Sometimes you wonder if anything can change, if your small efforts can make a difference against a global onslaught of horror. Every day more bad news for women, more abuse, assaults, violence and suffering. (For example this done to a close friend of mine and then this, reported in the same week, to a woman I don’t know, but still of course so grievous).
But then, suddenly and unexpectedly, something comes along that takes your breath away and gives you renewed hope. That has happened for me in the form of a woman named Carrie. Her story is remarkable. Her suffering indescribable. Her resilience and love for life unmatchable. I’ll let her tell the story.
According to the Australian Parliamentary Library, in 1998, the year I applied for refugee status, there were 8257 protection visa applications lodged. Of that number, only 1834 were granted – 985 at the primary decision stage and 741 following review by the Refugee Review Tribunal. 108 were granted visas by ministerial discretion.
One of those was mine.
As there are hundreds of thousands of refugees worldwide each year, fleeing my home country and standing before the Tribunal in no way makes my story unique. Nor does the fact I was rejected for political reasons and later successful in joining that small group of 108 people who were chosen to be issued a visa on compassionate grounds. What I believe sets my story apart is the fact that I did not originate from a war torn or politically unstable country. I fled a country that actually takes in thousands of refugees each year. So of those 8257 applications I’m fairly confident that I was the only refugee fleeing Canada.
I had endured terrible abuse and degradation since I was 4 years old at the hand of my father. When I was 9, he sold me into a child prostitution/pedophile/pornography ring. I have spent more time than I care to remember in basements, brothels and the dim lit back rooms of shop fronts. Hell doesn’t scare me. I spent more than half my life living it, hoping one day I could rise above it.
When I was 20, I fled Canada and came to Australia for two simple reasons; it was English speaking and as far from my past as I could travel. I stepped off of that plane 16 years ago not knowing one person and began to build the life I had always dreamed about as a child. I reported the abuse I suffered in Canada to Australian authorities. Knowing my life was in danger and there was no life for me back in Canada, I went underground and spent 2 years hiding in shelters and women’s refuges. I was put in contact with Australia’s leading trauma therapist, Dr Helen Driscoll. She had a lengthy wait list and was taking no further referrals. I had no money, no entitlements, but she took me on anyway. And in doing so she changed the course of my life.
In December 1998, I was told to apply for Refugee Status because the dangers I faced were as real and the suffering comparable to many refugees seeking protection. My advisors said I was one of the “invisible refugees”.The problem with my case was it had never been tried before. There were no legislation, clauses, or regulations stipulating that human trafficking survivors were to be protected. We knew I would be rejected – – and I was. During my battle to seek asylum I became pregnant. It didn’t make any difference. I was going to be deported anyway. What was being said was “Get rid of both of them before she is 7 months pregnant and can still travel” and “Let her stay and have the baby. As the baby has an Australian father she will be able to stay but the mother has to go back to Canada.”
Dr. Driscoll never gave up. She continued to write to humanitarians, Members of Parliament and anyone having any political influence who might be interested in helping my plight. My case landed in the hands of dozens of people who could have at least tried to fight for my freedom. Sadly, most people contacted we never heard back from or if we did, the standard response was, “Although we empathize with your situation, there is nothing we can do.” It was difficult to not lose hope. There was no way I could return to Canada and spend the duration of my life in fear – or worse. But it looked as though my dream of gaining freedom in Australia would never come to be. That is, until my letter came across the desk of Melinda Tankard Reist. She was working as an advisor to Independent Senator Brian Harradine and handled refugee matters. Unlike the others we contacted, Melinda looked at my case and instead of throwing it in the too hard basket, she took it personally and cared enough to write a compelling letter on the Senator’s behalf to the Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock. I have never forgotten how the letter ended: “Minister, I ask you to act in the best interest of this young woman and her unborn baby.”
I was eight months pregnant and all other avenues had been exhausted. This was my final stop. My fate rested in the hands of one man. All we could do was wait for the Minister’s decision and hope it was favorable.
In June 2000, nine months after receiving the request to intervene, the Minister had come to a decision. After carrying my baby for nine months without any entitlements to health care, insurance or money to receive assistance in delivering my daughter, my fight to remain in Australia was over. I had been granted asylum on compassionate grounds at the Minister’s discretion and had been awarded a visa. I could finally begin my life a million miles away from where it initially began.
