Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Addressing demand in prostitution, which political party has the courage to do it right in Australia

*Pic: ‘No exit’, textile, Joanna Pinkiewicz

First published July 11

While European countries have been moving towards “society without prostitution” and gender equality, Australia and NZ has been experimenting with various legislations but failed to address and diminish demand for it.

While the focus of legislation has always been on the prostituted (vast majority of who are female), the buyers have not been scrutinised, but instead buying has been normalised, in effect signalling that buying another person’s body is ok in our society.

While prohibition laws are punitive and stigmatising to the women in prostitution, an approach that targets the buyers, managers, brothel owners, advertisers and promoters of prostitution is an approach that addresses the mechanics of the now global sex trade.

Reports of police and immigration raids in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales demonstrate that legal operations hide illegal activities, such as drug trafficking and trafficking of minors and adult women and that the demand for sex with prostituted women is high. So high, that over the last few years Melbourne has seen large growth in suburban brothels masquerading as massage parlours. [1]

While supporters of the Nordic Model in Australia, Asia and NZ have been advocating and campaigning for change on a grassroots level, the political parties have been silent on the issue of demand, avoiding it due to unpopularity, making it categorically a non-election issue. In Europe, Canada and very recently in the US the change has been led by the left in the name of equality and social justice [2].
In Australia and NZ the left is backing the sex industry and sex worker lobby groups, contributing to normalisation and growth of the industry.

It comes as a surprise to see that in April this year a motion has been put forward by the Legend Park branch of the Victorian Liberal Party to support the Nordic Model [3]. The Victorian Liberal Party has been mainly concerned with illegal brothels spreading to the suburbs and growth in street prostitution, but are they really going to show commitment to funding exit programs, drive change in police culture and enforcement of anti pimp and anti buyer laws? Let’s be clear, the Nordic Model is not a law that aids the free market and profiteering. Can we trust the Liberal Party to be leaders in social justice for women? Is the Victorian Liberal Party going to consult with experts on the subject, the survivor led organizations such as SPACE International, CATWA or the Nordic Model Australia Coalition to plan, finance and correctly roll out the legislation?

Simone Watson from Nordic Model Australia Coalition said this about the Victorian Liberal Party announcement to support the Nordic Model:

“My concerns around the Victorian Liberal Party endorsement of the Nordic/Abolitionist Model were that their first proposal was not in fact the Nordic/Abolitionist model at all.

The initial draft was a serious red flag to me as it only focussed on criminalising buyers in illegal brothels. It is already illegal to buy sexual access in illegal brothels. Yes, it aimed to decriminalise the prostituted women in those same brothels, but offered no exit programs and no changes to legislation across the board. So my reading of it was that it would be doomed to failure. I do not think my concerns around such a premise are unwarranted. It failed to take in to account the inefficacy of prohibition laws on prostitution; it failed to capture the intrinsic and essential point of the abolitionist approach. Their proposal was still rooted in the dangerous ground of prohibition. And prohibition fails. Some saw this as at least a start, however, the Nordic/Abolitionist Model can not be undertaken half-baked. To do so would be incredibly dangerous and anathema to the law they claimed to be endorsing. To their credit they have since recognised that their initial proposal was incomplete.
Do I trust them? Well, I have some trust, especially as they took considerable time to listen to survivor’s and our allies’ concerns on this. They certainly have taken more time than the Greens or Labor, which is why the Green Party USA should be commended for their determination to support the abolition of the sex trade and all major parties here should take note of that. But here I would like to point out, that the condemnation of Green’s Party Australia member Kathleen Maltzahn for her turn from supporting the ‘nordic model’, was in my opinion, an unnecessary attack on a woman who was already being criticised mercilessly by pro sex-trade advocates because of her support of the *actual* Nordic Model prior to this Vic Libs proposal. She was also attacked within her own party, and other political parties. The anger at her was misdirected. I understood immediately that what the Victorian Libs were initially proposing was hugely problematic and saw her refusal of the ‘nordic model’ as the Vic Libs initially proposed it, as reasonable considering my own concerns around it.

For myself, working with political parties as a sex-trade abolitionist is fraught because I often do not agree with many of their other policies. For example the Liberal’s alliance with anti-woman organisations, those who are against abortion and so on. But if a party is truly dedicated to abolishing the sex-trade, extinguishing the ongoing commodification of women, and women’s rights to be free from sexual exploitation, then I will support them on that particular policy. Again it is hard to trust any particular party on this issue, but if they are willing to amend their initial proposal and actively endorse the Nordic/Abolitionist model as it is intended in full, I support that unequivocally.”

