SOUTH AUSTRALIA: by Josh AlstinNews Weekly
New prostitution bill does nothing to protect women
, June 22, 2013
The latest bill to legalise prostitution in South Australia was introduced into the state’s lower house on May 16 by the Labor member for Ashford, Stephanie Key MP.
The Hon. Stephanie Key MP.
Her Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2013 is her latest attempt at prostitution reform and, as the title suggests, is chiefly about legitimising prostitution as an acceptable form of gainful employment.
In her previous bills before parliament, Ms Key has included at least some provisions for exclusion zones to ensure, for example, that brothels are not allowed to operate near schools. However, her latest bill does not even do this, and fails to address genuine community concerns about public safety.
The wording of the bill seems to imply that there is really nothing to be concerned about.
In her second reading speech, Key asserted, without offering satisfactory evidence, that her bill would, if enacted, somehow help protect prostitutes from “blackmail and being violently assaulted”. She assured parliament that her bill would give prostitutes “recourse to the law in cases of rape, sexual assault… which they are generally unable to access at the moment”.
However, the bill provides no such guarantees. Every South Australia already enjoys the protection of the law from such offences. To announce that the bill will give prostitutes “recourse to the law” is merely gloss and window-dressing. The state’s existing criminal law has never deprived anyone of recourse to the law.
Ms Key’s introduction to her bill has quoted, as authoritative reports on the likely outcomes of legalising prostitution, some very out-of-date studies on the subject, some of them 20 or 30 years old.
In doing so, she has overlooked many more up-to-date studies which reflect significant advances in society’s understanding of the problems and social costs associated with prostitution.
Thus Key is depending for her arguments on outdated information to justify an outdated and discredited approach to prostitution. The most recent report she refers to is from 1995.
Since that time, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and South Korea have implemented genuine, beneficial and lasting reforms of their laws, which have succeeded in drastically reducing the incidence of prostitution and in helping to protect vulnerable women.
The bill before the South Australian parliament effectively abandons women to a high-risk occupation in the name of “removing the stigma” attached to prostitution.
However, this approach has been challenged by a former Dublin prostitute Rachel Moran, in her recently-released book titled Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2013). In it she discredits the popular myth of the “happy hooker” and the Pretty Woman redemption story.
Moran, who started selling sex when she was only 15, writes from her own painful experience and exposes prostitution for the harmful criminal activity it really is.
Her first-hand knowledge of the physical and mental harm suffered by prostitutes demonstrates that legalising prostitution does not solve the problem.
She says: “The truth is that prostitution is always an affront to human dignity. It is psychosexual bullying. Women in prostitution are not seen as equal humans….
“There’s no glamour in prostitution. These are men getting off on hurting women. People who think that prostitution is anything else are lying to themselves” (The Irish Times, April 13, 2013).
Her warning about the grave consequences of legalising prostitution has been corroborated by the recent experience of foreign prostitutes working in Sweden. An undercover police officer in that country found that prostitutes were “much more likely to be subjected to violence in countries where prostitution has been legalised”.
Men who buy sex, rather than the prostitutes they use, have now become targets of the Swedish police.
Says the undercover officer: “They [the purchasers of sexual services] know they have to behave or they may be arrested. They don’t want to use violence.”
This has been amply confirmed by the recent experience of 40 women in Sweden, mostly from Romania, who had been forced into prostitution, but who last year “had sufficient confidence in the Swedish criminal justice system to testify against the men exploiting them” (The Independent, UK, March 26, 2013).
Ultimately, the Australian public need to ask themselves the question: is prostitution a public good or a public harm? The evidence from overseas is overwhelming.
To those who think that the need for sexual services may be justified, for example, for the lonely or disabled, Rachel Moran says this: “We hear a lot about these lonely men or disabled men who ought to have their sexual needs catered for. If prostitution isn’t harmful, why don’t we introduce a lottery system where the women of Ireland take their turns to do their civic duty?” (The Irish Times, April 13, 2013).
Josh Alstin is South Australian state officer of the National Civic Council.
Rachel Moran, Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2013).
Kate Holmquist, “The myth of the happy hooker”, The Irish Times, April 13, 2013.
Joan Smith, “Why the game’s up for Sweden’s sex trade”, The Independent (UK), March 26, 2013.