Category Archives: News

23/03/17 – White Ribbon Must Oppose Commodification of Women

Today’s White Ribbon Launch of Professor Bob Pease and Dr Ann Carrington’s paper – Men as Allies in preventing Violence Against Women: Principles and Practices for Promoting Accountability (https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/white-ribbon-research-launch-tickets-32579163154) will open the opportunity for White Ribbon to oppose all forms of violence to women including the commodification and objectification of women’s bodies in the sex industry including pornography.

Simone Watson, National Director of Nordic Model Australia Coalition said, “until now, White Ribbon Australia has not engaged with survivors of the sex-trade many of whom have suffered appalling violence by sex-buyers and pimps.”

” The commodification and objectification of women is the root cause of male violence to women.”

” White Ribbon need to honestly engage with all issues which are at the core of the epidemic of male violence to women.”

“It is time for White Ribbon Australia to Be Bold for Change and stand alongside their international partners such as White Ribbon in Ireland and the UK who have joined the growing international movement against the global sex-trade and in support Nordic Model laws on prostitution.”

08/03/17 – IWD 2017 forum asks Men to Be Bold for Change

Nordic Model Australia Coalition this year is hosting an International Women’s Day Public Forum on Wednesday 8th March at Parliament House in Hobart from 1-3pm – Men’s Violence to Women – A Broader Conversation.

While International Women’s Day is an occasion to celebrate women’s achievements it is also a time to reflect on the continuing gap in equality between women and men and how women and especially men need to Be Bold for Change and work to end men’s violence to women.

This year the United Nations IWD theme is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030. Some key targets of the UN’s 2030 Agenda are:
· End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
· Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
· Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Within the women’s human rights community nowhere has the debate on women’s socio-economic inequality and lack of work choices been more contested than with the issue of prostitution and the violence to women inherent in the global sex trade.

Speaker at the forum Bob Pease Professor of Social Work at the University of Tasmania said
“it is men’s demand for paid sex that drives the market and if we are to understand the demand, we must interrogate the men who fuel the demand.”

“If we ignore the demand side of prostitution, we cannot address the responsibility men have for perpetuating the problem.”

Professor Pease will explore how men’s views about women in prostitution can be understood in terms of men’s sense of sexual entitlement, which in turn is related to their conception of masculinity and manhood.

NorMAC National Director Simone Watson said “There are practical things men can do to stop prostitution and sex trafficking and on this IWD 2017 we are especially calling on men to step up and Be Bold for Change.”

13/11/16 – Labor to open the door for violence to women by johns, pimps and traffickers

NorMAC was not expecting that the ALP would vote down Young Labor’s motion at the state conference given the lack of information about alternative human rights based approaches to prostitution being discussed either at ALP Branch level or circulated before the debate at the State Conference. The lack of proper consultation with stakeholders that has underpinned this decision is a hallmark of undemocratic processes with all political parties.

“The majority of ALP members in Tasmania do not support full decriminalisation of brothels and understand this will lead to an increase in illegal brothels, trafficking, organised crime and harms to children and women as has been the hallmark of other decriminalised jurisdictions such as New South Wales and New Zealand, ” said NorMAC Director Simone Watson.

“The ALP has ignored the international evidence and excluded being informed by all stakeholders, other than the Scarlet Alliance, especially about the success of Nordic model laws and their emerging global reach.”

Elliott Bell from the Newstead Branch of the ALP opposed the motion and said: “Decriminalisation over time normalises and increases demand for sex work,” he said. “It’s irrefutable that this industry is an industry of exploitation.”

NorMAC are will be giving presentations at ALP branch meetings in the near future and expect a very different motion to go before the ALP State Conference in 2017 before the next State Election.

“The ALP will wear the consequences of ignoring the voices of Survivors with this retrograde decision at the next election, in the interim they will be seen as the party willing to legitimise pimps and profiteers as industrious business owners with a complete blindside of international evidence showing that the sex trade is inherently harmful and causes disability to the majority of women who enter it.” said Simone Watson

For further information contact: Simone Watson (Director of NorMAC and Sex Trade Survivor) – 0477 448 164

12/11/16 – Global call on ALP to reject sex policy

Sex trade lobbyists in Victoria are giving a presentation at this weekend’s ALP State Conference and will be pushing for full decriminalisation of the sex trade in Victoria as part of a national campaign.

