Speaking out against the exploitation of women and children: Collective Shout cited in NSW Modern Slavery Act report
Report cites Collective Shout and Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist
Following its 2019 Inquiry into the Modern Slavery Act 2018 and Associated Matters, the New South Wales Legislative Council tabled its final report last month. The Act makes new provisions regarding child sexual exploitation material through the addition of the following offenses to the NSW Crimes Act 1900:
a new aggravated offence in relation to using a child to produce child abuse material, and a new offence of providing information to assist a person to avoid detection for a child abuse material offence.
We welcomed these new provisions which will strengthen capacity for holding offenders to account for sex abuse crimes committed against children.
The report contained several references to Collective Shout’s submission and evidence presented by Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist who appeared for us at the Inquiry hearing last November, including the following quote from our submission:
New South Wales law must ensure that any person who is facilitating such horrific acts as the abuse on demand of babies and other young children, wherever the abuse might be occurring, through a digital platform operating in or accessed from New South Wales, is subject to an offence, whether the person administering or assisting to administer the digital platform does so intending it be used for that purpose or after becoming aware that it is being used for that purpose fails to take all reasonable steps to prevent that use.
Contrary to our recommendations against watering down the Act in relation to digital platforms the amended Bill now excludes the previously proposed new criminal offence of administering a digital platform used to deal with child abuse material. Conflicts between Federal and State law was cited by the committee. Several contributors to the Inquiry objected to this deletion, noting that its inclusion was stronger than the provisions of Commonwealth legislation to hold digital platforms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) accountable for hosting child sex abuse material. We shared concerns that its exclusion will provide loopholes for such offenders. As Melinda Tankard Reist pointed out at the hearing:
The child victim is a part of the slavery supply chain. Combating modern slavery has to include combating the global epidemic of this pay-per-view torture of children in the growing trade of predators commissioning the live sexual abuse of a child viewed via their computer screens and facilitated by their ISPs. ISPs and telcos including Telstra, Optus, iiNet and TPG are providing the infrastructure for the live streaming of the abuse of children to be possible. ISPs are part of a chain which contributes to the distribution of child sexual exploitation material but they have not been brought to account.
Melinda Tankard Reist at the Inquiry hearing, 4 November 2019
In her verbal evidence, MTR commended other contributors to the Inquiry, including International Justice Mission Australia (IJM) and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia (CATWA), as well as the expert advice of UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland. We were pleased to see Hyland’s six-point strategy for ending modern slavery featured in the report, which highlights the need for all nations to mandate - through legislation - a child-exploitation - and human-trafficking-free internet, as well as the outcomes of the proposed legislation which, according to Hyland, include “leading businesses into generating ethical profits free from exploitation and modern slavery”. We anticipate this outcome will have positive consequences for the broader community - women and girls particularly who stand to benefit from corporates who are unwilling to profit from exploitative activities.
While not mentioned in the Final Report, we noted CATWA’s significant observation that the Act’s proposed minimum $50 million annual turnover threshold for mandatory supply chain reporting will fail to capture agents of the sex industry - an industry in which women are at greatest risk of trafficking and slavery. In its submission CATWA concluded:
A requirement for sex industry businesses to report would be a first step in the fight against modern slavery.
We strongly support this recommendation and would advocate for its inclusion in any future amendments.
Read our full submission to the Inquiry here.
Read the full Parliamentary Hearing transcript here.
Read the NSW Legislative Council's final report here.
The high cost of Pornhub's 'free' offer
Apparently there’s no end to the lengths the porn industry will go to to legitimise its exploitative practises. Now with the world in the grips of a pandemic, Pornhub is showing that not even a global health crisis or its victims are off limits.
This week, in the name of slowing down the spread of COVID-19, Pornhub boasted about donating 50,000 surgical masks to the city of New York and expanding its 'free premium' offer for ad-free content worldwide. The offer prompted UK MPs to call for urgent action to get control of online porn.
This type of publicity stunt - one that attempts to mesh objectification and commodification of women's bodies with 'charity' - is not new. Earlier this year several porn stars came out in the name of supporting Australian bushfire victims. For example, an LA-based Only Fans (subscription-based content service) star claimed to raise one million dollars for victims of the fires. The claim is dubious, given the woman’s method of ‘donation’ was to retrospectively give other donors a digital nude image in exchange for proof of their donations. How do we know those donations would not have been made regardless of her offer? Her claim of ‘raising’ funds is unsubstantiated and in the end, her efforts appeared to be nothing more than a plug for the porn industry.
During the same crisis, a Cairns hotel promoted a bikini car wash in the name of bushfire charity. Men were able to pay for ‘sexy girls to wash their car’ - all for a ‘good cause’.
Are fundraising and donation activities that exploit women really charitable?
