It’s time for outrage over sexual exploitation to spread to prostitution

A story has surfaced about a prostitute in Adelaide who alleged she was raped after a male client removed her condom without her consent during sex.

The woman said she was too scared to report the incident to police as prostitution is still criminalized in South Australia. South African police have since given assurances that “Sex workers should not fear prosecution for disclosing such reports” and that all sexual offenses would be investigated.

The woman, along with sex industry advocates, say history shows the urgent need to completely decriminalize prostitution in order to protect members of the industry.

The claim that decriminalization will improve the “safety” of prostitutes is a common cry from advocates of the sex industry. Similar claims have been made about Victoria’s review of prostitution laws last year, and were repeated again regarding the recently announced survey in decriminalizing prostitution in Queensland.

Speaking about the incident in Adelaide, Sex Industry Network Executive Director Kat Morrison said: The perpetrator of this crime is not held responsible and can continue to offend. We should be outraged that in 2021, in the era of the “me too” movement, we have women working in an industry who do not feel safe because the law does not protect them. “

Wait a second. A woman is raped and the answer is that prostitution should be removed from the criminal law so that she and other women can feel “safe” at “work” and not fear prosecution when they report assaults that have occurred. held during their “. jobs “?

A more sensible response would certainly be to recognize the inherently exploitative, dangerous and harmful nature of prostitution; that it is not “a job like any other”; and which by its very nature can never be made “safe”.

Morrison tries to rule out rape and sexual assault as being “rare in sex work” on the one hand, while also stating that it is “consistently underreported or not at all reported” on the other. .

A study of prostitution and trafficking in nine countries revealed that “for the vast majority of prostituted women around the world, prostitution and trafficking are experiences of stalking, domination, sexual harassment and assault.” A Canadian told researchers, “What rape is for others is normal for us.

The same study found that prostitution was multi-traumatic: 71 percent were physically assaulted in prostitution; 63 percent were raped; 89 percent of these respondents wanted to escape prostitution, but had no other options to survive. In total, 75 percent had been homeless at some point in their life; 68 percent met the criteria for PTSD.

What is scandalous “in the the era of the ‘me too’ movement is that this industry exists at all. Prostitution is rooted in gender inequality and treating it as “work” sends the toxic message that the sexual objectification, exploitation and commodification of women and girls is both normal and acceptable.

Tegan Larin, spokesperson for the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia and PhD student at Monash University, highlighted the “deep contradiction”.

We are saying two things: on the one hand, men must respect women and they have no right to women’s bodies, ”she said. But at the same time, this industry is saying, “You have a right as long as you pay a fee. “

Dr Melissa Farley, an American researcher and clinical psychologist who has published extensively on the harms of the sex industry, insisted that #MeToo must include prostitution.

She argues that the experience of survivors of the sex trade who experience sexual harassment and rape for money is in the same vein as vulnerable women who suffer the same for career advancement. The two are exchanging something of value for sex acts. Of course, there are different degrees of action in the two cases, but the male right and the objectification of the female body are the same.

The supremacist logic of the man who has more power than a woman – whether his boss, doctor, lawyer, professor, president – is the same as the sex buyer: want you, “says Dr Farley .

But as an anti-prostitution activist Evelina Giobbe Explain, “Prostitution is separate from anything that people tell me about too.” As the world condemns sexual exploitation, “a special caste of prostituted women is created to guarantee men unconditional sexual access to women.”

The Adelaide woman in question can “do this job by choice”, but how many more women have entered prostitution as a result of childhood abuse, poverty, grooming or coercion, rather than free choice? How many, once “choosing” to enter the industry, are then subjected to all kinds of violence and indignities? And how many women and girls – from all walks of life – are feeling the ripple effects of an industry that glorifies the abusive behavior and sexual subordination of women?

Law reform is undoubtedly needed in this area, but reform that will deliver real results for women in South Australia, rather than legitimizing the sexual abuse of women as “work”.

In this regard, the Nordic legislative model has already brought positive changes abroad in countries such as Sweden, Canada and France. Recognizing the inherently exploitative nature of prostitution, the model responds to demand by criminalizing only the buyer and provides outbound services for women who wish to leave the industry. In the decade and a half since its first implementation, the level of street prostitution has been halved in Sweden and traffic has decreased considerably.

As the parliament of South Australia considers legislative reform regarding prostitution, it has the opportunity to guide Australia in taking the innovative approach of the Nordic model and implementing laws that really protect women prostitutes.

It is high time to stop turning a blind eye to the “special caste of prostituted women” and address the issue of sexual exploitation in a coherent manner. We must work to end it all forms of sexual exploitation.

Rachael Wong is the CEO of Australia Women’s Forum.

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