How do we curb the demand for Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is often the result of various push and pull factors; men's demand for prostitution and pornography has been identified as the number one factor.

Prostitution has been recognised as one of the worst expressions of the unequal division of powers between men and women. Prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes represent a serious obstacle to both social equality and gender equality.

There is overwhelming evidence that prostitution is inherently harmful and dehumanizing, and that it fuels sex trafficking.

This link needs to be recognized legislatively and socially.

We need to move toward practical action to reduce the demand for prostituted women.

We need to criminalize the purchase of sex in Australia.

In Sweden it is understood that any society that claims to defend principles of legal, political, economic, and social equality for women and girls must reject the idea that women and children, mostly girls, are commodities that can be bought, sold and sexually exploited by men

Ekberg

We think that prostitution is one of the worst expressions of the unequal division of powers between men and women and this does not only bear on the prostitutes or those who buy the prostitutes’ services but the whole of society. This is why we are now suggesting a criminalisation of the sex buyers. We are convinced that it will change attitudes and decrease violence in society. We are convinced that it will also decrease prostitution.

Anne Maria Holli 2004

It is estimated that 50 to 90% of prostitutes do not practice the profession voluntarily (SPIEGEL, 2013) and those who do have come into it as a last resort. 

According to Dr Melissa Farley,  the average entry age into prostitution is 13; 65% to 95% of prostituted women have been sexually assaulted or raped before they entered prostitution; and 75% of women in prostitution are or have been homeless at some point in their lives.

Further to this, Dr Farley has found:

  • nearly half of prostitutes were victims of incest;
  • 83% of prostituted women are addicted to substances such as heroin, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol;
  • 54% of prostitutes suffer from very severe depression;
  • 42% of prostitutes had at least committed one suicide attempt, many suffering from psychological disorders;
  • 70% to 95% of women in prostitution working in the street have been physically assaulted during the exercise of prostitution;
  • 41% of women were attacked in brothels;
  • 60% to 75% of people were raped while in prostitution; and
  • 85% and 95% want to leave prostitution, but have no other means of survival. 

These statistics brings into question the voluntariness or choice a person has to becoming a prostitute.

Dr Caroline Norma, lecturer at RMIT and a member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia notes that if legalising prostitution hasn't eliminated the problems of the sex industry in Australia, it is time that Australia considers the Nordic Model.

Practical measures and policies that would address human trafficking:

Can a Voluntary Prostitute really exist?

- 80% of prostitutes have experienced child sexual abuse or other significant forms of trauma;

- Many prostitutes are from vulnerable people groups;

- Many prostitutes are coerced into doing things they do not want to do;

- Many prostitutes fear for their lives or safety while conducting their ‘work’;

- Many prostitutes feel they have no other options as a means of work and providing for their families.

Prostitution is preying on the vulnerable:

“There is no difference between trafficking and prostitution when innocent women and children are being harboured for the sole purpose of the commercial sex trade. Exploiters and pimps are always violating the rights of these victims who are pursuing their freedom to escape from harm. In reality, no female desires to be a part of this nightmare. Most of us were incarcerated in basements, underneath casinos and in abandoned warehouses.

Our desperate cries for help were silenced by the walls, which separated us from the rest of the world. …. we, the victims, were in perpetual fear for our lives.”[2]

Demand needs to be addressed:

“….both legalisation and decriminalisation permit Prostitution to be recognised as legitimate work and pimps and brothel owners as legitimate business operators.”[3]

Sweden’s groundbreaking legislation criminalising the buyer of sexual services is based on the foundation that the system of prostitution is a violation of gender equality. Sweden’s legislation officially recognizes that it is unacceptable for men to purchase women for sexual exploitation, whether masked as sexual pleasure or ‘sex work’. The law moves away from targeting the person in prostitution, to the users.

In Sweden it is understood that any society that claims to defend principles of legal, political, economic, and social equality for women and girls must reject the idea that women and children, mostly girls, are commodities that can be bought, sold and sexually exploited by men” – Ekberg.

