The following letter was submitted to The Age by representatives of the women who have exited the sex industry. Unfortunately The Age editors chose not to publish it. So we are running it here.
It is unacceptable that sex industry survivors have been almost completely ignored in this review headed by a well-known sex industry lobbyist, and that none of us are allowed to see the final report.Read more
Sex industry preys on uni students: Campaigns Manager Caitlin Roper comments on Herald Sun investigation
Nordic/Equality Model needed to end sexploitation of women and girlsRead more
Israel is the tenth country to institute the abolitionist model of prostitution legislation to combat commercial sexual exploitation.
The “Nordic Model”, which originated in Sweden in 1999, recognises prostitution as a form of violence against vulnerable women that is driven by men’s demand. The Nordic approach therefore criminalises the purchase of sex, decriminalises the sale of sex, and offers exit pathways for individuals who wish to leave the industry. The progressive legislation has been adopted by Norway, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada and France, and is under consideration in Luxembourg and Italy.
According to the Welfare Ministry, at present there are 14,000 people involved in prostitution in Israel (including an estimated 3000 minors), with 76% who would leave the industry if they could. The average lifespan of a prostituted person in Israel is 46 years.
What will change under the new law?
The law will go into effect after 18 months, allowing time for the setup of rehabilitation centres for prostituted individuals, police training, and advertising and education about the new law.
From the Jerusalem Post:
When the law goes into effect, a first-time offender will be fined NIS 2,000 for hiring or attempting to hire a prostitute and NIS 4,000 for further offences. It also allows for pressing charges and fining the offender up to NIS 75,300. It offers the Justice Ministry the option of instituting other punishments, such as “John Schools,” meant to educate those who paid for sex.
The law does not only make frequenting prostitutes a criminal offence, it seeks to help people leave sex work and find other careers. It budgets NIS 90 million over the next three years for the rehabilitation of prostitutes.Considerable progress has been made under the Nordic Model.
The effectiveness of the abolitionist model
According to research out of the Nordic Gender Institute, the number of men buying sex has decreased from 13.6% in 1996 to 7.9% in 2008. Street prostitution in Sweden has halved while in neighbouring countries such as Norway and Denmark it is estimated to be three times higher. Police have intercepted phone correspondence between pimps and traffickers who now regard Sweden as an unattractive market and suggest Denmark, Germany or Holland (where prostitution is legal) as more profitable alternatives. Reportedly, there has been a cultural shift in Sweden where it is no longer considered acceptable to purchase another person.
Israel’s passing of the Nordic model is a significant victory for gender equality, and we hope that other countries follow suit. We cannot oppose trafficking of women and children around the globe and simultaneously support men’s “right” to sexual access to the bodies of women and girls in prostitution. Sex trafficking would cease to exist if men stopped buying women. Gender equality cannot exist while women remain commodities to be bought, sold and used by men.
10 Myths about Prostitution, Trafficking and the Nordic Model Dr Meagan Tyler
Most people recognise sex trafficking as a serious human rights violation, but what about prostitution?
There is sometimes a perception of sex trafficking and prostitution as two separate and unrelated issues, with trafficking being viewed as forced, and prostitution as freely chosen. However, the two are intrinsically connected- the demand for prostitution fuels sex trafficking.
A study of 150 countries found that legalised prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market, increasing human trafficking, and that on average, countries where prostitution is legal experience larger human trafficking inflows. Essentially, legitimising and normalising the sex industry leads to a rise in trafficking, as women must be brought in to meet increased demand.
German Detective Superintendent Helmut Sporer described the devastating impacts of legalising the sex industry in Germany, including worsened conditions for women, greater power to pimps and organised crime gangs and a significant increase in trafficking:
“What is very important here is the awareness of the fact that prostitution and trafficking are a joint phenomenon. There is no such thing as clean, good prostitution on the one hand and quite separate from this the bad trafficking with pimping on the other.”
One prostitution survivor highlighted some of the commonalities between supposedly ‘forced’ and ‘free’ sexual exploitation:
“Prostitution and sex trafficking are intrinsically linked: you have one because of the other. For the last 18 months of my time on the Burlington Road, I stood alongside a trafficked woman. She became my closest friend, and I have never seen a human being so broken down. The conditions in which she lived were inhumane, and, although we had arrived at the same place through different means, we were connected because we were bought, used, exploited, humiliated and raped by the same offenders. One night I would be bought, and, a few nights later, the same man would buy her. On a couple of occasions, we were bought together. That connection can never be broken by anyone at any time in any country.”
