Queensland Premier prioritises reforms that will further entrench sexual exploitation

Queensland Premier prioritises reforms that will further entrench sexual exploitation

The Queensland Parliament returned on Tuesday, and Steven Miles is using his first sitting week as Premier to introduce reforms that will further entrench the sexual exploitation and traumatisation of vulnerable women, making clear his priorities ahead of the state’s upcoming October election.

The Australian reports, “Steven Miles will use his first parliamentary sitting week as Queensland Premier to introduce new laws to raise the state’s emissions reduction target and decriminalise sex work as Labor moves to shift focus from its record on youth crime.” (emphasis added).

The proposed reforms to further decriminalise prostitution in Queensland (like those in NSW) are supposedly “aimed at reducing violence and exploitation”.

But decriminalisation will not - and does not - achieve this, because the issue is with an inherently exploitative, violent, and dehumanising industry, that by its very nature can never be made “safe”.

What decriminalisation will do, however, is perpetuate the notion that women’s bodies are commodities to be bought and sold and that their sexual exploitation is both normal and acceptable.

In 2022, Women’s Forum Australia made a submission to the Queensland Law Reform Commission opposing the decriminalisation model of prostitution law and instead advocating for Nordic Model legislation (also known as the ‘abolitionist’ or ‘equality model’), which has been adopted by countries such as Sweden, Denmark, France and Canada. As we explained in our submission:

“Pioneered in Sweden in 1999, the Nordic model presents a practical, holistic, women-centred approach to prostitution. Its two key goals are to reduce the demand for prostitution and promote equality between women and men. The model addresses the demand for prostitution by penalising the buyers and pimps who exploit women, while decriminalising prostituted persons. It works to reduce the size of the industry and to minimise the harms suffered by its victims, to contradict the damaging messages it sends to women and girls, to fund exit services to help people to leave the industry, and to retrain police officers so they understand that prostituted women are victims, not criminals.

In the decade and a half after it was first implemented, the level of street prostitution was halved in Sweden and trafficking declined dramatically. In addition to reducing the numbers of women in prostitution, the model also “challenges the culture of acceptability when it comes to men paying for sex”. Indeed, Julie Bindel notes that in Sweden, “a whole generation has grown up recognising that prostitution is a human rights violation, and no man has the right to pay for sex”.”

Last year, South Australian Liberal MP Nicola Centofanti introduced a Nordic Model style bill to reform her state’s prostitution laws in a way that is genuinely pro-woman.

“It is by far the case, not the exception to the rule, that many women who find themselves in the sex trade do not do so by choice...This bill challenges the power inequalities found within the sex trade,” said Ms Centofanti during the introduction of her bill.

The bill has received cross-party support, with South Australian Labor MP Clare Scriven declaring, “The equality model tells men it is not acceptable to treat women as products to be bought and sold, recognising that all women are devalued when women are viewed as sexual commodities.”

This is the kind of reform Miles and his Labor Government should be making to Queensland’s prostitution laws. Instead, they have chosen a legislative model that will promote the commercial interests of the sex industry at the expense of its victims.

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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