Meanwhile in Tasmania, Survivors, International and National Women’s Human Rights groups and individuals have sent a letter to Tasmanian ALP members calling on them to reject Young Labor’s policy on decriminalisation of the sex trade being debated at the ALP state conference in Queenstown this weekend.

Signatories to the letter opposed any further deregulation of the sex industry. “Contrary to Young Labor’s claims, introduction of legislation allowing brothels in other jurisdictions has resulted in increased violence, degradation and coercion to those in the sex trade, making it more difficult to gain legal justice. This has occurred in Victoria, New South Wales and in New Zealand” NorMAC National Director and Survivor Simone Watson said

“What we know from Survivors and international research is that when third parties can profit from women being bought for sex, violence to women, organised crime and sex trafficking increases. Knowing the truth about the violence to women when being bought for sex – we reject outright the notion that this can be termed ‘sex work’. International developments and research on the global sex trade tells us that it is impossible to achieve what Young Labor are asking for as normal ‘sex worker’ rights. But Young Labor appear intent on ignoring this evidence and meanwhile many rank and file Labor members are in the dark about the success of Nordic model laws.” Said Ms Watson.

The letter states; Having a caste of women set aside for the sexual service of males has a wider impact on men’s attitudes to all women at all levels of society. This was echoed recently when Australian barrister, and human rights and refugee advocate, Julian Burnside AO QC stated; “Prostitution affects all women because it affects the way men regard women”.’

Research by Professor Malamuth from the University of California and Los Angeles, profiled men who buy sex and found a correlation between sexual purchase and other forms of sexual violence. Professor Malamuth, said – ‘Our findings indicate that men who buy sex share certain key characteristics with men who are at risk for committing sexual aggression. Both groups tend to have a preference for impersonal sex, a fear of rejection by women, a history of having committed sexually aggressive acts and a hostile masculine self-identification. Those who buy sex, on average, have less empathy for women in prostitution and view them as intrinsically different from other women’.

In November 2013 a petition with 2,910 signatures of formerly prostituted people and their advocates was presented to the NZ Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Committee calling for introduction of Nordic model laws as decriminalisation had failed to protect ‘sex workers’.

By 2014 media reports noted that violence and abuse of women in prostitution had remained a common occurrence in Christchurch despite decriminalisation a decade earlier.

In 2015 reports from New Zealand have also claimed major problems in the area of child prostitution with a lack of prosecutions and a number of claims of police sexually exploiting children in prostitution.

There are no decriminalised jurisdictions where there has been effective oversight of the sex industry.

The experience of decriminalising the sex trade has been one of proliferating both the legal and illegal sex industry which has led to increased criminal activity, trafficking and violence against women.

In contrast to the policy being put forward by the Young Labor branch, we would encourage the Australian Labor Party across Australia to follow its many sister political parties internationally which have introduced or are pursuing legislation based on the Nordic Model.

“We are giving a wake-up call to the ALP across Australia that the doctrine of ‘decriminalisation’ does not work for the sex trade and they need to adopt policies on women that are evidence based not policies contrived for them by ‘sex worker’ front groups,” said Simone Watson.

31/08/16 – Testimony to the Select Committee on the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2015

My name is Simone Watson, I am the National Director of the Nordic Model Australia Coalition and I am a Survivor of prostitution and I would like to thank you for listening to my testimony here today. My story is in this book Prostitution Narratives along with those of 19 other Survivors – victims of the brutality of the sex trade.

NorMAC was established in 2012 and is a secular organisation that seeks to end harmful cultural practices of sexual exploitation in Australia.

SURVIVORS ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE TELLING US THAT DECRIMINALSIATION DRAMATICALLY INCREASES THE DEMAND FOR, AND HARMS TO PEOPLE IN THE PROSTITUTION MARKET

Survivors voices are constantly being dismissed as we are told that if we are not currently in the sex trade, we have no right to comment on the sex-industry.

Do we put such a declaration on our war veterans, those who have suffered and have lived the experience of war and say to us, “Never again.” Are there a group of current combat soldiers lining up to tell them they are wrong and ‘war-phobic’ because they say there should never be another war? I haven’t seen any.