Fourteen years have since passed, and I never did thank Melinda for writing that letter. After being granted asylum I just wanted to leave that part of my life behind. I had two wonderful daughters, we were safe and I was content with that. I had survived and was focused on moving forward. But I realised I could do so only because of the help of others, and when so many women in situations similar to mine continued to be left behind, it was my turn to go back and offer my hand.
I decided then to tell my story of determination, hope and love in the face of extreme adversity in a way that resonated with people and inspired them, rather than just caused them to pity me. To open people’s hearts and minds, helping them realise that they have the internal resources to rise up and not be limited by past suffering. That it is possible to not only survive trauma, but to flourish and go on to live a significant life.
And then, as it has so many other times throughout my life, serendipity breezes by and the universe helps fate along. As I started sharing my story, some significant names in the social justice arena began showing interest in what I was trying to achieve. A friend introduced me to Elliot Costello, son of Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia. One Saturday morning a few months back, Elliot introduced me to his parents. We went to a cafe and they listened as I told my story. What I hadn’t expected was the twist that would surprise us all. Tim Costello seemed most interested when I started talking about never losing hope and the message I wished to convey to others about the freedom in forgiveness. When I mentioned my desire to bring awareness to the fact that human trafficking is not just a third world issue, he appeared to have had an “ah-ha” moment and told me he knew the perfect person to introduce me to – Melinda Tankard Reist, a strong advocate for women and girls and a leading voice in the anti-trafficking coalition.
As soon as he mentioned her name, my mind flashed back to the hundreds of support letters and documents I had filed away after gaining asylum. Scribbled across one document’s fax cover read, “For your records. Regards Melinda Reist.” The reason I remembered it so vividly was because after winning my freedom, I read over that support letter at least one hundred times. I quoted the closing words of the letter she drafted to anybody I told my story to. I shared it again. Elliot couldn’t believe it. Neither could Tim.
Tim looked at me with a smile and shook his head. Picking up his phone early that morning, he rang the woman who helped secure my freedom. She answered straight away. They spoke briefly and then he said, “Melinda listen, I have a young lady here with me at the moment who says you wrote a letter for her to Phillip Ruddock when you worked for Harradine that helped her get asylum.”
She then asked if I was the Canadian girl sold into the pedophile/prostitution ring. In his loud booming voice, Tim repeated her words across the table to me. I wanted the earth to swallow me whole as half the room dropped their fork and stared. Instead of nodding politely, I shot back, “Easy cowboy, I’m not printing t-shirts just yet!” Clearly she remembered me…as would the rest of that crowded cafe.
One month ago, again as luck would have it, Melinda and I were in northern Queensland at the same time. I was holidaying with my girls, and she was speaking at an international conference. We decided to catch up. I cannot begin to describe the emotions that came up for all of us. Fourteen years ago she wrote a compelling letter to help save two lives and standing before her was myself and the now teenage ‘unborn baby’ she wrote about. After spending all these years wondering how we had fared, now she could see for herself. Mother and baby were indeed very well! And now we are working to address the trafficking issue.
My life may have been tough to begin with, but I have had more good people go out of their way to help than anybody I have ever met. The blessings in my life far outweigh the tragedies. I am loving living and very excited for the journey that lies ahead.
a written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another
I find myself pondering the question: do the editors at Zoo Weekly Magazine understand what an apology is?
This week a Change.org petition, initiated by Collective Shout supporter Matt Darvas, a man who, with his family, cares passionately for refugees and is deeply engaged with refugee communities in Newcastle, NSW, resulted in an apology from Zoo for an appalling competition to find Australia’s sexiest boat person.
Zoo Weekly was asking female asylum seekers who had “swapped persecution for sexiness” to send in pictures — and joked about “shooting” them with a camera.
In the world of lad’s mags like Zoo, even female survivors of the most horrendous human rights violations on earth can be offered up as masturbatory material for its male readers. Hot refugee women for you to get off on! Brutalised beauties for your viewing pleasure!
The apology, published on its website and hardcopy issue stated:
“ZOO Weekly regrets any offence caused to any of our readers, and to any asylum seeker or refugee and their families and supporters. We apologise for being insensitive.” — Tim Keen, editor of Zoo Weekly
Mr Keen, editor of jerk-off weekly, said the apology was extended to Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Zoo had tried to persuade the Senator to pose for the magazine, promising to host “the next boatload” of asylum seekers in its office is she did so. She said no. But no matter. The editors just photoshopped her head onto the body of a bikini model. Problem solved! No consent required!
