With no job, no education and no way to feed her kids, Katarina MacLeod became a prostitute at the age of 21.

Selling sex in Brampton for 17 years, she became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and was regularly beaten and raped by her customers.

The abuse didn’t happen in vehicles or in alleys, she said. It happened behind closed doors inside bawdy houses.

“It’s no safer inside than it is outside,” said MacLeod, 38, and out of the sex trade.

MacLeod, along with other former sex workers, stood outside the Ontario Superior Court of Justice yesterday and called last’s week landmark ruling on Canada’s prostitution laws “a gift to pimps and traffickers.”

On Sept. 28, Justice Susan Himel struck down Criminal Code prohibitions against keeping a common bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of the trade.

She said in her ruling the provisions were actually endangering sex workers, rather than keeping them safe.

Prostitution itself isn’t illegal in Canada, but the government has tried to discourage the practice by criminalizing the activities that surround it.

If the ruling stands after a 30-day waiting period, prostitutes will be able to negotiate with customers on the street, conduct business in homes or brothels, and hire bodyguards and accountants without exposing them to the risk of criminal repercussions.