The Swedish government criticises countries such as Australia that allow legal prostitution on the basis that it generates demand for the criminal activity of traffickers and organised crime. Swedish bureaucrats understand that prostitution and trafficking are two sides of the same coin. In 1999 they made pimps, traffickers, and prostitution ''clients'' liable for criminal prosecution.

As stated by Nyamko Sabuni – the Swedish Minister for Integration and Gender Equality:

“It is unacceptable that people – mostly women and children – are being purchased and exploited like merchandise. Victims of human trafficking and prostitution lose power over their lives and their bodies. They are robbed of the chance to enjoy their human rights.”

The Nordic Model, or the criminalisation of buyers allows women to seek care, support, and report if a client is violent. 60% of women who enrolled in the Swedish social programs – where the Nordic Model originated - were able to leave prostitution, and the stigma was shifted from the act of selling sex to the act of buying sex.

Sweden appears to be the only country in Europe where prostitution and sex trafficking has not increased.

In July 2010, the government of Sweden published an evaluation of the law’s first ten years of operation.

The findings were strikingly positive, with evidence that street prostitution had been cut by 50%; with no evidence that the reduction in street prostitution had led to an increase in prostitution elsewhere.  

The legalised policy approach to prostitution, is known to: 

  1. increase trafficking and violence against prostitutes;
  2. lead to a cheaper, more widely available “commodified trade” - the price per act decreases- devaluing the person as a prostitute and as a human being;
  3. give law enforcement permission to turn their backs on this issue, making it is extremely hard to regulate the sex trade;
  4. give pimps and johns free reign over their victims and almost no legal recourse for the exploited; and 
  5. give traffickers more legal ways to exploit women and children - including exploiting the vulnerable so that they live without any enforceable housing standards, proper healthcare, wages –without basic rights for personal subsistence.

Failed Legalised models:

The leglaisaiton of prostitution results in the normalising of the intrinsically harmful treatment of the exploitation and practice of violence against women and children.

  • The Victorian jurisdiction is evidence that the legalized model does not work. Estimates from police and the legal brothel industry put the number of illegal brothels at 400 in Victoria, four times the number of legal ones, and legal brothels are being used as fronts for illegal operators and criminal activity. Brothel owners have been caught bribing local government officials to warn them of license checks.
  • As a New South Wales Police Officer who investigates sex trafficking observed on the effects of decriminalisation: “Although the intention was to provide a safe working environment for sex workers the reverse has occurred in that pimps and brothel operators were empowered and enriched”.
  • After New Zealand’s decriminalisaiton leglisation was introduced, the police noted that “as a result of legislative changes, Police…have less contact with the sex industry, and there is no systematic intelligence gathering and collation,” making it more difficult to discover abuses and exploitation.
  • In Germany in 2007 the government found that there “are no viable indications that the [law] has reduced crime,” and that the law “has as yet contributed only very little in terms of improving transparency in the world of prostitution.”  Over one-third of prosecutors noted that legalising prostitution “made their work in prosecuting trafficking in human beings and pimping more difficult.”
  • At a recent UN event in New York, women rescued from prostitution criticised UN agencies and Amnesty International for trying to legalise prostitution insisting legalisation would lead to more girls being trafficked, and transform pimps into legitimate businessmen.
  • Women rescued from prostitution have criticised UN agencies and Amnesty International for trying to legalise prostitution insisting legalisation would lead to more girls being trafficked, and transform pimps into legitimate businessmen. “What the hell are they [Amnesty International] thinking,” said Rachel Moran, a former prostituted woman from Ireland. Rachel Moran is the author of 'Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution'.

The failed legalized approach is also assessed in various international academic reports, such as: Unprotected: How Legalizing Prostitution Has Failed - Der Spiegel Online.

The alternative to the legalised approach:

Prostitution has been recognised as one of the worst expressions of the unequal division of powers between men and women. Prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes represent a serious obstacle to both social equality and gender equality.