Have the female editors and staff of these magazines, which claim to advance female equality, had anything to say about their stablemate’s treatment of female refugees and elected representatives. The condemnation should be loud and unequivocal.
Without any accountability to or discipline from ACP, Zoo continues to be enabled to continue this exploitative and sexist behavior.
Zoo Weekly has published a two-page spread in its July 16 issue asking asylum seekers to send “pics and a short story about your tragic past”.
The text reads: “Are you a refugee not even the immigration minister could refuse? Then we want to see you!
“We’re looking for Oz’s hottest asylum seeker, so if you’ve swapped persecution for sexiness, we want to shoot you (with a camera – relax!).”
This competition comes after Zoo had pressured Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young to pose for them, saying they would accommodate ‘the next boat load’ of asylum seekers in their office if she did so. When she refused the offer, they photoshopped her head onto the body of another bikini model.
It seems there is no line that Zoo won’t cross in order to exploit women and sell magazines.
I live amongst and count as close friends a number of female refugees from several war torn nations in East Africa. Their stories of fleeing their countries include horrible accounts of sexual assault and even rape at the hands of militia and the military. Many of them lost husbands, children and other family members. They still suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress as a result, which includes frequent nightmares, flashbacks, depression and other associated health problems. To joke as the competition does that – “if you’ve swapped persecution for s-xiness, we want to shoot you (with a camera — relax!)” – is completely insensitive to these women’s trauma. However it seems that’s exactly what they’re after, finishing with, “Send your pics and a short story about your tragic past to email@example.com.”
After we shared the news.com.au article on our Facebook, a supporter had this to say:
I dont think I have ever been so incensed by something in my whole life. I have spent 3 years working with refugee women, most of them surviving some form of sexual assault. Some have even witnessed their own little girls raped. Not quite so “entertaining” then is it??
Take a stand against Zoo magazine’s contempt for women.
Addressing the myths of the prostituted Asian woman
On July 3 the Sydney Morning Herald ran an article titled ‘Low prices fuel exotic sex trade’ . Accompanied by an alluring photo and informing us that prostitutes from Asian backgrounds offer more exotic services than their Caucasian counterparts and for less money, it read almost like an advertisement for buying sex from Asian women. ‘Cut price Asian women, will do anything you want – get yours now!’ I thought it warranted a response so asked Caroline Norma, a lecturer in the School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning at RMIT University, and a member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia, to respond.
University of NSW researcher Christine Harcourt is a long-time campaigner for the legalisation of prostitution. She recently appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald to announce the fact that Asian women are ‘very much in demand’ for prostitution in Australia because they are ‘very attractive’ and are ‘very good at their work’.
Harcourt’s comments were reported in explanation of the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission’s finding that 20 per cent of that state’s legal brothels were staffed exclusively by Asian-born women.
Harcourt expressed a view that appears to be commonly held in Australia: that the overrepresentation of Asian women in the sex industry here is simply a product of the innate nature of Asian women: they love to serve men submissively and sexually, and are cunning in their ability to out-gun Aussie women in the sex industry and bring down prices and standards.
In Harcourt’s view of the world, no-one should be alarmed at the fact that Asian women are filling up Australian brothels at a rapid rate. The inherent suitability of Asian women for prostitution is a belief that underlies this view, and short-circuits any discussion of the possibility that Asian women here might be victims of trafficking, sexual slavery, or even just extreme levels of hardship and adversity.
The Minister for the Status of Women, the Hon Kate Ellis MP, recently gave $50,000 to the Australian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Alliance to run a campaign to highlight the adversity that migrant women face in Australia. This is a wonderful project that will make a difference to the lives of newly arriving women. I wonder, though, with academics like Harcourt producing research in the area, whether the government is really able to perceive of the true extent of the adversity that migrant women face in Australia, given its continuing denial of the reality of trafficking of women from overseas into the sex industry here.
When public servants fund good initiatives like this, don’t they feel any sense of incongruity about the number of Asian women they allow to languish in Australia’s sex industry? Don’t they feel any pangs of conscience about how openly pimps sell Asian women on the back pages of local newspapers in Victoria, NSW, the ACT and Queensland?