Survivors voices must be given the same acknowledgement and respect as Survivor voices have been given in the domestic violence campaign. But, to be heard we must first of all respond to the misleading information and discrediting of us by people claiming to be ‘sex workers’.

Most recently a domestic violence service in Townsville, QLD offered its conference room, as it does to many groups, to a group of sex-trade Survivors for the launch of our book Prostitution Narratives. A a result of the implied threat from pro sex trade lobbyists who wanted to attend the launch “we will not be responsible for the actions of our members” the event was cancelled at this venue. The event was moved at short notice to a cafe, where the sex trade lobbyists duly arrived and harassed and heckled the survivors and other speakers. One of these was a former president and long time affiliate of the Scarlet Alliance, who approached the youngest survivor, a woman who had been pimped out at the age of four, to try and recruit her back into the sex-trade in New South Wales.

This young woman felt threatened and sickened by this approach. And to me, the idea that survivor voices are not only stigmatised but disrupted at every turn, and that a sex-industry lobby group would threaten a domestic violence service, speaks volumes about the mentality of the sex-trade and these so-called ‘sex-worker’ organisations.

We must take care not to blame the perniciousness and insidiousness of such a powerful trade on those whose mentality has turned not only to vilifying survivors of torture, trying to recruit torture survivors back into the sex-trade, intimidate domestic violence services and claim that men have a right to paid sexual access to girls and women. But I would suggest, that even had my time in prostitution been innocuous to me, I would be in such a minority as to never inflict its inevitability and expansion on the majority who want to get out.

Much emphasis is placed on the apparent ‘right’ of an individual to be bought for sex if they ‘choose’ and very little on the men who buy individuals for sex. Much emphasis is placed on individual’s altogether, as if individual choices happen in a vacuum and do not influence anybody else. Well, legislation does impact on everybody, and this is why I am not alone in expecting that legislation be designed to fit the needs of the majority, and the fact is, over 89% of those being bought in the sex-trade, whether on the street or in the brothel, want to get out.

The sloganistic cry “Sex worker Rights are Human Rights” may sit well with Amnesty International, johns and pimps alike, but makes little sense. I hope also that you can see through ‘sex worker’ claims of being silenced or ignored, for what they are. All human beings have rights under various laws and under the declaration of human rights. I suggest it is possible to protect all human rights, including those who call themselves ‘sex workers’, without dispensing with the basic human rights of the majority in the sex-trade.

I’m familiar with probably every argument for the sex-trade being a ‘service industry’, ‘job like any other’, like working in McDonald’s, and more recently, like being a coal miner. And it is true that these industries or businesses, as with prostitution, exist because of demand.

What neither McDonalds or the coal industry, nor any other industry or service job I can think of, has within its remit for a job, is the sexual penetration, ejaculation on and into, fetishisation and dehumanisation of its employees. Sexual abuse can and does happen in any other job, but it is not the expectation of any other job. No person in a regular job has to apply skin analgesic to themselves, to the vagina for instance, to withstand the pain of ‘working ‘ let alone with another person.

As another sex-trade survivor said, “In McDonalds, you might be flipping burgers, but you are not the meat.”

The attempts by the sex trade to normalise and sanitise prostitution within the remit of ‘any other job’ are spurious.

While an individual may be able to distort reality in their head, the reality remains what it is, outside of that distortion, and within the sex-trade, the facts speak for themselves – prostitution has become the global humanitarian disaster and crisis of the 21 century.

I look to Syria and see the immediacy for aid – but I look at the sex-trade knowing how man-made crises such as the one happening in Syria, and natural disasters, such as the devastating earthquake in Nepal, or floods in Bangladesh, are prime opportunities for men who buy women and children for sex, do not care where these women and children have come from, and the pimps who profit from the demand.

Just think about that for a moment – and think again when you vote on this legislation – men will increase their demand to buy girls and women for sex without any care as to their being trafficked or coerced into this trade. 26,000 girls alone are trafficked out of the Sundarbans every year into India, 15,000 women and girls from Nepal into India Cambodia and South Africa – into the prostitution market.

