Sex trafficking: NT will be at risk

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Distressed woman
Vulnerable women at risk in Darwin, say advocates. PHOTO: CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review

An increase in human trafficking to Darwin from Asia will be one of the consequences of changes to regulation of the Northern Territory’s prostitution legislation, anti-trafficking campaigners have said.

Legislation presented to the Parliament and due to be decided in October could change the regulation of prostitution in the Territory where prostitution is legal but only for sole traders. David Ridley, founder of the Priceless Movement – a group which opposes both the existing laws and the proposed changes – said that the regulation of an industry predicated on social disadvantage is problematic.

“We don’t want to reinforce and legitimise an industry predicated on disadvantage. Research show that upwards of 90 per cent of sex workers have experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, various addictions and socio-economic disadvantage,” he told The Catholic Weekly.

“You’re not going have sex work in a Year 12 career expo, and research shows that a significant portion of women in the industry are vulnerable.”

According to the Priceless Movement, the evidence linking the legalisation of brothels to the rise in demand for sexual services and a consequent rise in sex trafficking is irrefutable. It proposes the so-called Nordic Model which originated in Sweden, as a significant step forward in dealing with problems associated with prostitution.

A group including students from Sacred Heart Academy and Presentation Academy in Louisville, Ky., listened to a speaker during the seventh annual prayer service for the victims of human trafficking April 30, 2019, at Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville. PHOTO: CNS/Ruby Thomas, The Record)

John McCarthy QC, head of the Sydney Archdiocese Anti-Slavery Taskforce, said that an increase in the availability of sex work will lead to an increase in human trafficking. “As a generality, the increase in prostitution is invariably associated with an increase in human trafficking.”

The 2019 Sex Industry Bill, brought to the floor of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly by Acting Attorney General Gerry McCarthy in September is intended to update The Prostitution Regulation Act of 1992.  “The Prostitution Regulation Act 1992 prevents sex workers working legitimately except under certain strict circumstances – either on their own or through an agency – which restricts workers accessing support, exposing them to risk of harm that other workers are not exposed to,” Mr McCarthy told the NT’s Parliament in September.

The proposed changes in the 2019 Bill aims to treat sex work as a legitimate industry with the protections, regulations and taxations associated. The Nordic Model, first introduced in Sweden in 1999, recognises prostitution as the perpetration of sexual violence against women; it decriminalises those working as prostitutes while criminalising those who seek to pay for their services as well as providing exit-strategies for those trapped in prostitution.
The Territory’s Legislative Assembly will decide the outcome in October.

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