Bureaucrats need only check out brothel websites to see the extent of the trade in Asian women. In Brisbane, there’s a legal brothel called Miso Honey that advertises
all Asian flavours including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and more. If you’re looking for a submissive Japanese girls [sic], or a totally dominant Taiwanese terror, look no further.
Miso Honey is not the only brothel running a profitable trade in Asian women. According to a 2010 CSIRO-published report, over 54 per cent of women in prostitution in Western Sydney were born overseas. A study done in Western Australia in the same year found 29 per cent of women in prostitution were from non-English speaking countries. In Sydney’s brothels, 53 per cent of women are from Asia.
A Victorian report from 2009 records the stories of adversity that lie behind the grim statistics. One wonders what the Office for the Status of Women would think about the adversity facing a Laotian woman, ‘Minh Ha’, who works in a legal brothel in Melbourne. According to researchers, she
works in the sex industry two days a week at a licensed brothel…She works four or five nights a week in the hospitality industry. She works days at the brothel, picks up her children and oversees homework, then works at the restaurant in the evening. Minh Ha… migrated to Australia after she married…She is 41 years old. Her marriage recently broke down because her husband was violent; she currently has an AVO against him…She is now responsible for supporting her five children. She approached a customer she knew at her hospitality job to ask for a loan…[he] said Minh Ha would need to commit to working in ‘massage’; but Minh Ha suspected that sex work was being proposed. She transitioned reasonably quickly to full service in a licensed brothel. While she says “some workers enjoy this job,” Minh Ha does not.
While Minh Ha might not technically have been trafficked into Melbourne’s sex industry, in terms of ‘adversity’ there is not much to distinguish her case from the descriptions of actual sex trafficking that are contained in the report. Another woman told researchers, for example, that there
are a lot of Korean-owned shops here…[and] a lot of Korean workers end up in them. The treatment there is not very good compared with the other shops…Girls are ignorant, they don’t know and they are concerned about the debts they have to pay off through the agent. These are legal brothels. They are very strict and a lot of people work there [to pay off debts]. You have to provide more of a service.
Governments in Asia are aware of the problem that Australia poses in the region in terms of sex trafficking. The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade hosts pre-departure training for its nationals participating in working holiday programs to Australia on their vulnerability to sex trafficking (US State Department, 2011, p. 218). In 2005, the Seoul Metropolitan Police arrested seven people on charges of arranging for 38 women to be trafficked abroad. One of the victims, a 28-year-old woman who had been trafficked to Australia, told police that brothel owners had exploited her throughout her stay, and she had been trafficked to pay a KRW70 million debt owing to her pimp in Seoul. She told police she was used by five customers a day in Australia (Sohn Hae-yong, ‘Prostitutes leave Korea to work,’ 23 February 2005, JOONAI).
The Australian government continues to close its eyes to the fact its domestic sex industry causes serious harm and adversity to women newly arriving in this country. It continues to allow pimps to legally sell women for prostitution in most Australian states under advertisements that use words like ‘oriental’, ‘Asian’, and ‘Far Eastern’. The only thing the Victorian government has done in response to research showing evidence of trafficking in Melbourne is to require brothels to display anti-sex slavery signs in their waiting rooms.
Compare this to action taken by the UK government in 2009 when a Home Affairs Committee report revealed that 80 per cent of women in off-street prostitution in the country were foreign nationals, and that there were approximately 5000 victims of trafficking in the UK at any one time. In response to this finding, the government passed a law that criminalised the buying of trafficked women for prostitution. This law requires defendants to prove they had no knowledge of a person having been trafficked.
We might wonder why the Australian government seems unable to see signs of adversity where Asian women are advertised for sexual sale. The answer to this question might be found in an observation made by Melba Marginson in 1996. Marginson is the national coordinator of the Centre for Philippine Concerns in Australia. She noted that Australian men viewed Asian women as ‘manipulative, sexually adventurous, whore, prostitute, gold-digger, materialistic and use foreign men as a ‘passport’ out of their destitute lives’ (Not the Same, 1996, p. 18).
By failing to see the adversity that the sex industry inflicts on women who newly arrive in Australia, the government institutionalises this inhuman view, and fails in its duty of care to women who come here from overseas in the most vulnerable of circumstances.
