Recently, Fighting for Justice Foundation had the opportunity to appear before the Select Committee on Human Trafficking in NSW for the inquiry into human trafficking in NSW.
In so doing, we put forward strong evidence to show the exploitation occurring in the sex trade in Australia which is creating demand for trafficked persons in our region. Our recommendations to address this rise in exploitation and trafficking centred around the implementation of the Nordic Model within a human rights gender equal framework.
Although this conversation is long overdue – and so needed, it does not go far enough.
Human trafficking will never be curbed until demand is addressed.
In order to address demand, we need to be frank about where demand is coming from, and where supply is coming from.
It is majority of privileged males buying vulnerable females for their sexual domination and pleasure – and often abuse. As Rachel Moran puts it – Prostitution is paid rape.
We need a reform in societal attitudes, the social norms of consumerism that makes it ok to purchase people to be shifted and for the exchange of money for sex to be criminalised.
– DEMAND AN END TO DEMAND –
These are some of the positions of the other organisations who made a submission on the matter:
Statistical information, support services and resources
Several submissions address the issue of the paucity of convictions for trafficking. Collective Shout notes that since 2005 there have been only 17 convictions for trafficking or slavery offences in Australia.
In relation to the actual prevalence of trafficking in NSW, The Law Society of NSW quotes the NSW Police Force’s evidence to the Legislative Assembly’s inquiry into brothels in 2015. The report observed that the reporting of sexual servitude was increasing in NSW despite sexual servitude remaining an under reported crime.
The Catholic Women’s League observed that only 13 people were convicted for trafficking- related offences between January 2004 and June 2011, and concluded: “it is evident that trafficking in this country remains a major problem with little research or statistics available to reveal the true extent of the problem.”
The contributing factors to low reporting include lack of opportunity to report and the means to do so. The Australian Institute of Criminology notes that:
“A national survey of community awareness and attitudes conducted by AIC in 2009 indicated that human trafficking is misunderstood and unrecognised, contributing to its low reporting”
Clearly, there is a need for raising community awareness about the recognition of human trafficking.
FFJF also submits that related to the lack of statistical information there is also the issue of sufficient resources to detect and prosecute offenders. Both the Commonwealth and NSW Government submissions identify admirable programs and strategies, but the real issue is the funding priorities for governments to implement these initiatives fully.
The nexus between prostitution and trafficking in women and children.
The Australian Christian Lobby, NORMAC, the Life, Marriage and Family Centre, Family Voice, and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia all identify the central role of prostitution in the trafficking of women. They, along with FFJF, endorse the introduction of the Nordic legislative model, which has been adopted overseas, to reduce, if not eliminate the exploitation of women and children.
Collective Shout observes that many of the regulatory and enforcement functions of the state government are delegated to local governments which have neither the resources nor the expertise to regulate an industry which involves both local and international organised crime, and other interests.
HAGAR says that ‘the laws legalising certain kinds of sex work makes it easier in some areas for trafficking to take place unnoticed and complicates victim identification.’
There are two levels of government in each of the Australian States, and the two territories have self -government. Adding the Commonwealth government to this means that there are fifteen separate law-making entities in this country.
The submission by the Law Society of NSW notes there are no fewer than seven legislative frameworks in NSW alone which regulate brothers in NSW. Added to this are the provisions of the Commonwealth’s Criminal Code Act. There is currently a Parliamentary Joint Council Inquiry into whether Australia should adopt a Modern Slavery Act similar to that recently adopted by the UK so the Commonwealth arrangements may alter at some time in the future.
The difficulties in obtaining a consistent legislative and regulatory approach to any activity are obvious. Yet, in the current world, trafficking is a global concern. In the absence of abolishing the State governments, an unthinkable option, FFJF contends that the laws governing criminality in the sex industry should at least be harmonised as far as possible, and be based on the obligations to which Australia is a signatory under international law. Lack of legislative consistency will only provide more opportunities for traffickers, to slip through legislative gaps.