The interconnected sex and porn industries are rooted in malevolence: women (and children) are the means to men’s sexual gratification and profit, not ends in and of themselves. Trading off of the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies, agents of the industries - like Pornhub - legitimise misogyny and exploitation.
Acts of 'charity' are normally seen as benevolent. But when these are borne out of industries that exploit women, they should be rejected and condemned. What are Pornhub's COVID-19 'donations' other than profits derived from women's bodies, at the cost of women's humanity and worth, transferred to another party?
History shows that women and girls are more vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse during natural disasters and emergencies. In the present COVID-19 pandemic, the UN has pointed to previous health crises to highlight the 'exacerbated sexual exploitation risks for women and children', while the Executive Director of UNICEF warned that right now, the risks of exploitation and abuse for children are 'higher than ever'. These facts must inform our interpretation of so-called-charitable acts carried out by exploitative agents like Pornhub which prey upon and profit from women's and children's vulnerabilities.
Attempts to connect acts of ‘generosity’ and ‘sacrifice’ - the essence of philanthropy - with the porn industry result in aberrations. Philanthropy is about promoting the welfare of others. The porn and sex industries are underpinned by the idea that women are objects to be bought and sold, used and abused. When porn industry proponents - individuals and corporates that profit from the use and abuse of women - promote themselves as charitable, we must call them out - each and every time.
(Last year we called out sex shop Honey Birdette for its use of exploitative marketing tactics - pinkwashing - in the name of breast cancer awareness and charity.)
Pornhub hosts countless videos showing the real-life rape and torture of women and girls for men's entertainment. There is a cost to this, as Andrea Dworkin explained:
When your rape is entertainment, your worthlessness is absolute. You have reached the nadir of social worthlessness. The civil impact of pornography on women is staggering. It keeps us socially silent, it keeps us socially compliant, it keeps us afraid in neighborhoods; and it creates a vast hopelessness for women, a vast despair. One lives inside a nightmare of sexual abuse that is both actual and potential, and you have the great joy of knowing that your nightmare is someone else’s freedom and someone else’s fun.
In the midst of a global health crisis in which women and children are at increased risk of exploitation Pornhub is fuelling and feeding the worldwide demand for exploitation material. It has even twisted COVID-19 public health advice to 'stay home and help flatten the curve' for its own purposes. Meanwhile, Pornhub is steepening the curve of abuse and crimes against women and children.
There is nothing 'free' about Pornhub's 'Premium' offer. Women and girls will pay the very high cost of it - with their safety and well-being; with their very lives.
Giving is good. But exploitation of women and girls is an indefensible trade-off for supporting other people in crisis. Philanthropy - truly charitable giving - cannot be pornified. And porn - inextricably linked to women's harm - is never charitable.
Help #ShutDownPornhub and hold its executives accountable for aiding trafficking: Sign and share the petition here.
Australia’s first Modern Slavery Bill passed through the NSW Legislative Council earlier this month. MLC Paul Green, who lead the charge for the new legislation praised the NSW state’s upper house for their support:
“In Australia there is well over 4000 cases of human trafficking with many remaining hidden in plain sight. The evidence is in,” he said after the bill passed.
The Modern Slavery Bill 2018 confronts slavery and slavery-like practices such as servitude, forced labour, debt bondage, organ trafficking, deceptive recruiting as well as forced marriage and childhood brides. If the new law is passed by the Legislative Assembly, it will require businesses with a turnover of more $50 million to monitor their supply chains and report to a new Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
We were pleased to be able to provide evidence of the existence of sex trafficking in Australia (see our submissions for more information):
Campaigning group Collective Shout provided evidence that [women] are being trafficked into Australia, citing the case of a brothel in the Sydney suburb of Willoughby that forced workers on student visas to work 20-hour days to pay off so-called “debts”.
Collective Shout also pointed to a US State Department report finding that in Australia: “Women and girls are sometimes held in captivity, subjected to physical and sexual violence and intimidation, manipulated through illegal drugs and obliged to pay off unexpected or inflated debts to their traffickers.”
Online classifieds website Backpage have this week shut down their adult advertising section of their site after being accused of facilitating child trafficking.
As reported by the Washington Post "The decision came shortly after a Senate panel released a report alleging Backpage concealed criminal activity by removing words from ads that would have exposed child sex trafficking and prostitution."
Backpage.com’s CEO, Carl Ferrer, has been arrested booked on felony pimping charges.Read more
On 2 December 2015, the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement initiated an inquiry into human trafficking.
This inquiry lapsed at the end of the 44th Parliament.
On 12 October the committee re-initiated this inquiry in the 45th Parliament.
All correspondence and evidence previously received for this inquiry has been made available to the new committee. This means that submissions already provided to the committee about this issue do not need to be re-submitted.
The committee intends to refer to the evidence received during the 44th Parliament, in addition to any new evidence received.Read more