The Australian Christian Lobby has called on state governments to join the growing list of progressive jurisdictions in stopping the exploitation of women by criminalising those that pay for sex.

It follows moves, applauded by abolitionists in Australia and around the world, by Scotland’s ruling Scottish National Party, to back changes to prostitution laws by adopting what is known as the Nordic Approach.

At its annual national conference, the party passed a motion supporting legislation that will criminalise the purchase of sex and offers support for those wishing to exit commercial sexual exploitation.

Australian Christian Lobby spokesperson for the dignity of women, Wendy Francis, said the growing recognition that old approaches to tackling prostitution led to increased human trafficking, child prostitution and other crime, was building momentum for a new progressive approach to prostitution reform across the globe.

“This successful approach to prostitution, known as the ‘Nordic Approach’, focuses on reducing demand for commercial sexual exploitation and was pioneered in Sweden 16 years ago. It has now been adopted in Norway, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Northern Ireland and France,” Ms Francis said.

“Prostitution is exploitation, often violent exploitation. Women are subject to physical violence, rape and post-traumatic stress and are left dealing with significant consequences on their mental health and often fall into drug addictions.

“This resolution recognises the harmful effects on prostituted women and men and supports a workable and progressive approach that addresses demand and protects women from violence.”

The South Australian Parliament, which is examining South Australian prostitution laws, has heard from Swedish human rights lawyers and several feminist groups as well as prostitution survivors, all of whom urged the adoption of the Nordic approach.

“The South Australian Parliament has a unique opportunity to make significant inroads to reduce sex trafficking and exploitation in the State by adopting this well tested approach to prostitution reform,” Ms Francis said.

As momentum builds for the Nordic approach to be implemented in Australia, the Inaugural Australian Summit Against Sexual Exploitation will be held in Brisbane this May.

“No one should have to sell their bodies to make a living,” Ms Francis said.