The long-awaited report into the shocking case of a 12 year old Tasmanian girl, who fell through the cracks of the state’s child protection services and was prostituted to more than 100 men, was yesterday made public by the state’s Commissioner for Children, Paul Mason.

The report not only detailed the failures of state authorities to protect the vulnerable child, but came with the welcome recommendation that “the Government review the Sex Industry Offences Act 2005 and in doing so actively consider the option of prohibiting the purchase of sexual services other than for certified medical reasons and actively consider the contribution of any amendment to the safety and sexualisation of children”.

Whilst the case itself is horrific, this recommendation provides some positive impetus to tackle the associated issues of prostitution and the sexualisation of society. It is a strong platform for the Tasmanian Government to explore the Swedish model of prostitution control, which treats prostitution as a form of abuse against women and prosecutes the purchaser of sex.

Under such a law, men who purchased sex with a 12 year old would not be able to walk free as the Tasmanian men did in this case because ignorance of the age of the prostitute would no longer be an excuse.

The recommendation is particularly timely, with the Government due to review and amend the Sex Industry Offences Act. The Act, which was originally meant to liberalise prostitution in Tasmania, ended up tightening prostitution laws in the state after the intervention of ACL to bring the voice of former prostitutes into the debate.

ACL is pleased to see that in its response to the Children’s Commissioner’s report, the Government has accepted the relevant recommendation, “noting there are wide-ranging community views on the issue”. It says that “A discussion paper on further law reform in this area will be released shortly”. A genuine exploration of the Swedish system should now definitely form part of the process.

The report of the Commissioner for Children can be found here, whilst the Government’s official response is also available for download here.