This is perhaps the most simple, least complex fact about prostitution to grasp, yet it is the very one the ‘Sex Worker Rights are Human Rights” sloganeering fails to recognise, that Amnesty International, the public, and indeed those with legislative responsibility, often fail to premise in drafting and implementing legislation and policy.

But surely you are talking about trafficking?! I hear ad nauseum.

One of the claims we hear from sex trade advocates, Amnesty International and others, including SIN here in Adelaide, is “We must not conflate sex work with sex-trafficking.” – “No one is suggesting we condone trafficking!”.

What makes this argument so ridiculous is that there is no different PROSTITUION MARKET for those who choose and those who do not. Supply and demand is what the sex-trade is all about.

While it is true that there are a tiny minority who claim to have agency, it is perhaps the single most important thing I can hope to impress on those of you who have taken the time to listen to me today – most have no choice and without demand the prostitution market collapses.

DECRIMINALISATION IN NEW ZEALAND, GERMANY, AND OTHER AUSTRALIAN STATES HAS LED TO DRAMATIC INCREASES IN THE DEMAND FOR, AND HARMS TO PEOPLE IN THE PROSTITUTION MARKET – WHY DID AMNESTY CHOOSE TO IGNORE THIS?

You have heard, and have at hand, submissions from my colleagues which show the recognised facts about prostitution.

Where ever prostitution is fully decriminalised, there is an inevitable expansion of the sex-trade. That is to say, it immediately increases demand. We know what happens in any profit-driven industry when demand increases, more of the ‘product’ is required, which in this case happens not to be fair-trade coffee or a hybrid type of apple, but mainly women and children. Where do these women come from? Are they being plucked from a free-range orchard of a special variety of sexually empowered women in the Barossa? No, I don’t think so.

You know, or have at hand information, that the full decriminalisation of prostitution in New Zealand has led to an explosion in prostitution, including international trafficking and the internal trafficking of particularly Maori and Pacific Islander girls. That a woman who was a member of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, who fought to have this very model implemented in 2003, ostensibly to protect ‘sex workers’ from harassment by the police and control of the pimps, has come out publicly to say it has failed.

She has come out to tell us, as have other women, some of whom are currently in the fully decriminalised sex-trade, that there is now less room for negotiation with johns, that full-service is given at the discretion of his wallet and the brothel- owner (whom Amnesty International now call ‘managers’.) and where women do not get to decide which sexual acts they must perform, nor which johns they see.

You have the data on Germany, and have heard it has become known as the Bordello of Europe- that over 80% in the sex trade are trafficked, that despite it being decriminalised, only 44 of the some 400,000-450,000 people in the sex-trade are registered. You have the evidence that where ever prostitution is fully decriminalised demand increases.

Amnesty International’s policy on “sex work’ has been heralded as having the rights of those being bought in prostitution as its premise. In a policy which began with input from a UK based brothel owner, drug and prostitution cartel funder George Soros and others, some of whom have sex-trafficking convictions, the sex-trade lobby and some in the public, cry out in agreement. Pimps, procurers and profiteers are categorised under “the operational aspects of sex-work.” Apparently, having these operators in our lives is a woman’s human right and fuels our ‘agency’. How is that for weasel words? Amnesty documents have revealed that their sex work policy only passed at the International Council Meeting in Dublin last year as a result of that very undemocratic act of branch stacking. Over 50% of Amnesty sections did not support their policy and over 200 civil society organisations opposed it in Europe alone opposed it.

NORDIC MODEL LAWS HAVE DECREASED TRAFFICKING AND DEMAND IN THE PROSTITUION MARKET HAS ALSO REDUCED ALONG WITH THE HARMS

I hope you understand, that the Nordic Model does not criminalise any person who chooses to sell sex. Rather it decreases the demand for an exponential trade in those who do not choose.

As the Nordic Model continues to gain momentum in countries, some of which rate most highly on sex-equality in the world, the multi-billion dollar sex-trade has it’s spin-doctor wheels set at 100 miles an hour; it is apparent that they are concerned about their profits, and organised crime and trafficking lose traction in countries where the demand for prostitution decreases. Is this not telling? They insist that holistic approaches like the Nordic Model drive prostitution underground. In fact, its increasing ubiquity in fully decriminalised models and behind the doors of legal brothels in decriminalised countries and states, is pushing the reality of prostitution so far underground – that in its supposed ‘normality’, we no longer truly see it.

