[caption id="attachment_6854" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Left: ACL's Nick Jensen and Michelle Pearse give evidence at the inquiry"][/caption]

The ACL has given evidence at a prostitution inquiry in the ACT. ACT Director Nick Jensen and spokeswoman for women’s issues Michelle Pearse made headlines by giving evidence at the Legislative Assembly committee inquiry. They presented research to support the ACL’s stance that purchasing sex should be a crime in the ACT.

Prostitution in the ACT has remained an untouched subject since the regulation of the sex industry in 1992 when brothels became legal. Canberra’s sex industry was the first in Australia to be regulated, a process which has failed to protect sex workers from the abuses of the industry. The tragic death of Janine Cameron in a Canberra brothel in 2008 forced policymakers to admit that the system needed improvements.

The inquiry was established to hear evidence from a number of interested organisations on the effectiveness of the current law. The ACL representatives went beyond the pure facts of human trafficking and the dangers of the sex trade, but argued against the acceptance of normalisation of sex as a commodity in society.

Ms Pearse stressed the current ACT law treated sex as a legitimate business transaction but the truth is this transaction can simply never be fair because of the emotional and physical abuse that prostitutes suffer. Thus the sex industry cannot be treated like any other ACT industry.

ACL’s position was supported and strengthened by the evidence given by Melinda Tankard Reist from the group Collective Shout, Caroline Norma from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia, and Matthew Casey from the Catholic Archdiocese of the ACT.

The ACL’s submission to the inquiry was reported in the ABC radio and TV, Canberra Times and Win Television.