07/04/16 – France Votes in Nordic Model Laws on Prostitution

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NorMAC is delighted about yesterday’s historic vote in the French Parliament for adoption of Nordic model laws on prostitution

‘After years of citizenship initiatives and civil actions, French law makers took a critical step to establish gender equality in France by adopting The Nordic Model. On April 6th 2016, the French National Assembly recognized prostitution as one of the worst forms of violence against women and voted the criminalization of the purchase of sex. This vote in favor of criminalization is the fourth and the final draft submitted between 2013 and 2016 (overthrowing three rejections by the Senate), reinforcing the country will to fight sexual exploitation of women in prostitution. Under this law, prostituted women, children and men will not be criminalized. They will receive social support and benefits to exit prostitution while men buying sex will be fined and liable to prosecution.

By adopting this law, France complied with its international and national commitments, including the national law on rape (1981) and the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949). French law defines rape as “any act of penetration imposed on someone by violence, surprise or coercion” and the French National Assembly acknowledges that buying access to a human body via a financial transaction is inherently an act of coercion.

Further, the French National Assembly recognized that prostitution harms all women (in prostitution or not) by undermining their emotional and physical wellbeing, security, health, and fundamental rights as human beings, harming society as a whole. More than a quick-fix to prostitution, the law is ambitious to offer a way-out to women trapped into sexual exploitation and the possibility to prosecute the offenders.

More specifically, when it comes to sexual violence against women, the French National Assembly recognized the tremendous level of violence in prostitution, including assault, rape, physical and psychological torture. The French National Assembly also recognized that the existence of prostitution encourages the transnational trafficking of women and children. This has been demonstrated in countries such as Germany, Spain and New Zealand which tried full regularization of prostitution and yet witnessed sex trafficking surge, with underage and disenfranchised women imported by the thousands to meet the ever increasing demand of sex buyers.

Indeed, while admitting the failure of regularization at an international scale, the Assembly recognized the need to urgently address the demand-side in prostitution. It has been established that sex buyers are responsible for the ever-increasing number of women and children brought into prostitution, as well as the worst form of violence perpetrated against them. Their forums, where they evaluate their preys as goods, details explicitly the hatred, domination and violence they impose on women.

By this historical decision, French law makers confirmed that they heard the voices of hundreds of survivors, as well as women still trapped in the sex industry. They acknowledged that most women in prostitution were groomed while still underage, and that all attempts of legalization led to even more exploitation while failing to offer them any form of safety. Indeed, it is impossible, let alone human, to regularize and streamline pedocriminality, slavery, torture and murder. All countries must take all the steps in their power in order to fight such human rights abuses.

It is with pride and the greatest enthousiasm that we, French feminists and abolitionists, welcome the new legislation, as an effective tool to achieve gender equality. To us, it is more than a step in the right direction: it’s the beginning of a new world.’

“NorMAC is very encouraged by the vote in the French Parliament and will continue with renewed vigour our campaign for introduction of Nordic model laws on prostitution in Australia” said NorMAC National Director Simone Watson.

14/10/15 – Sex trade survivors & their supporters call for tailored mental health interventions

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A coalition of sex trade survivors and their supporters have called on the mental health sector to recognise the specific mental health challenges faced by people in the sex industry.

In a letter addressed to Beyond Blue and Mental Health Councils as part of Mental Health Week, the coalition has urged these bodies to engage with people who have exited or want to exit the sex industry and their representative organsiations to develop tailored mental health support for those in the sex industry.

Eight survivors of prostitution and a number of doctors, academics, politicians, mental health professionals and organisations are signatories to the letter. They include The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, former ETU secretary Dean Mighell, WA MLC Peter Abetz, Feminist academic and lawyer Dr Jocelynne Scutt, as well as Australian Singer Katie Noonan.

The group has also called on Beyond Blue appoint an ambassador for the unique experience of mental health faced by people in the sex industry.