Scandinavia has taken another path since 1999, with Sweden, then Norway, Iceland and Finland in punishing the act of buying sex in order to reduce the demand for trafficked persons and the exploitation of women and girls through prostitution. There the discussion was approached from a gender equality perspective and prostitution was banned. Prostitution is viewed there as violence against women and against gender equality, therefore being punishable.

Chapter 6 s8 of the Swedish Penal Code states: "Anyone who promotes or encourages or improperly exploits for commercial purposes casual sexual relations entered into by another person in exchange for payment is guilty of a criminal offence and shall be sentenced for procuring to imprisonment for at most 4 years"

Within the first five years of what is now referred to as the Nordic Model, human trafficking in Sweden was halved, with traffickers declaring it was not viable for them to do business in Sweden any longer.

“In Sweden it is understood that any society that claims to defend principles of legal, political, economic, and social equality for women and girls must reject the idea that women and children, mostly girls, are commodities that can be bought, sold and sexually exploited by men” – Ekberg.

The Swedish government criticises countries such as Australia that allow legal prostitution on the basis that it generates demand for the criminal activity of traffickers and organised crime. Swedish bureaucrats understand that prostitution and trafficking are two sides of the same coin. In 1999 they made pimps, traffickers, and prostitution ''clients'' liable for criminal prosecution.

As stated by Nyamko Sabuni – the Swedish Minister for Integration and Gender Equality:

“It is unacceptable that people – mostly women and children – are being purchased and exploited like merchandise. Victims of human trafficking and prostitution lose power over their lives and their bodies. They are robbed of the chance to enjoy their human rights.”

The Nordic Model, or the criminalisation of buyers allows women to seek care, support, and report if a client is violent. 60% of women who enrolled in the Swedish social programs – where the Nordic Model originated - were able to leave prostitution, and the stigma was shifted from the act of selling sex to the act of buying sex.

Dr Caroline Norma, lecturer at RMIT and a member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia notes that if legalising prostitution hasn't eliminated the problems of the sex industry in Australia, it is time that Australia considers the Nordic Model.

Under the Nordic Model, violence against women decreased substantially.

This shift in social norms in our society away from seeing the victims of trafficking as criminals, but rather criminalizing the demand for the commodification of women and girls is key if we want to curb human trafficking and reduce the prevalence of sexual violence against women.

Traffickers no longer think it’s worth doing business in Sweden.

The Nordic Model has now become the international best practice model in curbing human trafficking, and was considered by the Canadian, French and Irish parliaments in 2014.

Israel is in the process of adopting the Nordic Model.[1]

Many reviews of the Nordic System are available, including an analysis of its success and revealing its limitations here:

  1. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia
  2. The official report from the Swedish government, or the
  3. Abolish Now blog.

The need for an exit program across Australia:

The success of the Nordic Model is not only attributed to the women’s equality approach that declares the exchange of money for sex is violence against women - criminalising the demand for the commodification and exploitation of women and girls, but it is also in the shift in social norms towards equality and rights of all women and girls.

The success of the Nordic Model which originated in Sweden is also attributed to the community education campaigns, the training of all law enforcement personnel on these new standards, and the provision of exit programs for women who want to exit the industry.

The provision of exit programs for women and girls working in brothels, on the streets, in escort agencies or the like, providing them with psychological, social and employment rehabilitation is crucial for their reintegration of ex-prostitutes back in to the normal work force, and back into normal society.

This would require a provision of rehabilitation and accommodation, assistance writing resume, the provision of internships, a counselor or psychologist and a job place mentor.

This approach to the protection of women from harmful exploitation is particularly necessary for those prostitutes with children.

The role and effectiveness of Commonwealth law enforcement agencies in responding to human trafficking;

From my personal dealings with Police in various States, and with the Australian Federal Police, I am aware that the training provided for State Based Police on human trafficking – how to spot it, and what to do about it – is few and far between.

It is recommended that all police officers undertake human trafficking training, so as to be able to identify and respond to the major forms of trafficking, including sex slavery, labor trafficking, child brides, organ harvesting, and trafficking through adoption methods.

