I was honoured to be invited to deliver the biennial Bishop Manning lecture hosted by the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations at the Kirribilli Club recently. Bob Hawke and Noel Pearson preceeded me and I was the first woman to be asked. I spoke to our new book Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the sex trade to support my thesis that sex was not work. The Commission has published this summary:
Tankard Reist challenges Bishop Manning audience
This biennial Bishop Manning Lecture was delivered on Tuesday night by author, commentator and advocate for women and girls, Melinda Tankard Reist.
We host the Bishop Manning Lecture as a way of acknowledging and celebrating workplaces that champion justice, human dignity, productivity and fairness. It is also an opportunity to honour the work of a Church leader who has in his life, borne witness to the pursuit of fairness in workplaces wherever they might be.
Bishop Manning is known for his commitment to these and many other important social justice issues including Aboriginal people, migrants, refugees, women and families. He has been described as having a passion for the “battlers” and a genuine interest in people no matter who they are. And of course, behind all these achievements, he is a humble man of God and a good shepherd.
Our lecture series focuses on principles of the common good, community, human dignity, justice and their practical application in society. But we are not afraid to have uncomfortable conversations.
Melinda Tankard Reist is best known for her work addressing sexualisation, objectification, harms of pornography, sexual exploitation, trafficking and violence against women.
Ms Tankard Reist delivered a powerful lecture that sought to demolish the claim that prostitution is ‘just work’, a ‘job like any other’.
Step by step, the 2016 Bishop Manning lecturer went through confronting characteristics that define the industry in great detail. Ms Tankard Reist challenged our audience with stories of violence against women, health impacts and criminal trafficking.
We were asked to consider the heavily gendered nature of the sex industry. Without men, argued Ms Tankard Reist, without male demand and entitlement, there would be no prostitution industry.
Ms Tankard Reist argued that the global experiences of women show that even where the sex industry enjoys the legalisation and protection of the government, the violence, degradation, abuse, and trauma are common experiences.
Ms Tankard Reist also rang alarm bells about sexual trafficking here in Australia citing Australian Federal Police commander Glen McEwen who told the NSW state inquiry into the regulation of brothels that the AFP’s investigations into sexual servitude were just the tip of the iceberg, that the problem is ‘wide and vast’.
The nub of Ms Tankard Reist’s primary message is that mainstreaming prostitution gives permission to men to believe that buying women is legitimate. Any form of prostitution undermines all women’s safety and dignity by entrenching the commodification of women and by sending a message to men and boys that they have a right to be sexually serviced anytime. There is a deep connection here between the sexualisation of women and girls and the attitude of men.
How should we respond? Tankard Reist is an abolitionist and envisions ‘a world without prostitution’. To achieve that she believes an important part of the solution is the Nordic Model, a framework for addressing demand for prostitution.
As Ms Tankard Reist stated on Tuesday night:
“The Nordic Model completely decriminalises women whose bodies are bought. It provides exit services for women to escape prostitution and make a new life. And it criminalises those men who buy women, and the pimps who sell them.
In 1999 Sweden changed the law to decriminalise women and criminalise the buyers, to tackle demand as the basis of the prostitution system. The Nordic model offers high quality services for those in prostitution: housing, legal advice, addiction services, long-term emotional and psychological support, education and training, childcare, and addresses all factors that drive people into prostitution (for example, minimum wage levels).
Norway, Northern Ireland, Canada, South Korea, Iceland and mostly recently France, have introduced a version of the Nordic Model“.
Ms Tankard-Reist also champions the importance of exit services for women who feel trapped in the industry and education to teach children about boundaries, self-respect and self-worth.
“Identify the girls who are at risk and mentor them, inspire them, value them. Teach them about good relationships, and how to spot someone who is trying to exploit them. Show them how to get help. Catholic agencies are specially placed to be able to discern risk factors in teenage girls. And of course we need to do more to educate boys about healthy sexuality and respect for women.”
Our lecturer wanted to make it clear that women mostly enter the industry because of vulnerabilities and lack of choice. She concluded by speaking to Catholic Social Teaching
“… the exploitation of prostitution does injury to the dignity of the person (woman) who is prostituted by reducing that person to a thing to be used for the ends of another.
Abolitionists are also calling on governments to structure society and the economy on this basis, so that we can build a world without prostitution.
We want justice for women who have been trapped in prostitution, for women hurt by prostitution.
Justice for women who are living in poverty, giving them the dignity of a proper job that they can enjoy and develop their professional skills.
Laws and social policies affirming the dignity of every woman.”
