MEMBER of WA’s Legislative Assembly Peter Abetz is calling on the State Government to become the first jurisdiction in Australia to adopt the Nordic approach to addressing the problem of prostitution.
The Liberal Member of Southern River told a gathering of almost 100 people at the Gosnells Golf Club on June 16 that the Nordic Model – which makes it illegal to buy or attempt to buy sexual services – is the only way forward in eradicating prostitution and human trafficking.
Mr Abetz told The Record feminists once argued that it was a woman’s right to sell her body if she chose to do so, but such a view is no longer prominent.
“The feminists in Europe have had a major change of heart, and that change of heart is spreading throughout the world,” he said.
“They now see prostitution as vulnerable women being exploited by the men who buy sex. The only reason a woman enters prostitution is because she is desperate for money, and thinks she has no other means of meeting that need.”
Mr Abetz explained that the new mindset led to the development of a different way of dealing with prostitution – the Nordic Model – which first became law in 1999 in Sweden.
“To attempt to sell sexual services is not a criminal offence,” Mr Abetz said. “The person trying to sell sex is seen as a desperate person, who is in need of assistance. The person buying sex from desperate people is seen as exploiting their vulnerability, and therefore criminalised.”
The parliamentarian recently spent three weeks in France, Sweden and South Korea, where he studied the laws relating to human trafficking and prostitution and their impact on the community.
He said the past 15 years had witnessed a great change to social attitudes towards prostitution in Sweden. Additionally, Norway and Iceland have adopted the Nordic Model, and other European nations are in the process of passing similar legislation.
“It is the only model that has resulted in reduced prostitution and human trafficking,” Mr Abetz said.
“The tide throughout the world is turning. Nations are increasingly facing the reality that legalising or decriminalising prostitution is a failed social experiment.”
Mr Abetz said his interest in prostitution legislation was initially sparked when it was legalised in Victoria in 1984.
“In 1984, there were, according to the police, approximately 50 brothels operating in Victoria. Today, after 20 years of legalised prostitution there are over 100 legal brothels and over 400 illegal brothels, not to mention the escort agencies and solo operating prostitutes.”
In the 1990s Mr Abetz assisted Linda Watson, founder of Linda’s House of Hope, to provide counselling to women trying to leave the sex industry in Perth. He said the experience gave him an “insider’s” perspective on the industry.
With the issue still somewhat unresolved in WA, Mr Abetz said the State’s legislators were faced with two options.
“We can be among the last to join the throng of The Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Victoria, NSW, Queensland, New Zealand and others and adopt the failed decriminalising or legalising route,” he said.
“Or we can be at the forefront of social change in our nation and join the growing number of nations that are implementing the Nordic Model, the only approach in the world that has massively reduced human trafficking and prostitution.
“I hope my fellow members of parliament will have the courage to be innovators and spare our State the agony that legalised prostitution and human trafficking inevitably bring.”