A perfect example of the need for all police officers to be trained in identifying human trafficking includes:

Example: If a police officer responds to a domestic violence complaint made by a neighbor, but does not notice the bride in domestic and sexual slavery from that one encounter - that matter is never reported and followed up. This contact with police may be her only opportunity for help from the outside world.

It is also recommended that a Sex Industry Coordination Unit (SICU) is set up in every State and Territory, with the Australian Federal Police Special Units in Anti Trafficking and Child Protection overseeing the program following the precedent of the Victorian Police’s SICU taskforce.

Trafficked girls are often re-trafficked interstate once they arrive in Australia.

WE know that this is part of the modus operandi of Pimps to try and evade detection.

Australia requires a coordinated effort not only through our law enforcement agencies, but also through a National perpetrator/trafficked victim database, so we can track the perpetrator’s movements.

Australian men and pedophiles are known as sex tourists to many countries around the world, including being convicted of pedophilic crimes in 25 countries outside Australia. Australia needs a stronger sex offenders register, that does not allow pedophiles to travel abroad and abuse children internationally.

Chemical castration may also be a consideration, following the human right compliant example of Canada’s dealing with sex offenders deemed unable to rehabilitate by their psychologists.

As Fighting for Justice Foundation provides training to NGO’s and law enforcement, I would be happy to provide such training to law enforcement across Australia on these matters from a legal human right compliant perspective, with an Austral-Asia regional focus.

The effectiveness of relevant Commonwealth legislation and policies:

Our legislation needs to move towards a more Victim-centred approach: 

A victim-centered approach is one recognizing that prostitution is not about the commodification of sex and of people, but of gender inequality.

‘It is not possible to protect the health of someone whose ‘job’ means that they will get raped on average once a week’.

Women who work in prostitution exhibit the same incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of being beaten, hit, kicked in the head, strangled or having one’s head slammed into objects which have been documented in torture survivors and battered women.

 

The Nordic model- reducing trafficking trough the criminalisation of trafficking:

Chapter 6 s8 of the Swedish Penal Code states:
"Anyone who promotes or encourages or improperly exploits for commercial purposes casual sexual relations entered into by another person in exchange for payment is guilty of a criminal offence and shall be sentenced for procuring to imprisonment for at most 4 years"

GLOBAL IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SWEDISH MODEL

Law and policy makers worldwide are being influenced by the success of the Swedish model.

The Swedish results should be contrasted to neighboring countries such as Denmark where there are no legal prohibitions against the purchase of persons in prostitution.

Denmark has a smaller population than Sweden (roughly 5 ½ million to Sweden's 9 million), yet the scale of street prostitution in Denmark is three times higher than in Sweden.

Solutions to the criminality of trafficking: 
The legalisation of prostitution is a failed policy in practice. Legalisation of prostitution results in the normalising of the intrinsically harmful treatment of the exploitation and practice of violence against women and children.

Our policy must not only criminalise the act of exchanging money for sex, seeing it as a gender inequality issue, but it must also seek to collaborate with neighbouring jurisdictions to ensure traffickers cannot abscond prosecution.

Won’t criminalising brothels drive it underground?

Victoria experienced a 300% growth of illegal brothels in one year once prostitution was legalized.

It is estimated that those trafficking women and children into Australian brothels have made approximately $A1 million dollars per week.”

(Mary Sullivan, What happens when prostitution becomes work? An Update on Legislation of Prostitution in Australia (N.Amherst, Massachusetts: Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, 2005), 11).

ATTACKING TRANS NATIONAL TRAFFICKING:

Human trafficking is a global problem, one that requires global and interregional collaboration, as well as a sector-comprehensive plan of attack that involves administrative agencies, NGOs, researchers, opinion makers and the general public.

Organized crime is always finding new ways and tactics to carry out trafficking with human beings.

Therefore, it is crucial that the international collaboration among countries continue and be further developed in terms of preventive measures, legal and social aspects regarding this complex of problems, and transnational cooperation. In this regard, measures to raise levels of expertise and knowledge sharing among countries play vital roles.