UK Glamour Magazine has included Suri Cruise in its annual list of the world’s “Best Dressed Women”
Up there with Samantha Cameron and Alexa Chung, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ daughter is rated number 21 – ahead of Lady Gaga and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Suri Cruise is 5 years old. This little ‘fashion icon’ still needs help dressing herself and uses a dummy. She is not a woman and Glamour UK shouldn’t have included her in the list. Doing so contributes to the unremitting adultification of celebrity children (and non-celebrity children). It invites us to see Suri Cruise as much older than she really is, which is dangerous to her.
Here’s what I had to say about it on Channel 7’s Morning Show last week. Journalist Melissa Hoyer and parenting commentator Yvette Vignando felt the same way.
Botox injections for 8 year old pageant girl
In the latest installment of ‘horrors inflicted on small girls in the name of child beauty pageants’ comes this story, about an 8 year old in the US who undergoes Botox to keep up with the other girls in the tough world of pageants.
Kerry Campbell has admitted that she regularly injects daughter Britney with Botox. Apparently Britney had complained about the wrinkles on her face – after they were pointed out by other pageant children- so her mum thought it a good idea to administer Botox. “Kids are harsh and being confident is something she has to be with them,” Campbell said.
You can watch her interview with Good Morning America here:
In my view mother and daughter are both victims of beauty culture, and especially of child beauty pageant culture, which reeks with over the top beauty and grooming practices, sexualised dance routines and expensive glitzy costumes. Five year old child beauty pageant ‘star’ Eden Wood is being touted for interviews with Australian media with a price tag of up to $20,000. Oh, and she’ll be doing her Las Vegas Showgirl routine when she gets here in July.
How many more reasons do we need to keep child beauty pageants out of Australia? Please join the campaign. Sign the petition, join the Austrailan’s Against Child Beauty Pageants facebook and attend the protests country-wide May 24.
Sexualisation, violence, commercialisation, commodification: Right to Childhood conference hears evidence of harm to children
The Right to Childhood conference last Friday at Sydney’s Wesley Centre was a wake-up call to a society hell bent on forcing children to be exposed to imagery and messages which wreak havoc on their physical and mental health. Initiated by Dr Ramesh Manocha of HealthEd and co-sponsored by Collective Shout, close to 400 people heard expert evidence on just how bad things are for children and young people: and how all the indicators on health and wellbeing are set to worsen if not addressed as a matter of urgency.
Here’s a sample of some of the media coverage, and some related media treatment this week of issues impacting children.
Channel 10 News Segment: Right 2 Childhood Seminar
Advertisers blamed for increasing sexualisation: The World Today
Advertisers using ‘same tricks as sexual predators’
…Ms Hamilton says her research indicates modern advertising is becoming increasingly exploitative, especially towards children…
“I have done a paper recently which looks at how the corporations do market products, whether it is clothing or cosmetics or whatever – toys – to kids, and interestingly they use exactly the same tools as sexual predators do to groom children,” she said…
Another speaker at the conference, writer and social researcher Melinda Tankard Reist, says she is sickened by deliberate marketing – often with sexual undertones – to children as young as six months.
“They are very callous. I mean this is one of the reasons we use the term corporate paedophilia, because corporations are in a sense abusing children,” she said.
“They are driving childhood out of children and we see this as a systemic assault on childhood…” Read full story here
Advertisers should own up to harmful images says Australian Childhood Foundation
ADVERTISERS would have to publish “impact statements” detailing how their ads could harm youngsters, under a plan being pushed by a children’s lobby group.
Australian Childhood Foundation chief Joe Tucci said children as young as six were showing inappropriate sexual behaviour, which he blamed on saturation levels of violent and sexually explicit images in advertising, music videos, and computer games…
His call for companies using sexual or violent images to produce the impact statements comes amid growing concerns over the sexualisation of children.
Dr Tucci told a Sydney conference yesterday that 200 children showing inappropriate sexual behaviour were referred to his group a year, compared with 10 children a year a decade ago.
“There are children displaying aberrant sexual behaviour who can’t even tie their shoelaces yet,” he said.
“We ask children in counselling where they get these kind of ideas,” he said. “They pick out magazines, they pick out pictures and videos…” Read full story here
We disagree and believe the industry has had its way too long. See Collective Shout’s submissions here and here which argue that self-regulation has failed.
