitutes who brought the constitutional challenge to the prostitution laws. In court documents, she said she was abused as a child, entered prostitution at 16 to pay for her drug addictions and those of her 37-year-old boyfriend and was "raped and gang-raped too many times to talk about" as a street prostitute in Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver.

She was ecstatic after the ruling. "It's a great day for Canada, a great day for women from coast to coast," she said.

She said the Swedish model of criminalizing johns but not prostitutes won't work, because "you can't punish men for their natural needs."

She told reporters in Ottawa: "Now, the government must tell all consenting Canadians, all consenting adults, what we can and cannot do in the privacy of our home, for money or not, and they must write laws that are fair."

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