Simone Watson will be a guest speaker at an upcoming conference: Australian Summit Against Sexual Exploitation (ASASE) on the 27-28 July in Melbourne.

Tasmanian activists Isla MacGregor and Bronwyn Williams urge the Tasmanian Greens to take lead and review their support for full decriminalisation, stating that the recent US Green party change of heart about fully decriminalising prostitution is an incentive to act locally and be a leader for women’s rights and justice. [4]

Tasmania is experiencing a boom in interstate and international tourism along with a rise in property prices. The Nordic Model would help to protect girls and women from entering exploitative arrangements and trafficking that economic booms trigger as we have seen in New Zealand. New Zealand has been identified as a human trafficking destination, mainly of Asian and Pacifika women for prostitution to enter both legal and illegal operations. Full decriminalisation saw several men such as the Chow brothers make millions from prostituting women. [5]

To take the lead on this issue in Tasmania requires courage and foresight, something that is seriously lacking. Is the Tasmanian Liberal Party going to take notice of what their Victorian colleagues are proposing? Or, perhaps the Tasmanian Greens will examine findings from Europe about the effects of the policies and programs and follow suit.

[1]. A. Capone, 2017, Hundreds of illegal brothels masquerading as massage shops, karaoke bars and beauty salons in Melbourne, Herald Sun
[2] H. Pringle, 12 April 2016, France Abolishion Day, The Dream of a Society without Prostitution, Opinion ABC online
[3] R.Smith, Sex workers slam proposal to introduce Nordic prostitution model in Victoria, 21 April 2018, news.com.au
[4] I.MacGregor, B.Williams, 6 July 2018, An Open Letter to Cassy O’Connor, Rosalie Woodruff and Greens Party members …, Tasmanian Times
[5] A.Gibbson, 30 May 2013, Chow brothers open new brothel, nzheral.co.nz

*Joanna Pinkiewicz is a teacher and an activist living in Tasmania. She is a Greens Party member and a researcher for the Nordic Model Australia Coalition.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Joanna

    July 26, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    Thank you Robert, for your interest and research in the matter.

    The problem with the legislation in Tasmania is that the police force does not stop brothel owners and brothels from operating. Police do not enforce the law to investigate trafficking and pimping of Asian women which is advertised in weekend newspaper and on-line. Hotels in Launceston and in Hobart make money out of Asian women, as well as those who bring them there, and those who charge for advertising, and of course those who buy them.

    I spoke to Ivan Dean on this matter http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/pimp-porn-inquiry-needed-in-tasmania/ and he admitted that police know where and how existing brothels operate. I’m not suggesting raiding the brothels and persecuting the women. I’m talking about enacting the law to stop profiteering and mistreatment from pimps and punters. Tas police does not enforce its own laws. Another matter is funding and running of exit programs for those in the sex trade and education campaign that changes the way we view buying people for sex.

    I greatly appreciate your interest in this topic. Addressing the mechanics of the sex trade, and its historical exploitation of women, is a most important political and cultural act to change things for women.

  2. Robert Rands

    July 16, 2018 at 12:36 am

    I’m pleased to see another Tasmanian Greens’ activist taking the time to write an article supporting the Nordic Model

    Does the model currently apply in Tasmania? From a look at the legislation, it appears to me that work off the street is legal, on the street is illegal and buyers and third parties are illegal. This fits generally within the Nordic Plan template. But Tasmanian law makes no mention of social support services for prostitutes who wish to quit their work and gain an income in some other way. Still, there are similar elements. Someone with experience in reading and interpreting the law could help us here.

    Plainly, Taswegia is not Sweden, whose social democracy provides organised support for prostitutes and punters who may wish to change their behaviour.
    The Nordic Plan has its drawbacks, even in Sweden. One added element thrown into the mix is the development of Airbnb, which has been shown to be used in Sweden and elsewhere for short-term workplaces which move from one area to another, and are thus able to stay ahead of enforcement.

    The UK, in their review of exploitation in England and Wales, ‘Behind Closed Doors’, also expresses concern about Airbnb and Boooking.com: “Organised crime groups move women around as a way of controlling women and evading the police.” (p17).

    The review recommends “The Government should establish a national register of landlords and issue guidance on preventing sexual exploitation for the short-term letting sector.” (page 24) and that seems like a good idea to me. If I had an Airbnb rental property I would not want it used for such business.

    I can almost hear some readers asking me: what’s wrong with working as a prostitute? It is a matter of personal opinion. I would not want either of my children, or any of my loved ones, working as a prostitute. Even for the hypothetical successful entrepreneur, health and safety risks are very high. That’s not where I want my loved ones to be.

