The Queensland Labor Government’s decision to decriminalize prostitution will only increase the exploitation and harm of young women.
While prostitution, like murder, can’t be fully eradicated, no good comes from governments elevating it to a career opportunity for young women like any other.
Feminists such as Sheila Jeffreys, author of The Industrial Vagina, argue that the use of the female body for the gratification of men is not like any other career to which a young woman should be encouraged to aspire.
She argues that “states that legalise this industry are acting as pimps, enabling male buyers in countries in which women’s equality threatens male dominance, to buy access to the bodies of women from poor countries who are paid for their sexual subservience”.
In response, Family First will run candidates at next year’s Queensland election who will campaign for the Nordic Model of prostitution reform, which decriminalises prostitution but criminalises buyers of people.
The current laws in Queensland, introduced in 1999, stipulate that prostituted people, which are overwhelmingly young women, must work alone or as part of a tightly regulated legal brothel in an industrial area away from homes and children.
The Queensland Law Reform Commission was commissioned by the Palaszczuk government to recommend further liberalising prostitution.
It made 47 recommendations, including removing sex work licensing, something former Labor Premier Peter Beattie argued was put in place to protect young women.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said that the government is “broadly supportive” of the recommendations but will need to consult with stakeholders.
“We support decriminalization, I’m here today to announce we are decriminalizing sex work,” she said.
“But we will need to work through each of the recommendations to work out how best to implement the intent of the Law Reform Commission, and we need to do that with key stakeholders, particularly local governments around local planning laws.”
Fentiman said the government hopes to introduce legislation by the end of the year.
This is a betrayal of Labor’s 1999 Prostitution Act and Labor’s promise that it would not lead to the slippery slope of full de-regulation.
The Nordic Model is seen by many as a better option for protecting young women from exploitation.
This model decriminalises the sale of sex but criminalizes the purchase of sex, putting the focus on reducing demand for prostitution rather than punishing the prostitutes.
Under this model, prostituted people are provided with support services and can access legal protections.
The Nordic Model has been successful in countries such as Sweden, Norway, Iceland, France and Canada where it has helped to reduce the demand for prostitution and helped counter human trafficking.
In contrast, the decriminalization of prostitution can lead to an increase in the exploitation of young women.
It can also lead to the normalization of prostitution, making it more difficult to prosecute those who engage in exploitative behaviour.
Prostitution is not a victimless crime, and young women who are forced into this industry deserve better protection than they currently receive. The Family First Party’s campaign for the Nordic Model at next year’s state election is an important step in protecting young women from exploitation and ensuring that they receive the support they need.