Research conducted by the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology noted that women in prostitution from all sectors of the sex industry had poorer mental health than Australian women of comparable age who were not in the sex industry. In 2005 the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre also interviewed women in prostitution, they found that approximately half the participants met the criteria for PTSD with 31% reporting current PTSD symptoms.

‘In the nineteen years I worked, in Australia and different countries, in brothels, private apartments, massage parlours, escort agencies, on the streets —I never met one woman who truly wanted to do sex work. Everyone I encountered was depressed, felt trapped and was trying to figure out how to make a better life for themselves. It was fear that kept drawing me back. Fear of not having enough money, fear of not fitting in to the real world, fear of someone finding out. I was mentally imprisoned for nineteen years.’ said prostitution survivor Geena Leigh.

06/10/15 – Expunging prostitution convictions essential for those exiting the sex trade

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In recognition of International Day of No Prostitution on 5 October 2015, the Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NorMAC) has written to Attorney Generals and Justice Ministers from each of Australia’s states and territories calling on them to expunge criminal records for people in prostitution, in particular historical charges that relate to solicitation and street prostitution.

In some American states – for example New York – the criminal records of people trafficked into prostitution have been expunged. NorMAC wants to see something similar here in Australia, along with recognition that interpretation of the term ‘trafficked’ needs to be broadened insofar as it refers to prostitution.

NorMAC recognises that coercion into prostitution takes many forms, many of which do not satisfy the definition of overt force. A number of factors can contribute to a person selling sex, including socio-economic pressures.

Evidence consistently shows that many persons in prostitution have been exposed to sexual assault and exploitation prior to entering the sex trade. Indigenous women and migrant women are also at greater risk of entering prostitution as a means of survival.

‘It is well documented that the majority of people in prostitution are there due to limited choices and financial disadvantage. Charges and criminal convictions against these people perpetuate discrimination and stigmatisation, ultimately entrenching them in the sex trade’, said NorMAC director and prostitution survivor, Simone Watson.

‘Most women in prostitution want out and expunging their criminal records is one way governments can give them real options, particularly in a society where police and safety checks are increasingly required for employment’, she said.

12/08/2015 – Amnesty International votes for policy calling for decriminalisation of prostitution

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Amnesty International’s recently released Draft Policy on Sex Work, to be considered at the organisation’s 32nd International Council Meeting (ICM) in Dublin on 7-11 August this year, is a ‘human rights travesty’, said NorMAC director Simone Watson.

‘The language of the draft document is all style and no substance’, said Ms Watson.

The policy document acknowledges that ‘systemic factors and personal circumstances related to poverty, discrimination and gender inequality can have a bearing on some individuals’ decisions to do sex work’, but insists that ‘sex workers’ have ‘agency’ and ‘choice’ when entering ‘sex work’.

‘Apart from the fact that most, not ‘some’ people (mostly women) enter prostitution because they have no other option, Amnesty’s glib recognition of their ‘agency’ is patronising in the extreme’, said Ms Watson.

‘They’re saying to the thousands of women forced into prostitution by these circumstances that even though they are poor, and suffering discrimination, at least they have agency’.

‘Shouldn’t Amnesty be focusing more on ensuring women have a real choice – that they have real agency – by addressing the underlying poverty, discrimination and lack of education that lead women into prostitution?’.

The draft policy also fails to canvass alternative legislative options for ‘sex work’, particularly the Nordic Model – a model that decriminalises ‘sex workers’ but criminalises those that purchase, or procure the purchase of sexual services – the johns, pimps and brothel owners.

‘This model is obliquely referred to in the draft policy document as “overbroad criminalisation of the operational aspects of sex work”, and “indirect criminalisation” of ‘sex workers’. Laws that criminalise the buying of sex are dismissed as compromising the safety of ‘sex workers’, without any evidence or proper analysis’, said Ms Watson.

‘The entire document lacks academic rigour’, she said.