Kids too afraid to eat
CHILDREN as young as four are being hospitalised for eating disorders after refusing to eat and going on dangerous diets in their quest to be thin.
The largest eating disorders clinic in NSW, based at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, has reported a 270 per cent spike in the number of children being admitted to hospital over the past decade.
Even more alarming is the rise in the number of children being treated as outpatients at the hospital – it has increased more than 10-fold, up from 298 in 2003 to 3157 in 2009.
Clinic co-director Dr Michael Kohn said patients are getting younger.
“The average age for presentation is decreasing and the reason is the stress on young people has increased, so that those people vulnerable to develop eating disorders are doing so at a younger age,” Dr Kohn said.
…Melinda Tankard Reist, of lobby group Collective Shout, which is organising the petition to ban child beauty pageants, said presenting children in such a way was tantamount to child abuse. ”I think any Australian who cares about the welfare of little girls doesn’t want to see them dressing up like Tammy Faye Bakker or Joan Collins,” she said.
Collective Shout’s petition, which has more than 1200 signatures, will be sent to federal Minister for Early Childhood Peter Garrett and Victorian Minister for Children Wendy Lovell…Read full story here. And great to see 95% of voters in an SMH poll are also opposed to child beauty pageants in Australia.
Child Beauty Pageants: the misconceptions
“Being a little Barbie doll says your body has to be a certain way and your hair has to be a certain way. In girls particularly, this can unleash a whole complex of destructive self-experiences that can lead to eating disorders and all kinds of body distortions in terms of body image.” Read full blog article by Collett Smart here.
The ACT Government is holding an inquiry into prostitution in the Territory. Collective Shout has made a submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety. Here it is:
Collective Shout submission in response to the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety review of the operation of the Prostitution Act 1992
(1) The form and operation of the Act;
During the 1990s sections of the sex industry were legalised in the Netherlands, Germany, and, in Australia, in the states of Victoria and Queensland. While a model of harm minimisation has been shown to be effective in some fields such as substance dependency, there is sufficient evidence now to demonstrate that a harm minimisation approach is inherently flawed when it comes to regulating the sex industry. This failure has been recognised by both academic studies and reports published by governments.
The inherent nature of sex work runs against the notion of a gender equal society. The idea that human bodies – mostly those of women and children – can be bought, sold, and rented in the flesh trade requires them to be treated as objects, in effect as sexual aids. Many prostituted women report having experienced childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, substance dependency, sexual assault, interrupted education, and/or mental health problems. The harm minimization model – or legalisation of prostitution services – essentially allows for the exploitation of society’s most vulnerable peoples. It is time to recognize that “the world’s oldest profession” is actually “the world’s oldest oppression.”
One of the key goals of the harm minimisation model was to reduce the number of sexually trafficked victims. In fact the reverse has occurred. Former mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, stated in 2007 at a press conference that “the legalization of prostitution did not bring about what many had hoped… we are still faced with distressing situations in which women are being exploited. It is high time for a thorough evaluation of the Prostitution Act… we have seen in the last years that trafficking in women is becoming more, so in this respect the legalizing of prostitution didn’t work out.” Where prostitution has been legalised, crime gangs have proliferated – leading to a significant increase in sexually trafficked victims and illegal brothels.
The failures of legalised prostitution in Victoria have been thoroughly documented by Mary Lucille Sullivan in Making Sex Work: A failed experiment with legalised prostitution (Spinifex Press 2007). All the claims made about how legalisation would solve so many problems connected with prostitution such as drugs, crime and violence against women, failed to materialise. What did materialise was millions of dollars in profits for the state and the Australian sex industry. The social normalisation of prostitution that has occurred through Victoria’s legalisation has benefited the sex industry business people to a great extent. The industry now runs yearly trade shows (‘Sexpo’) in most Australian states, it promotes itself through both outdoor and press advertising, and brothel owners are treated by government as if they were carrying out socially legitimate commerce. Collective Shout questions the social legitimacy of business activities that derive their profit from individual women being used for the sexual gratification of men with money.