The Nordic Model is a legislative approach which affirms the right of women to be protected from sexual violence within the sex-trade without fear of harassment and discrimination, provides much needed holistic exit programmes, and is monitored for the efficacy of this legal approach.

Further, it is creating a cultural shift in the attitudes of boys and men who previously bought into the myth of the ‘happy (or necessary) hooker’. When I use the word ‘necessary’ , I am referring to the malignant idea that somehow there needs to be a class of people for men to buy for sex or else they will rape other, ‘more important’ people. An ironic concept, considering the act of buying a human being for sex with impunity, feeds the very belief that enables rape culture to flourish in the first place.

There is an alternative, it is called the Nordic Model, and we must never underestimate how threatening this model is to pimps, traffickers and organised crime. Nor dismiss the increasingly positive outcomes of the Nordic Model in the places it has been implemented. This is a validation of its effectiveness.

WE HAVE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE REFUGES WHY DON’T WE HAVE EXIT PROGRAMS

You may also know that there is currently no impetus on governments anywhere in Australia to implement holistic exit programs for the majority who want to leave prostitution. The double standards operating between how we treat victims of domestic violence and those who are desperate to escape the sex trade is astonishing. Even the self-proclaimed ‘peak body’ for ‘sex workers’ dismiss those who want to leave.

The only ‘support’ one receives from these so-called ‘sex worker’ organisations (government funded by the way)- is to remain in the sex-trade, a trade which has a rate of PTSD the same as combat veterans, victims of torture and rape victims.

If you leave, you keep your mouth shut, if you don’t you are vilified and disrupted at every turn if you speak out about the reality of prostitution- we only need look at the behaviour from sex-industry lobbyists at the book launch of prostitution survivor’s testimonies happening now around the country.

Any new legislation in South Australia designed to prevent the violence and harms especially to women in the sex trade must have a whopping budgetary allocation to fund effective and fully resourced Exit Programs.

MY OWN EXPERIENCES SHOW THAT DECRIMINALISATION WILL ONLY INCREASE THE DEMAND FOR, AND HARMS TO PEOPLE IN THE PROSTITUTION MARKET

I entered the legal and illegal sex trade in Victoria at the age of 23 and left it after about one year. A limited amount of time to some, but a life-altering event for me. I was in the so-called ‘ higher-end’ of the industry. I have also had experience as a receptionist in a brothel that specialised in Asian women in NSW, a state which boasts, to its shame, a fully decriminalised model of prostitution.

I’ve had limited experience in street-prostitution, but can state unequivocally that whether on the street, as an escort, or behind the doors of a regulated, nicely turned out, tax-paying brothel, the men who buy women for sex are all varieties of the same man. No matter how special they think they are. It makes absolutely no difference where the location of the prostitution takes place, johns are johns, men who buy women for sex disrespect women.

I needed prescription medication from the first day I entered prostitution, and began to abuse alcohol after my shifts. This was the only way to dissociate from the daily horrors of this so-called “work”. I became plagued by panic attacks, as do many survivors of rape and sexual abuse. I managed to show up most days with a smile on my face, I told everyone who asked me how I could stand doing this, that it was all fine, and just another job, really. As a number of other sex-trade survivors have said to me, “I think if someone had come up to me when I was in prostitution and asked if I wanted to exit, I would have been afraid they meant to take away my livelihood, or that they were judging me.” Perhaps some of them were judging me, but the majority who asked, were not judgemental, only curious or caring. And as the sex industry was starting to be normalised and heralded as “A woman’s right to choose!”, many began towing the line of the left, that anything a woman does is empowering if she says so . Most of us had already drunk the kool-aid.

The stance seemed to me some kind of rebellion against the conservative right wing. An ‘in your face’ to those who wanted to control my body, say with threatening abortion rights. I was very naive, because of course, the men on the left certainly weren’t going to question their right to pay women for sex. And it was even better if they could believe that we like it. (The number of johns who believe they are doing women and even children a good deed by sexually exploiting us is at once so ubiquitous as to be banal and malignantly self-serving.) And the men on the Right whom I thought I was being so politically provocative towards, also bought me for sex, feeling equally entitled to use and sexually abuse me, while arguing against women’s bodily autonomy elsewhere.