Amnesty’s supposed research into prostitution in four disparate jurisdictions appears to consist of nothing more than anecdotal evidence, with only 80 or so prostitutes interviewed in total.

‘That’s hardly a representative sample’, said Ms Watson. ‘And were any survivors of prostitution interviewed?’.

NorMAC also notes the document’s mention of the ‘impunity’ offered to perpetrators of assaults against ‘sex workers’ by legislative regimes that criminalise some or all aspects of ‘sex work’, including Nordic model laws.

‘Despite this apparent concern about perpetrators of such assaults being unpunished, the draft policy completely fails to consider any legislative measures that would work to make such offenders (mostly men) routinely accountable’, said Ms Watson.

‘The draft policy also perpetuates several other simplistic notions about prostitution – for example, that consensual ‘sex work’ can be readily distinguished from ‘sex work’ undertaken by trafficked ‘sex workers’, with the latter being something that must definitely be criminalised. And that exploiting a child in prostitution must also be a criminal offence.

Amnesty considers a ‘child’ to be a person under 18, but the policy fails to address a very obvious question – how can a person in prostitution change from someone who must be protected from exploitation to the fullest extent of the law, to someone who has total autonomy to engage in such work simply by the passing of one day?’.

The Draft Policy on Sex Work is nothing more than a series of ‘motherhood’ statements about the human rights of ‘sex workers’, and how the world’s sovereign states should work towards promoting those rights by affording ‘sex workers’ the same workplace rights and remedies as any other worker.

But nothing in the policy truly addresses the reality of prostitution – it naively assumes that decriminalisation of ‘sex work’ will succeed in reducing the many harms of prostitution, including the violence and degradation suffered by prostitutes on a daily basis worldwide, and that ‘sex work’ will henceforth be entirely legitimate. And it makes these assumptions contrary to available evidence in jurisdictions adopting the decriminalised model.

We can only hope the 450 Amnesty delegates attending the ICM next month will call for better evidence and a broader consideration of alternatives before voting on this policy.

‘With its abject failure to address the demand side of the ‘sex work’ contract, one wonders just exactly who will benefit from this policy’, said Ms Watson.

‘And who is driving this push to promote prostitution as a job just like any other, given that around 60 per cent of Amnesty International sections did not submit a response to the original draft decriminalisation policy position on ‘sex work’?’.

‘Does the broader membership support this policy?’.

‘We need to ask why the International Board of Amnesty is continuing to aggressively pursue the adoption of a pro-sex work policy position’.

– See more at: Amnesty International votes for policy calling for decriminalisation of prostitution

13/07/15 – Amnesty International the sex trades new best friend

MEDIA RELEASE

Amnesty International’s recently released Draft Policy on Sex Work, to be considered at the organisation’s 32nd International Council Meeting (ICM) in Dublin on 7-11 August this year, is a ‘human rights travesty’, said NorMAC director Simone Watson.

‘The language of the draft document is all style and no substance’, said Ms Watson.

The policy document acknowledges that ‘systemic factors and personal circumstances related to poverty, discrimination and gender inequality can have a bearing on some individuals’ decisions to do sex work’, but insists that ‘sex workers’ have ‘agency’ and ‘choice’ when entering ‘sex work’.

‘Apart from the fact that most, not ‘some’ people (mostly women) enter prostitution because they have no other option, Amnesty’s glib recognition of their ‘agency’ is patronising in the extreme’, said Ms Watson.

‘They’re saying to the thousands of women forced into prostitution by these circumstances that even though they are poor, and suffering discrimination, at least they have agency’.

‘Shouldn’t Amnesty be focusing more on ensuring women have a real choice – that they have real agency – by addressing the underlying poverty, discrimination and lack of education that lead women into prostitution?’.

The draft policy also fails to canvass alternative legislative options for ‘sex work’, particularly the Nordic Model – a model that decriminalises ‘sex workers’ but criminalises those that purchase, or procure the purchase of sexual services – the johns, pimps and brothel owners.