The harm minimisation model contravenes international best practice on prostitution. The only sex industry regulatory model that is consistent with international law is the Nordic model. This model has been demonstrated to reduce violence against prostituted women and has been adopted in Sweden, Iceland, South Korea, and Norway. There are three key aspects to this model:
A. Criminalisation of buyers of prostituted people, and people who organise the prostitution of others.
B. Decriminalisation of prostituted people as victims of crime, and the establishment of services and facilities to assist them.
C. Public education as to prostitution as a human rights violation.
We urge the ACT government to re-evaluate its current legislation which legalises parts of the sex industry. The evidence is clear that legalisation and decriminalisation have failed in achieving the key aims they were set out to achieve. The prostitution of women is inherently at odds with a gender equal society. This inquiry presents a great opportunity for the ACT government to become a world leader in regards to best-practice policy on prostitution.
Recommendation 1: that the ACT government adopt the Nordic model of penalising the buyers and decriminalising prostituted women, moving towards a ‘harm elimination’ model.
‘Julie,’ who was prostituted into Canberra’s sex industry as an underage teen, spoke to ABC 7.30 ACT.
In the interview Julie says:
“When you’re involved in an industry when there’s lots of crime, lots of corruption, it’s about money, people don’t let you walk away from that.
“There’s peer pressure, pressure from owners, pressure from receptionists: ‘So and so’s coming in, they’ve requested you, can you just do one job?’
“When you’re 17 and earning a couple of thousand a day, it’s addictive, and that’s why people need genuine help to get out of the industry.
“You can’t have sex with 10 to 15 different men every day without it impacting you and how you value yourself, and how you value sex, and how you build intimacy with another human being. It was very difficult to go on and have a normal intimate relationship with one person.
“Being 17 having worked as a prostitute you don’t have many skills you can use in the workforce or can put on a CV. It took me about 12 months to then find a job and start to function.”
Commercial exploitation of the female body exposed at Endangered Species Conference
Just came across this piece in The New Internationalist and had to share it with you. It’s an outstanding unpacking of the normalisation of rigid norms of female beauty, which have been exported around the world. Written by Giedre Steikunaite, it’s a report on the Endangered Species Summit held recently in London to challenge the toxic culture that teaches women and girls to hate their own bodies. Wish I’d been there.
The Beauty Myth…and madness
‘The human body is now a product,’ said photographer Wendy Hicks. So we buy and sell ourselves, constantly remake our bodies, blindly believing we are ‘improving’ them. This commercial exploitation of the body has become a norm; once normalized in a society, it’s taken for granted…
So why are we doing it? Because we’ve been sold a myth, a beauty myth. And because it makes somebody very, very rich. ‘People without problems are not commercially viable,’ said Rosi Prescott, CEO of YMCA. A happy person is a bad consumer. Thus, a business lesson: create a problem, convince me I have it, and then sell me the solution – voilà! …
The problem is not limited to the Global North. ‘Body hatred is becoming one of the West’s hidden exports,’ Orbach wrote in her book Bodies. It’s a new form of corporal colonization. ‘We’re sending body hatred all around the world’…
‘We are living in Marshall McLuhan’s global village, sharing many of the same images worldwide. They become identity markers, framing our streets, our magazines, our look, providing a sense of continuity in a befuddling and fast-changing environment’…
‘When interviewing young girls I found that they felt there was just no alternative, only the mainstream image,’ said Natasha Walter, author of Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism. It’s an issue of diversity: you’re in trouble if you can’t see your own reflection out there; it affects you negatively. We have to mainstream the ‘alternative’ (ie the real image).
Can someone please tell Brian McFadden that ‘taking advantage’ of a woman when she’s drunk is sexual assault and against the law?
Because he seems to have missed the announcement.
The Irish singer-songwriter and ‘honorary’ Australian on account of his four-year engagement to songstress Delta Goodrem, McFadden today officially releases Just The Way You Are (Drunk at the Bar).
The barn-dance meets rap recording is described here as the novelty song from hell and hard to beat as the worst song of the year (and it’s only February).
But apart from its all-round awfulness it’s these lyrics which, with International Women’s Day almost upon us, show us just how far we haven’t come.
I like you just the way you are, drunk as shit dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can do some damage
I like you just the way you are, drunk as shit dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can take advantage
Describing the song as “infectious”, Universal Music in a statement Friday said the dance track will “rattle around in your head for hours”. Doing some damage, taking advantage of a woman under the influence of alcohol… is this the soundtrack we want going round and round in the heads of males?