The latest affront in an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment of Prostitution Narratives contributors and survivors
Prostitution Narratives: Stories of survival in the sex trade was released by Spinifex Press in April. Since then, all connected with the book have been subjected to abuse, insults, vilification and threats. Our survivors have been endured torrents of verbal aggression, forced to run a gauntlet of sex industry representatives at book launches and book related events around the country. While testifying to the violence they lived with in the industry, they now confront intimidation outside it. We have had to line up security at a number of events. I was provided a security escort out of the ACMI venue at the Melbourne Writers Festival two weeks ago due to a protest organised by the Australian Sex Party (consider this – protesting two books, between them documenting the lives of 85 women, 65 of them murdered). The worst demonstration of the industry’s determination to protect its vested interests was on show in Townsville last month, when the local prostitution lobby forced the domestic violence service to cancel the conference room booking for our launch, then turned up at the new venue to harass and disrupt our event. I’ve seen a lot in more than two decades of activism, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Well known former head of Scarlet Alliance, Elena Jeffreys, approached our youngest and most recently exited survivor Alice (‘Charlotte’ in the book) and tried to re-recruit her into the industry. Brisbane writer Jas Rawlinson has written this account.
Sex industry survivor told to ‘give sex work another go’
By Jas Rawlinson
For 28-year-old trafficking survivor Alice, the last thing she expected when publicly sharing her story was to be encouraged by a prominent sex-industry figure into returning to a life that had almost killed her.
Attending the recent Townsville book launch of Prostitution Narratives, a collection of autobiographical stories from survivors of sex-industry abuse (edited by Dr Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist), Alice says that she and another fellow survivor were bullied and disrespected by members of sex industry group RESPECT.
“Some of the women deliberately chose to sit with their backs to me while I was speaking, and as another survivor spoke, they continually called out over the top of her,” said Alice (known as ‘Charlotte’ in Prostitution Narratives).
At the end of her speech, Alice says she was singled out by Scarlet Alliance representative Elena Jeffreys, and encouraged to return to prostitution.
“She said to me: ‘’I'll admit the Queensland girls have it really rough up here, but I’d really encourage you to give sex work another go down in New South Wales where the [working] conditions are a lot better.’
“I couldn’t believe that not even 10 minutes after speaking about the trauma I went through – and have been left with as a result of working in the industry – here was this person suggesting I go back!”, Alice said.
“I thought it was completely disrespectful towards me – she doesn’t know anything about where I am now in life. I have no need to go back and never would.”
In a series of tweets, Alice shared her disgust at being encouraged to return to prostitution
Women’s rights activist and Prostitution Narratives co-editor Ms Tankard Reist, was also shocked.
“That was definitely the worst element of the day, it surprised even me,” she said. “To see Alice told to just ‘give it another go’ after she had just described the multiple levels of trauma she had been through was deeply disturbing.”
Alice, who was sold to pedophile rings by her own father at just five years old, and had suffered serious trauma from her time in the Australian sex industry as a young woman, says the ‘immature behaviour’ of the sex industry group was extremely disappointing.
“I am just disappointed that they aren’t interested in listening to what anyone with an opposing view has to say, and concurrently, that they want to silence our voices so no-one else can hear us either.”
Initially the event had been scheduled to take place at a northern Queensland Domestic Violence centre, however, the location was changed after members of RESPECT approached the service expressing disappointment with the centre for allowing the book launch to be held in their venue – even though it is used by a diverse number of other groups.
Several attendees, including Ms Tankard Reist, and Collective Shout Coordinator Angela Burrows, revealed that the venue was warned against providing their space to the ex-industry survivors.
“Members of RESPECT told the Domestic Violence service that their group ‘could not be held responsible for the actions of some of their more radical members, should they allow us to use the space,” said Ms Burrows.
Ms Tankard Reist said it was ‘ironic’ that the lobby group would react in this way toward a service that aims to support women fleeing abuse.
Forced to change venues at the last minute, the survivors and event coordinators attempted to go ahead with the book launch at a new location.
“Because we had to move the venue, we ended up jammed into a corner of a bar, with a live band right next door, where people could barely hear us. It was terrible for the survivors to have to tell their stories in this kind of environment,” says Ms Tankard Reist.
However, despite the less than ideal location, the women’s rights activist said it was the ongoing intimidation and bullying from sex worker activists that was most disturbing.
“At one point Elena Jeffreys got up on a stool and stood over us, just raining down abuse; booing, hissing, calling out…”
Despite claiming to support current and former sex workers voices, various Australian sex-worker groups have in recent months, made several attempts to de-platform trafficking and sex-trade survivor events.
In April, pro-sex industry activists targeted survivors at ‘The world’s oldest oppression’ conference held at RMIT University, where panel speakers included Irish prostitution survivor and author Rachel Moran.