    The easily Googled statistic is that 80% or more of prostitutes, by far the majority being women, would rather do something else to support themselves and their dependents. How does that statistic support a free-enterprise model of a majority of successful industry entrepreneurs in the community?

    It’s interesting to look back on the free enterprise, complete decriminalisation scenario. It has been operating for some time in several places, but only in 2015 was it advocated by Amnesty International. What really surprised me about this advocacy is that it was supported by the globally prestigious medical journal, The Lancet. An editorial there, published in August of 2015, advocates for full decriminalisation. It says:
    “Conflation of sex work with trafficking is common but it ignores the evidence and clouds the issue of safety for sex workers – female, male, or transgender adults who exchange consensual sex for money and choose their profession without coercion.”

    A letter in reply, authored by Taina Bien-Aimé, CEO of Coalition against Trafficking in Women, argues that “Conflation of sex work with trafficking is common but it ignores the evidence and clouds the issue of safety for sex workers – female, male, or transgender adults who exchange consensual sex for money and choose their profession without coercion.”

    Bien-Aimé argues strongly against the idea of conflation: ” … we vehemently disagree that the wholesale decriminalisation of the sex industry, which effectively decriminalises pimps, brothel owners, and sex buyers, will protect the health and human rights of people engaged in selling sex. Linking the sex trade and sex trafficking is not conflation; instead it points out the inextricable connection between a means and an end.”

    And that was the historical end of the discussion in the pages of The Lancet.

    Ms Bien-Aimé’s letter in The Lancet references a letter, signed by over 600 individuals and groups, to Amnesty International.
    The authors of that letter argue, “Growing evidence shows the catastrophic effects of decriminalisation of the sex trade.” and she gives some statistics, as they were available in 2015.

    I worry that legalisation has served us poorly in Australian states like Victoria. My interpretation of the research is that the Nordic model offers more safety to prostitutes and poses more risk to buyers, third parties and organised crime. A range of readable, peer-reviewed articles arguing resonant viewpoints are available here: ‘Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence’

    I hope all political parties in Australia endorse the Nordic system as a means of minimising the harm caused by the sex industry, and work toward its effective implementation.

  3. Geoff Holloway

    July 15, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    The United Tasmania Group (UTG) is in the process of adopting the ‘Nordic’ model because of: (1) the direct link between sex trafficking and prostitution; (2) in order to support the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in persons, especially Women and Children (known as the ‘Palermo Protocol’); (3) the emotional suffering (PTSD) of women in the sex industry; and (4) in order to attempt to address pornography that is one of the main drivers of the denigration of all women.

    Geoff Holloway, Secretary, UTG.

  4. Joanna Pinkiewicz

    July 12, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you Matt. I will continue speaking about it within the Greens’ supporters. I do know some begun to look at the Nordic Model, and more generally the sex trade industry and how it works, but haven’t yet mastered the courage to vocally speak against through fear of being criticised.

    Courage and clarity is needed to understand and discuss the mechanics of prostitution and the sex trade, how it works and who and under which legislation makes the most money from it, as well what happens to women in prostitution after a time of being pimped and bought.

    We need an honest account and appropriate laws to prevent exploitation. At the moment these are invisible to most.

  5. Matt Holloway

    July 12, 2018 at 5:02 am

    Thanks for continuing to speak out on this issue Joanna.

    As a human rights activist and someone active in the Tasmanian Greens, I’m so glad you are there pushing them to a genuinely progressive stance in this issue. It seems ironic that the Greens are currently speaking out about men’s attitudes towards women, particularly comments from patriarchal dinosaurs in the parliament such as David Leyonhjelm.

    Yet they line up alongside these very same conservative sexists to defend men’s rights to purchase sex for fear of being seen as anything other than a libertarian neo-liberal defending a (primarily) women’s right to overcome poverty through selling sex.

    The left’s stance on this human rights issue in Australia is particularly skewed against women in favour of sexual buyers and sex industry profiteers. Surely you can’t address inequality by backing legislation that further entrenches it,

  6. Annie

    July 11, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Yes, thankyou Joanna and Simone, for the wise words.

    This week’s theme for NAIDOC week is “Because of her we can”. All the best therefore to Ms Simone Watson for her leadership at the forthcoming conference Australian Summit Against Sexual Exploitation.

    Wake up everyone. Yes, it’s fine to rally to end live exports in sheep, however how about some concern for the human rights of women and children?

  7. Andrea

    July 11, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Interesting. It seems that those states that have yet to fully legalise or decriminalise prostitution are really forceful about pushing it through right now.

    It is a very timely call to action in this article! I wish more people were listening and that the political parties were braver.

    Thank you Joanna!

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