‘This model is obliquely referred to in the draft policy document as “overbroad criminalisation of the operational aspects of sex work”, and “indirect criminalisation” of ‘sex workers’. Laws that criminalise the buying of sex are dismissed as compromising the safety of ‘sex workers’, without any evidence or proper analysis’, said Ms Watson.

‘The entire document lacks academic rigour’, she said.

Amnesty’s supposed research into prostitution in four disparate jurisdictions appears to consist of nothing more than anecdotal evidence, with only 80 or so prostitutes interviewed in total.

‘That’s hardly a representative sample’, said Ms Watson. ‘And were any survivors of prostitution interviewed?’.

NorMAC also notes the document’s mention of the ‘impunity’ offered to perpetrators of assaults against ‘sex workers’ by legislative regimes that criminalise some or all aspects of ‘sex work’, including Nordic model laws.

‘Despite this apparent concern about perpetrators of such assaults being unpunished, the draft policy completely fails to consider any legislative measures that would work to make such offenders (mostly men) routinely accountable’, said Ms Watson.

‘The draft policy also perpetuates several other simplistic notions about prostitution – for example, that consensual ‘sex work’ can be readily distinguished from ‘sex work’ undertaken by trafficked ‘sex workers’, with the latter being something that must definitely be criminalised. And that exploiting a child in prostitution must also be a criminal offence.

Amnesty considers a ‘child’ to be a person under 18, but the policy fails to address a very obvious question – how can a person in prostitution change from someone who must be protected from exploitation to the fullest extent of the law, to someone who has total autonomy to engage in such work simply by the passing of one day?’.

The Draft Policy on Sex Work is nothing more than a series of ‘motherhood’ statements about the human rights of ‘sex workers’, and how the world’s sovereign states should work towards promoting those rights by affording ‘sex workers’ the same workplace rights and remedies as any other worker.

But nothing in the policy truly addresses the reality of prostitution – it naively assumes that decriminalisation of ‘sex work’ will succeed in reducing the many harms of prostitution, including the violence and degradation suffered by prostitutes on a daily basis worldwide, and that ‘sex work’ will henceforth be entirely legitimate. And it makes these assumptions contrary to available evidence in jurisdictions adopting the decriminalised model.

We can only hope the 450 Amnesty delegates attending the ICM next month will call for better evidence and a broader consideration of alternatives before voting on this policy.

‘With its abject failure to address the demand side of the ‘sex work’ contract, one wonders just exactly who will benefit from this policy’, said Ms Watson.

‘And who is driving this push to promote prostitution as a job just like any other, given that around 60 per cent of Amnesty International sections did not submit a response to the original draft decriminalisation policy position on ‘sex work’?’.

‘Does the broader membership support this policy?’.

‘We need to ask why the International Board of Amnesty is continuing to aggressively pursue the adoption of a pro-sex work policy position’.

– See more at: Amnesty International the sex trades new best friend

07/07/15 – Amnesty International condemned over fast tracking of sex laws policy

MEDIA RELEASE

Human Rights and Womens groups along with Survivors have been outraged over the continued attempt by Amnesty International to rail road through their policy on prostitution after being exposed for failing to properly consult with their international membership base and stakeholders.

The proposed Amnesty International International Council policy calling for the decriminalisation of sex work released at the Amnesty International Australia AGM held in Sydney last weekend, has been roundly condemned by human rights, womens’ and Survivor groups and Amnesty members all over the world.

The policy will be decided on by the International Board at a meeting in Dublin in August.

This is an appalling abuse of due process by the Amnesty International Council and for an organisation that has become increasingly top down in its consultation processes with members. The International Secretariat previously admitted after receiving responses in 2013 to their Sex Work policy discussion paper that…

‘There is no question that the consultation process could have been handled much better.’ “

Of the 29 Sections which submitted consultation responses nearly all were from Europe and North America but few responses were received from sections in developing nations or those where indigenous populations have proved to be at high risk of human rights abuses in the sex trade.