The submission by Scarlet Alliance contends:
“It is frequently the case that comments about the existence of organised crime in the sex industry come from moral viewpointsand misperceptions of the sexindustry from people who do not actually engage with the majority of sex workers, if any. Large scale organised crime and ‘pimping’ is not a characteristic of the sex industry in NSW.
While FFJF respects the Scarlet Alliance’s position, other submittors have stated otherwise, and the question arises, in the absence of extensive research, (see above) how would they know? Law enforcement reports, court reports as well as investigative journalism and inquiries all paint a different picture – one where organised crimes, including bikie gangs, drug trafficking and money laundering are all part of the brothel business.
The decriminalisation of the brothel industry, it was hoped, would automatically lead to the removal of organised crime from the industry. As Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia observes, this has not eventuated, and Family Voice, considers that “decriminalising the owning and operating of brothels has led to the increased involvement of organised crime .”
The The Australian Institute of Criminology observed:
“While the existing research is far from comprehensive, the role of organised crime networks in the trafficking process is complex. “
In fact, the Australian Institute of Criminology suggests that although organised crime groups ‘dominate the landscape of human trafficking offending internationally’ there is evidence to support what the Australian Institute of Criminology calls ‘significant unorganised crime in the Australian context. “ This consists of small unsophisticated and loosely connected groups – often family members – involved in organising the recruitment, transportation and exploitation.
The Australian Institute of Criminology also suggests that loosely connected networks which include friends, relatives, or acquaintances from the same ethnic diaspora are similarly involved abusing existing trust network and cultural vulnerabilities.
The Law Society of NSW cited evidence given by the NSW Police Force to the 2015 Legislative Assembly Inquiry on the regulation of brothels. The then Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas told the committee of intelligence of organised crime, including outlaw motorcycle gangs, being involved in the sex services industry in NSW. The question must be asked: if there is such evidence, where are the prosecutions?
It is clear that the extent to which organised crime has infiltrated the industry has yet to be documented, although anecdotal evidence abounds. The issues surrounding statistical evidence mentioned previously also apply here, and FFJF endorses the Collective Shout recommendation that: “The NSW government …commission research …the extent of organised crime, trafficking victims, and foreign national involvement in NSW’s sex industry”. To this the FFJF would like to add: ‘And undertake appropriate legislative action without delay.”
Victim support and compensation
The submission by the Scarlet Alliance observes that “Currently the Support for Trafficked People Program (STPP) requires a referral by the AFP in order to gain access to the support program. “ Among other requirements are:
the trafficked person must be willing to participate in a criminal investigation in order to access the support through the STPP and
the person must be an Australian citizen or hold a valid visa.
As the submission notes, these conditions create significant barriers to sex workers wishing to gain support. Further, FFJF contends, that the very nature of trafficking, puts those trafficked outside these parameters.
Providing safe and supportive avenues under which reporting and subsequent participation in court proceedings can be undertaken by victims would assist in identifying offenders and reducing trafficking and its attendant harms to the victims.
HAGAR Notes the need for survivor services generally, and in particular legal support for case workers from NGOs.
Australian Red Cross observes that support for children could also include access to longer term housing stability, education and transport.
In addition, The Law Society of NSW notes the need for legal assistance to trafficked persons.
The Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans also notes the need for victim support, requesting a review of the Victims Rights and Support Act 2013 to provide that offences relating to human trafficking and slavery are included in those that are included in the category for all support provided in the legislation.
FFJF endorses these recommendations in addition to the recommendations in our own submission. The above was orally presented, as Fighting for Justice Foundation appeared before the Select Committee on Human Trafficking in NSW for the inquiry into human trafficking, on the 29 May 2017, with additional remarks.
If you are interested in assisting Fighting for Justice Foundation in our future lobbying advocacy work in curbing the demand of human trafficking by addressing gender based violence through a social legislative implementation of the Nordic Model, please get in contact with us today.