The news that a group of Australian politicians will spend three weeks in France, Sweden and South Korea studying prostitution law reform is most welcome. ACT Liberal MLAs Giulia Jones and Vicki Dunne will be joined by West Australian state Liberal backbencher Peter Abetz and Victorian Labor state member Christine Campbell. Together with academics and representatives from charity groups, the politicians will spend their time learning about the Nordic model of prostitution. This prostitution model which originated in Sweden, criminalises the purchase of ‘sexual services’ but decriminalises those within systems of prostitution.
It was after the death of an ACT sex worker who died from a drug overdose, that Giulia Jones decided to find out more about the Nordic model of prostitution which places criminal responsibility on those who pay for sex and decriminalises soliciting. “So it changes the mode of prosecution where we actually look at putting the onus for the harm back onto the predominantly men who buy sex, “said Ms Jones. “There aren’t many jobs where you go to work and get exposed to STIs (sexually transmissible infections), get told not to wear jewellery because you may get strangled, and basically you’re in a less powerful position because of the vast bulk of people selling sex are women and the vast bulk of buyers are men,” she added.
In the 1980s and 90s, The Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Queensland, legalised brothel prostitution while New South Wales decriminalised the industry. In legalised systems the brothels are regulated by the state but in decriminalised systems there is no oversight by the state.
In Making Sex Work: A Failed Experiment with Legalised Prostitution, Mary Lucille Sullivan shows how legislation or ‘increased tolerance of prostitution’ in the state of Victoria means there is a greater need for women and girls to meet the growing demand of the ‘lucrative market’, and this is supplied by trafficking vulnerable, poor women around the globe.
It has been claimed that by legislating prostitution the working conditions of the women will improve, and that their health and safety will be subject to regular checks. However, as Sullivan found it doesn’t matter how hard you try to clean up the industry the ‘intrinsic’ violent nature of prostitution remains. ‘Sexual harassment and rape are indistinguishable from the sex the buyers purchase’.
The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia (CATWA) , states :
The fundamental innovation of the Nordic Model is that it targets demand. The Model recognises that it is the demand for ‘sexual services’ that promotes the expansion of the sex industry and sex trafficking.
The Nordic Model is now in operation in Sweden, Norway and Iceland, recently approved in France, and under consideration in Israel, Northern Ireland and Ireland. Variations of the Nordic Model have also been adopted in South Korea, the United Kingdom and Finland.
It has now been more than a decade since Sweden introduced the Law that Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Services. A wide range of evidence, including government reviews, police reports and surveys of sex buyers, suggests the law has been very effective in reducing the markets for prostitution and sex trafficking.
With the experiment with legalisation in Australia having been exposed as a resounding failure it’s time for a change and with any luck the touring politicians will lead the change: “We’re looking at a new way, an emerging way, to deal with the sex industry to try to see if there’s a way of making it smaller because of the grave dangers to the women in the industry,” said ACT Liberal MLA Giulia Jones.