With just under 60% of Amnesty International Sections not submitting any response on the Sex Work Policy and only 4 Sections giving support to the policy, it is appalling that Amnesty persists with their policy direction.

Of the 40% of sections who submitted written feedback to the policy, all supported decriminalisation of sex workers.

28% of sections that responded said they needed more research to be conducted by Amnesty to inform their views. And further, 38% of respondents had called for an extension to the consultation process. Others found the consultation process to be flawed.

During the previous 2013 consultation period on the Amnesty Sex Work Policy, some Amnesty Sections notified the International Secretariat that the policy was deficient in its ‘rationale and evidence base’ .

The International Secretariat also realised that the Sex Work Policy may have detrimental impacts on the organisation:
‘Amnesty International must consider the risks incurred by adopting a policy on sex work, including with regard to the organization’s credibility, funding, membership, and partner relationships.’

NORMAC understands that many Amnesty members have been devastated that this entire process has been fast tracked and that a more impartial approach to the various human rights approaches was not taken by Amnesty, as has been done by many jurisdictions recently when researching the broader human right implications of prostitution and its conflation with gender inequality, child abuse and sex trafficking globally

– See more at: Amnesty International condemned over fast tracking of sex laws policy

03/05/15 – Tom Meagher launches anti-prostitution campaign in Ireland

MEDIA RELEASE

NorMAC (Nordic Model Australia Coalition) welcomes the involvement of Tom Meagher in the launch this week of the Irish campaign, Prostitution: We Don’t Buy It.

Following the rape and murder of his wife, Jill Meagher, in Melbourne in September 2012, Mr Meagher has emerged as a tireless campaigner against all forms of violence endured by women.

‘Mr Meagher’s activism on this issue is a positive way of honoring his wife’s memory’, said NorMAC spokesperson, Matthew Holloway.

‘His thoughtful contributions to the discourse on male violence against women are an example to all men’, he said.

Speaking at the campaign launch, Mr Meagher condemned the attitude that tempts men into using prostitutes by promoting prostitution as a mutually consensual arrangement. He said the notion that prostitution is about sexual freedom or liberation is a lie that needs to stop.

‘If you pay for sex, your money’s not buying consent, it’s paying for the temporary suspension of her desire not to consent’, said Mr Meagher.

‘NorMAC will shortly be launching the Prostitution: We Don’t Buy It campaign in Australia’, said Mr Holloway.

Mr Meagher is leading by example for caring, respectful men. Many men don’t buy prostitutes, but they need to speak up against normalisation of the exploitation inherent in prostitution and the myth of choice perpetuated by the sex industry lobby.

Links:

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/husband-of-jill-meagher-cried-for-hours-when-he-learned-of-karens-death-31164692.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-18/meagher-the-danger-of-the-monster-myth/5399108

http://www.womenlobby.org/spip.php?article7195&lang=fr

– See more at: Tom Meagher launches anti-prostitution campaign in Ireland

– Listen to Matthew Holloway’s radio interview on the issue: Alternative prostitution laws take aim male clients

29/04/15 – Wicked Campers out in the cold says Lonely Planet

MEDIA RELEASE

NorMAC (Nordic Model Australia Coalition) welcomes the decision by the world’s largest travel guide company, Lonely Planet, to remove Wicked Campers from the next edition of Lonely Planet Australia.

Sydney mother Paula Orbea began a campaign against the often sexist and offensive slogans on Wicked Campers’ vans in July last year after her 11-year old daughter was confronted with the message – ‘Inside every princess is a little slut who wants to try it just once’ – on a Wicked camper van.

Her campaign attracted significant support and Wicked Campers promised to remove the offending material.

The company’s failure to honour that promise was the catalyst for Lonely Planet’s recent action.