Just one more message reinforcing the rape myths circulating in our culture: that inebriated girls are asking for it, and that you’re not really to blame. One more message encouraging boys to help themselves. I love you just the way you are, drunk, because it’s easier to get what I want that way.
A recent UK study found that 48% of males aged 18-25 did not consider rape to have taken place if the woman was too drunk to know what was happening.
There’s a kind of party atmosphere around these criminal assaults, with many men boasting about their conquests. An on-line genre known as ‘Passed Out P*ssy’ encourages men to share photos online of women and girls they have taken advantage of while drunk. ‘She’s drunk? Don’t call a taxi and make sure she gets home safely! Call your friends, have some fun and share the pictures!’ men are exhorted.
Love you just the way you are (drunk at the bar) helps legitimise this behaviour.
McFadden – also a judge on Australia’s Got Talent and a father of daughters – hasn’t taken well to the criticism. He swears on his heart that he wrote the song for Delta.
That’s right, ‘Can’t wait to do some damage’ is the sort of poetry McFadden writes to demonstrate the depths of his love for his bride-in-waiting. Look into my eyes Delta, he croons, I stayed up all night writing this ode to love, just for you my darling. Wow, lucky girl Delta.
Perhaps he even expects her to swoon?
The song was first played on 2Day FM’s Kyle & Jackie O show last week. Jackie O – who could also benefit from reading ‘Consent for Dummies’ – gushed that it was her “new favourite song”. “I love it, I’m a big fan of this song… this song rocks.”
And Kyle Sandilands, not exactly legendary for his sensitive treatment of young women -recall the lie detector scandal involving a 14-year-old rape survivor – said, “It’s a fun sort of song.”
Discussing this with Nina Funnell who campaigns to end sexual assault and is a member of the NSW Premier’s Council on Preventing Violence Against Women, she says McFadden’s lyrics echo a broader culture which ostensibly opposes rape while simultaneously demonstrating no real understanding of what actually constitutes sexual assault.
“Unfortunately many people still believe the myth that most sexual assaults are committed down dark alleys by strangers in balaclavas. This myth is damaging as it conceals the reality that the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed by people known to the victim – usually a family member, friend, someone they go to school or work with.
“It is important that we recognize that the sort of behavior that some people are referring to as ‘taking advantage’ may legally count as sexual assault. In NSW the consent laws now state that a person cannot give consent if they are intoxicated to the point that they lose the capacity to do so, such as if they are passed out. To ‘take advantage’ of someone in such a state would unquestionably constitute sexual assault”.
“Having sex with a woman who does not have the capacity to consent is not called ‘taking advantage’. It’s called rape. Calling it ‘taking advantage’ reclassifies an action from being a serious crime to a negative but essentially trivial behaviour with no legal dimension whatsoever. “
Alison Grundy a clinical psychologist in the field of sexual violence for 20 years, describes the lyrics as “one more open demonstration of the contempt shown to women’s human rights and the fundamental legislation that is place to protect them”.
“Now we have thirty years of research to show that the sexualized and violent messages of popular music, media and video games do shape and provoke male aggressive and sexualized violence. I wonder how long it will be before songs like this are seen as inciting crimes under the criminal code?
“Not soon enough for those of us who work with victims on the long road to recovery after experiencing the ‘do some damage and take advantage’ behaviour lauded in this song”.
So there you have it. A fun sort of song about sexually exploiting women – doing damage to them – to top off a night out. Let the good times roll. Just not for the one in five women over 15 who are sexually assaulted in this country.
So you thought slap and tickle carry-on flicks were a thing of the past?
A Gold Coast property dealer has breathed new life into old-fashioned sexism with this one and a half minute clip flogging a property on the Gold Coast. The clip has already gone viral so I’m posting it as a case study in sexist advertising in the year 2011.
The video is full of nudge nudge wink wink innuendos and double entendres such as “Property isn’t the only thing going off!!” and “No ifs or buts!! (butts, get it?). A model is shown in various states of undress while agents Ian Adams and Adrian Jenkins (that’s them, left) talk about the property listed by NEO. This sterile, soulless strip pad is pitched as a family home.
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
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Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
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“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
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In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It and the Ruby Who? book and DVD in one bundle for $100 and save 20% off the individual price.
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“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
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Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.