In 2003 Dorchen Leidholdt, Co-Executive Director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International summed up the connection between prostitution and trafficking as follows:
“Prostitution and sex trafficking are the same human rights catastrophe, whether in local or global guise. Both are part of a system of gender-based domination that makes violence against women and girls profitable to a mind-boggling extreme. Both prey on women and girls made vulnerable by poverty, discrimination and violence and leave them traumatised, sick and impoverished. Both reward predators sexually and financially, strengthening both the demand for criminal operations that ensure the supply.
“The concerted effort by some NGOs and governments to disconnect trafficking from prostitution- to treat them as a distinct and unrelated phenomena- is nothing less than a deliberate political strategy aimed at legitimizing the sex industry and protecting its growth and profitability.”
Pic: Dorchen Leidholdt
Sweden’s solution to prostitution and trafficking, the ‘Nordic model’
The Nordic model was implemented in Sweden in 1999 after extensive research, and it is based on the view of prostitution as a form of men’s violence against women.
The Nordic model criminalises the demand for sexual exploitation, decriminalises those exploited, and provides exit pathways for individuals in prostitution who wish to leave the industry. As Swedish lawyer Gunilla Ekberg explains:
“One of the cornerstones of Swedish policies against prostitution and trafficking in human beings is the focus on the root cause, the recognition that without men’s demand for and use of women and girls for sexual exploitation, the global prostitution industry would not be able to flourish and expand.”
Various human rights organisations, academics and prostitution survivors advocate for the implementation of the Nordic model, which has been adopted in a growing number of countries around the world, including Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France and Ireland.
Progress under the Nordic model
Since Sweden's legislation criminalising the buying of sex, considerable progress has been made. According to research out of the Nordic Gender Institute, the number of men buying sex has decreased from 13.6% in 1996 to 7.9% in 2008. Street prostitution in Sweden has halved while in neighbouring countries such as Norway and Denmark it is estimated to be three times higher. Police have intercepted phone correspondence between pimps and traffickers who now regard Sweden as an unattractive market and suggest Denmark, Germany or Holland (where prostitution is legal) as more profitable alternatives. Reportedly, there has been a cultural shift in Sweden where it is no longer considered acceptable to purchase another person.
As proponents of the Nordic model attest, we cannot oppose sex trafficking of women and children and simultaneously support the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children in prostitution. Sex trafficking would cease to exist if men stopped buying women. There can never be gender equality while women are commodities to be bought and sold.
Last week, in a ground-breaking win, the UK High Court ruled that forcing sex trade survivors to reveal past convictions was unlawful.
The ruling was handed down after a claim brought by three sex trade survivors who argued that the legislative scheme requiring them to disclose their convictions for prostitution discriminates against women and is contrary to the UK’s legal obligations regarding the trafficking of women.
All three of the claimants had been forced into the sex industry as teenagers, and as a result had multiple criminal convictions of soliciting and loitering. Claimant Fiona Broadfoot, who waived anonymity, recalled:
“I met a pimp aged 15 and two weeks later I was thrown into the violent and abusive world of prostitution. Rape became an occupational hazard but I was arrested, charged and criminalised for loitering for the purposes of being a common prostitute. After more than twenty years out of prostitution, I am still having to explain my criminal record to any prospective employer. It feels like explaining my history of abuse.”
Another survivor reflected on how the criminal convictions had impacted her life:
“It doesn’t matter what it is – trying to help out at my kids’ school or the local brownies’ coffee morning, trying to be a governor or a councillor, applying to education or training or employment – even volunteering in so many fields – with children, with the elderly, in care, with vulnerable people, with youth work, with social work – all need a DBS and then you get treated like some sort of pariah or sex offender! But it’s not fair – I never chose that life and I fought hard to get out of it but I’m always being pulled back to it as though that’s who I am but it’s not who I am.”
While the women forced into prostitution had spent their lives enduring the consequences of being sexually exploited, including the indignity of having to explain their convictions, the men involved were never arrested, Broadfoot pointed out.
“When I was arrested, the police referred to my pimp by his first name. Well, why didn’t they arrest him?” she said.
“Not one of those men who bought and used and abused me – even the ones who knew fine well I was a child when first put on the streets – has ever had to face the consequences of his actions.”
Karen Ingala Smith, the CEO of women’s charity nia, said,
“We feel strongly that these women should never have been convicted in the first place. Prostitution is symptomatic of women’s continued inequality and discrimination and a form of violence against women. These women were exploited and coerced and yet it is their lives, not those of their buyers and pimps, that were blighted with convictions. They should not have had to take up this fight, but they did and it is to the benefit of all those exploited in prostitution”.