When I speak to the dismal failure of legalised and fully decriminalised prostitution to protect me, some may imagine that if a few alterations to these models, without redrafting from the premise up, would perhaps have protected me, and will thus protect others now. However, when a model fails as badly as full decriminalisation of prostitution does, when its basis is so flawed, I argue that that model needs to be scrapped, and that a model be put in place which does not expand the trade, in what is mainly, though not exclusively, women and girls.

SUPPORT THIS LAW AND YOU WILL INCREASE THE HARMS AND THE DEMAND FOR THE PROSTITUTION MARKET

The proposed bill to decriminalise prostitution in South Australia is an open invitation to the ongoing human rights abuses of the sex-trade. It would be regressive and unconscionable to accept it. Research from Holland has found that the legalised prostitution market has resulted in mafia style racketeering. Do you really want to enact legislation that will add any extra burden to an already overstretched police force. South Australia was one of the first states to give women the right to vote, it would truly be a historical shame to be on the wrong side of history while the world moves ahead towards the abolition of systemic, sexual servitude and slavery alike.

I am asking you to think very carefully before imposing any new legislation which will entrench even greater normalisation of violence to women in Australian culture and impose this on future generations of women and children in the state of South Australia, or anywhere else.

Thank you for having me here today and for listening to my testimony.

26/08/16 – Sex industry lobby group disrupts Survivor book launch

MEDIA RELEASE

On Sunday 21 August, sex trade advocates tried to derail the launch, in Townsville, Queensland, of Prostitution Narratives, a recently published compilation of sex trade survivor testimonies.

NorMAC National Director and sex trade survivor, Simone Watson, said, ‘The tactics used by the pro sex trade lobby are becoming increasingly nasty, especially since the release of damning stories of violence in the Australian sex trade, as described in detail in Prostitution Narratives’.

Members of the public were invited to the book launch at a Townsville domestic violence service over three weeks ago, through advertising on social media.

‘The domestic violence service that offered the use of their conference room, as they do for many groups, was contacted by a representative of local sex industry group RESPECT, a couple of weeks ago. They said they disagreed with the event and demanded to leave their flyers at the venue. The host service agreed to accept the flyers’, said Ms Watson.

‘On Friday last week sex trade advocates visited the domestic violence service saying they had information to offer and demanded to put up posters of partly naked women in the sex trade “looking empowered”. While the host in no way discouraged their attendance at the event it was made clear that the posters would not be allowed because they would cause offence to survivors, and no offensive conduct would be tolerated’.

The book launch was subsequently held at another venue because the domestic violence service provider was not able to ensure attendees safety.

‘The response from the sex trade advocates was extremely threatening’, said Ms Watson. ‘They said they would not be responsible for the behaviour of their group members at the event’.

‘At the launch itself, former president of the Scarlet Alliance, Elena Jeffreys [see https://twitter.com/ElenaJeffreys?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor], stood on a chair and interjected while survivors were speaking. She attempted to harass and intimidate both survivors and other speakers at the event.

At the end of the event she approached the youngest survivor, most recently exited for the sex-trade and encouraged her to return to the sex industry citing great opportunities in NSW. The young survivor, who had first been pimped into the sex-trade at the age of four, felt sick and distressed by the approach.

‘This type of harassment, vilification and threats against survivors who give voice to their experiences is becoming increasingly common. Sex trade advocates are perhaps alarmed at the rising tide of people who are coming to understand the reality of the sex trade, and the harms it causes, especially to women and children’. Ms Watson said.

‘The sex trade lobby’s continuing aggressive attacks on survivors’ freedom of speech exposes it for the violent, abusive, manipulative and coercive trade it is. I also find the intimation of threat to a domestic violence service absolutely unconscionable.’ said Ms Watson.

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

MEDIA RELEASE

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

MEDIA RELEASE

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

MEDIA RELEASE

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

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 votes for policy calling for decriminalisation of prostitution