It is important to consider the following international and national instruments:

  1. Australia has ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC). In addition in 2005 Australia ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children supplementing the Convention on Transnational Crime - the Protocol – which is an international reference point for the criminalisation of human trafficking, in all its forms globally.

The Preamble to the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Person and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949 Trafficking Convention)states” prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in person for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and the worth of the human person and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community”.  

It mandates party states to punish any person who: procures, entices, or leads away, for purposes prostitution, another person, or even with the consent of that person; exploits the prostitution of that person, even with the consent of that person; keeps or manages, or knowingly finances or takes part in the financing of a brothel; and knowingly lets or rents a building or other place or any part thereof for the purpose of the prostitution of others.

These offences are subject to prosecution and punishment, including extradition.

The 1949 Trafficking Convention also requests party sates to take steps to prevent prostitution and to rehabilitate its victims, and to be vigilant of immigration and emigration channels that might give rise to traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution.

  1. Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, signed in 1979 by the United Nations states: State Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.

Article 1 of the same Convention declares: “For the purposes of this Declaration, the term "violence against  women" means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering  to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

Article 2 Violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, the following:  (b)   Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment  and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere,  trafficking in women and forced prostitution.

The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women calls on states to “suppress all forms of traffic in women and the exploitation of prostitution”.

  1. Articles 4 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for the prohibition of all forms of slavery and servitude, declaring that no one is to be subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and its supplementary protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography is also to be taken into account.

  1. In 2013, the Australian Parliament passed two Acts intended to enhance Australia's legislative frameworks around human trafficking and slavery. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Act 2013 (Slavery Act) and the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Act 2013 (Vulnerable Witness Act) amended the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Criminal Code) and the Crimes Act 1914 (Crimes Act).

Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 contain offences for human trafficking, slavery, and slavery-like practices including servitude, forced labour, deceptive recruiting for labour or services, debt bondage, and forced marriage.

  1. The National Action Plan to combat human trafficking and slavery 2015-19 provides the strategic framework for Australia’s response to human trafficking and slavery over the five years from 2015 to 2019, recognises that Human trafficking and slavery are serious crimes that fundamentally curtail freedom, making them amongst the most grave of human rights violations. No country in the world is immune to these crimes.

The National Action Plan recognises the dignity and worth of each person, and the obligation we have as a nation to work against those who seek to benefit by restricting another’s freedom. It affirms the importance of preventing these practices before they occur; detecting and investigating possible circumstances of human trafficking and slavery; ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice; and protecting and supporting those who have experienced human trafficking and slavery, including by providing access to an effective remedy.

One the most effective catalysts for stimulating global commitment to fighting human trafficking is the annual Trafficking in Persons Report (“TIP Report)[1]

Each year, the U.S. State Department publishes the TIP Report which provides a tier ranking and narrative discussion of the anti-trafficking efforts (or, lack thereof) of 188 countries.[2]  A country’s ranking is based on its efforts to meet “minimum standards” for the elimination of human trafficking.[3]  Countries that fall in the lower tier rankings risk the loss of certain financial aid, as well as opposition to requests for financial assistance before international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.[4]  Whether viewed as a carrot or a stick, failing to meet the minimum standards have real consequences for countries with economies that rely on financial assistance.

Perhaps Australia should have a similar TIP report in relation to our region, and the Nations we give aid to – ensuring that the donor-receiving country is doing all it can to implement anti trafficking measures.

[1] US Department of State: ‘Trafficking in Persons Report’ – available for download: http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2015/index.htm

[2] Preparation of the TIP Report was originally authorized by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, Division A – Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Section 103.

[3] The “minimum standards” are set forth in 22 U.S.C. § 7106.

[4] The actions that may be taken against governments that fail to meet the minimum standards are identified in 22 U.S.C. § 7107.

[1] http://www.rsy-netzer.org.uk/images/stories/Proposed_legislation.pdf-accessed 9 September 2015. .

[2] Cited: www.stophumantraffickingny.org/survivors‐story/ 27/09/2010 

[3] “Coalition Against Trafficking in Women,” Coalition Against Trafficking in Women - Mary Sullivan.

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