By Jacqueline Gwynne
The sex trade in Victoria, Australia, has been fully legal since 1994. This has led to a huge demand for prostitution and a 500% increase in illegal brothels and sex trafficking. Today, in Melbourne there are 89 legal brothels and over 500 illegal ones.
Melbourne is now a major destination for sex tourists. Those dodgy looking “Thai Massage” places along Sydney Road with the tacky flashing lights, blacked out windows that are open seven days are more than likely illegal brothels. Is this what we want in our city?
Prostitution is said to stop men from raping women. If the sex trade was an actual solution, why is sexual violence on the increase worldwide?
Since the legalisation of prostitution, you would expect there to be some regulation of the industry in Victoria. There isn’t. The sex trade is legal in Victoria and Queensland and I experienced this dark, seedy world as a receptionist over a decade ago. The venue was outside of Melbourne CBD and marketed itself as a high-end brothel. There were panic alarms in every room, which were never used, as abuse and sexual assault are just accepted as normal in this industry.
Until this experience, I was in favour of the sex trade and porn. Then I saw what was really involved. No woman chooses this life, no matter how much she says she does. It is a last resort out of desperation, poverty and lack of real choice.
Internet pornography is fuelling this industry. I was subjected to porn playing on large screens in every room, so I couldn’t escape it.
The men wanted exactly what they saw in the porn, even the way the women looked – very young, blonde, big fake boobs and no pubic hair. This was mainstream porn, but the degradation and abuse of women is sickening. Porn is where many men get their sex education and boys are now exposed to it on average from age 11.
Sex buyers, also called johns, are driving the sex trade. The only way to stop sex trafficking is to stop the demand for men buying sex. Men do not need sex; they will not die if they don’t have it. It is not a human right. There is an unhealthy preoccupation with sex and sexuality in our culture. Sex is not as important as we’re led to think.
The johns don’t care whether the woman is there by choice. They do not care if she is underage or trafficked; in fact, they probably prefer it because she is more vulnerable and he can get away with more.
There is a solution to this sex trade, the Nordic Model, which has been in place in Sweden since 1999. The Nordic Model has been adopted in Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France and, recently, in the Republic of Ireland. The legislation implemented in Sweden has had a huge cultural impact. There is more respect for women.
When the sex trade is normalised it leads to a sense of sexual entitlement in men; that women exist for their sexual pleasure. Men relate to women as sexual objects and not full human beings. Sexual entitlement is the root of rape culture. When prostitution is legalised, a hostile and dangerous environment is created for every girl and woman in the community. If one group of women is up for sale, that is how all are viewed.
The Nordic Model, also known as The Sex Buyer Law, works by cutting the demand for prostitution by criminalising traffickers, pimps, brothel owners and sex buyers. Under this law, women selling sex is not against the law but buying sex is. Profiting from the sexual exploitation of women and children is a criminal act.
Before the Nordic Model was introduced in 1999, it was the woman who got a criminal record, which meant she could not go on to other employment. A criminal record makes it hard, if not impossible, to find a regular job and is one big reason women get trapped in the industry.
The Nordic Model clears criminal records for selling sex so that women are able to move on with their lives. Women are provided support, education, rehabilitation, child care, and financial and housing assistance to get out of the industry. All the factors that drive women into prostitution are dealt with. It begins with a widespread public education campaign calling for a fairer society. A minimum income is guaranteed for all, the gender pay gap needs to be eliminated, as well as student fees and debts.
Sex buyers receive a fine – or in the most serious cases, jail time of up to a year – if caught buying sex. They are provided with therapy and support for sex addiction to prevent them returning to their old habits.
Since the Nordic Model was introduced, attitudes towards buying sex have shifted rapidly in Sweden in a positive direction. The proportion of men buying women for sex has been halved. It is now considered a very uncool thing to do and only absolute losers buy women for sex.
Murder statistics for prostitutes are 40 per cent higher than for the general population of women. In Sweden, there have been no recorded murders of prostitutes by a client since 1999. Street prostitution has been reduced by 50 per cent and as a result there are fewer street disturbances and less criminal activity. Sex trafficking has decreased, as has the recruitment of new women. Violence towards prostituted women has decreased and rapes are down.
The Nordic Model is proven to work and other countries are following suit. Let’s make Australia next. There can be no equality between men and women as long as prostitution is sanctioned. Prostitution is men’s sexual slavery of women. No one argues that slavery is a good thing and there is nothing positive that you can say to justify prostitution.
We must end the demand for the sex trade in order to end sex trafficking. The Nordic Model is the only way this can be done.
Talk to your local politicians about the Nordic Model and why we need it, for the betterment of our communities and to enhance the well-being of all women and girls.
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in News Weekly, the magazine of the National Civic Council in Australia.
Jacqueline has written articles for Collective Shout and Nordic Model Now. Her story is included in the book Prostitution Narratives, edited by Melinda Tankard-Reist and Caroline Norma, published by Spinifex Press. Jacqueline is a board member and secretary for Pink Cross Australia.