Earlier this month, ACL's Queensland director Wendy Francis gave evidence at the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee's inquiry on strategies to prevent and reduce criminal activity in the state.
She spoke about the link between sex trafficking and legalised prostitution, and advocated for the government to consider adopting the Nordic model of prostitution, which criminalises the purchase of sex and targets the demand of prostitution.
"Legalised prostitution has a known correlation to increased illegal prostitution, illegal brothels, sex trafficking and under-age prostitution, and it is also related to higher rates of other types of crime, including organised crime...involving drugs, overstaying of visas, sexual servitude and exploitation of minors. Several brothels in Sydney and three in Melbourne have been found to be associated with international trafficking and sex slavery," Ms Francis argued.
At the inquiry, she made four requests:
- That the government would make it illegal to purchase a trafficked person for sex
- A consideration would be made of the potential the Nordic approach has to reduce crime in Queensland
- That the government would consider introducing exit strategies for trafficked women
- To examine ways of reducing illegal prostitution in the state, which is currently around 90 per cent of the industry
Ms Francis said research showed women are looking to exit prostitution.
"Research in New Zealand would show that more than two-thirds—and some would even say four-fifths—of women who are in the prostitution trade want out but they do not see a way out. Once they have been used to that degree, particularly those who are there against their will, they feel worthless. They do not believe that there is an out for them...I feel very sure that there are NGOs who would work alongside the government in this area," she said.
Ms Francis told the committee about her experience visiting Sweden earlier this year with a parliamentary delegation to investigate the Nordic prostitution model which targets the buyers of prostitution.
Ms Francis said the effect of the prostitution law has changed attitudes to violence against women.
"The normative effect of a woman being available as an object for somebody to purchase has changed in their psyche. Over 10 years we have seen the normative effect of there being much more respect for equality in their country in the same way that it has taken decades to make it normative now for us not to smoke because we see it as a health issue."
Ms Francis said the Nordic approach encourages vulnerable trafficked persons to seek help.
“[trafficked women can get help in Sweden] because they are seen as the victim. They are seen as the person who has had a crime committed against them. In Sweden we are finding that the prostitutes who are operating—and it is illegal to purchase sex—are never prosecuted; they are only helped whereas here in Brisbane 90 per cent of our prostitution is illegal. So a girl ringing and saying, ‘I’m being abused by somebody who is prostituting me’, the guy—I am going to say guy because it usually is—will find that there is absolutely no problem at all; he is seen to have done nothing wrong. However, it is the girl who is actually the one who is going to be prosecuted,” she said.
You can also read ACL’s written submission to the inquiry by following this link.
Upon her return from Sweden, Ms Francis spoke to ACL’s Katherine Spackman about what she learned on the trip. Listen to the interview here.