‘We want to thank Paula for her initiative and persistence’, said NorMAC director, Simone Watson. ‘Wicked Campers’ cavalier attitude toward the offence caused by their misogynist artwork deserves an appropriate response, and NorMAC congratulates Lonely Planet on their stance’.

Ms Orbea isn’t finished with Wicked Campers. She is now lobbying for legislation that would penalise offenders like Wicked Campers for breaching advertising standards.

‘NorMAC fully supports Ms Orbea’, said Ms Watson.

SIGN PETITION – Eliminate misogynistic and degrading slogans and imagery

05/04/15 – Rodney Croome OAM out of order on surrogacy

MEDIA RELEASE

Rodney Croome’s recent statement questioning the legal requirement that altruistic surrogates be at least 25 years of age and have already given birth, exposes his poor judgment in commenting on matters about which he is ill informed – namely women’s rights and reproduction.

‘NorMAC is deeply concerned that these comments by Mr Croome reflect badly on his previous good work seeking equality for the LGTBI community’, said Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NorMAC) spokesperson Matthew Holloway.

‘Mr Croome’s suggestion that the age of consent to surrogacy be lowered fails to recognise the possibility for exploitation or coercion of vulnerable young women inherent in such a move’.

Surrogacy involves many physical and emotional challenges for the surrogate mother, including the risks associated with assisted reproductive methods, and the possibility the mother may be unwilling to relinquish the child.

It is in the interests of all parties to an altruistic surrogacy arrangement that the surrogate has personal experience of pregnancy and childbirth, and has children of her own. Surrogacy must be a fully informed choice.

Global organisations, including the European Women’s Lobby, the Swedish Women’s Lobby, the French Assemblée des Femmes and the US Center for Bioethics and Culture have called for the abolition of surrogacy, which has been recognised as reproductive slavery.

‘NorMAC recognises that surrogacy can be a form of exploitation, using a woman as a gestational vessel to grow another person’s child. If surrogacy is to occur, every possible protection must be in place to minimise potential exploitation of the surrogate. It is essential that the current legal requirements are retained’, said Matthew Holloway.

ARTICLE – Rodney Croome OAM out of order on surrogacy

17/03/15 – NorMAC Welcomes Media Attention on Nordic Model

The Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NorMAC) welcomes the recent ABC Lateline report on prostitution that highlighted the growing international shift to a Nordic Model of prostitution legislation. The Nordic Model criminalises buyers of sex, not prostitutes, and prostitutes are assisted to exit the industry.

Since forming in 2012, NorMAC has consistently lobbied Australia’s federal and state governments to engage with, and listen to survivors of the sex industry, for the purpose of giving victims within the industry a voice.

We commend the brave and courageous voice of prostitution survivor and Project Respect brothel outreach worker, Kate Connett, calling for a rethink of the legalisation and decriminalisation approaches to prostitution. Kate spoke courageously of the exploitation she suffered as a prostitute, and how it now motivates her work with women still in prostitution.

NorMAC was disappointed that the Scarlet Alliance ‘sex worker’ group representative, Jules Kim, refused to acknowledge the negative experiences of people in the sex industry. Ms Kim further denied that migrant women were disadvantaged in their ability to negotiate the transaction of sex, despite the Kirby Institute report from NSW noting that 46% of migrant women working in the sex industry rated their English language skills as fair or poor.

NorMAC also strongly rejects Ms Kim’s claim that there is no link between prostitution and trafficking, and considers it part of an on-going campaign by the sex industry to ensure the voices of survivors of prostitution are silenced in the public domain.

The Lateline program and the ensuing media discussion come at a crucial time for NorMAC, which is currently stepping up its campaign to introduce Nordic Model legislation on prostitution in Australia.

NorMAC hosted its AGM for 2015 on 7th of March, and affirmed its position as the peak body advocating the introduction of Nordic model legislation. NorMAC is a secular group, with a focus on survivors of prostitution.

The AGM appointed representatives for Australian states and prostitution survivor Simone Watson as the organisation’s director.