Ms Tankard Reist says it is horrible the way survivors of trafficking and sexual abuse are treated, given that such groups claim to support former sex worker voices.
“This is really just part of a broader campaign against prostitution survivors,” she said.
For survivors such as Alice, sharing her story of abuse and survival was not an easy decision to make, but one that she felt important.
“Speaking at the Townsville book launch was honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done. I was shaking the whole time but I am very proud that I didn’t let anyone stop me from speaking about my truth and my experiences,” she said.
“This was not the first time people have tried to silence me and it will not be the last either. But I am stronger than that, and I am not going to be quiet and go away.
“I will continue to speak out and pull back the glamorous and glitzy facade the sex industry likes to maintain, because it is an important message.
“There are people out there who want to hear what survivors like me have to say.”
Note: Several attempts were made to contact Ms Jules Kim (Scarlet Alliance CEO) and Ms Elena Jeffreys for comment, however no response was given.
I wrote earlier how the sex industry went into overdrive over some fair questioning on ABC Lateline last week. The industry’s meltdown over the program demonstrated how hostile it is to any light being shed on the realities of the business of sexploitation which profits from the bodies of women. This blog post exposes the facts about the Scarlet Alliance, which receives Federal and State Government grants to address trafficking – which is funny if it wasn’t so sad – Scarlet Alliance doesn’t even believe in trafficking. It doesn’t even think brothels who sell trafficked women should be penalised, and wants no organised exit programs for women who want to get out of the industry. So why are out taxes propping them up? The money should be diverted into services that actually help real women rather than benefitting the brothel owners, pimps profiteers and vested interests of the prostitution trade.
The Scarlet Alliance/Sex Worker Collective’s Misogyny. Why They Should Not Be funded.
March 16, 2015
I have appropriated the pimp lobby’s red umbrella to fight for the Nordic Model.
Perhaps everyone who actually cares about women in prostitution can use this as a profile pic- although, I realise my creation is not very pretty. I have no sympathy for the Scarlet Alliance and the whole red umbrella collective crying how oppressed and stigmatised they are. They never helped me, and as evidenced below, they never will help anyone trying to leave the industry. Too much money to be made trading in human beings. They are among the scum of the earth and treat prostituted women like shit. But don’t take my word for it- here are just the facts.
“Evidence of SCARLET ALLIANCE’S opposition to Federal Government Policies to stem Human Trafficking
1. Opposition to exit programs
Scarlet Alliance publicly opposes exit programs to support trafficked women wanting to leave the sex industry.[i]
2. Denies the reality of human trafficking for sexual exploitation
Scarlet Alliance refuses to acknowledge that sex slavery exists and claims that leaving prostitution is an individual decision for which there should be no government intervention.[ii]Scarlet Alliance’s policy is to have “sex work” considered equivalent to any other professional occupation.
3. Opposition to making debt bondage an offence
Scarlet Alliance is opposed to debt bondage being an offence under State Government crime legislation[iii]
4. Opposition to any controls on prostitution
Scarlet Alliance opposes all laws, regulations, rules or policies for the sex industry.Yet it asserts that the safety of “sex workers” should be prioritised over all industry or community concerns.[iv]
5. Opposed to penalties for knowingly using trafficked women:
The Scarlet Alliance is opposed to criminalisation of intentionally, knowingly or recklessly obtaining sexual services from trafficked women.[v]
6. Opposes penalties for brothel owners knowingly using trafficked women:
Scarlet Alliance has publicly declared its opposition to any form of sanction or penalty for brothel owners who knowingly engage and exploit trafficked persons.[vi]
7. Opposes police checks on brothels
Scarlet Alliance has declared its opposition to giving Police a more flexible right of entry to legal or illegal brothels.[vii]
8. Opposition to any kind of police involvement in policing of prostitution.
It believes that police should be removed from any administrative or regulatory role in the sex industry. This belief makes mockery of the fact that Scarlet Alliance also claims that people “working” in the sex industry should be afforded police protection.[viii]
9. Opposition to police giving trafficking a higher priority
Scarlet Alliance is opposed to police being trained to be more aware of the signs of human trafficking and giving it a higher priority.They are also opposed to increasing public awareness about sex trafficking and sexual slavery.[ix]
10. Claims human trafficking is a myth
Scarlet Alliance claims that trafficking is a myth produced by media hype, anti-trafficking and anti-slavery organisations[x]. It believes that anti trafficking raids have forced “sex workers” “underground”.This position makes a mockery of the fact that Scarlet Alliance contributed to the development of the Guidelines for NGOs Working with Trafficked People.[xi]
11. Opposition to provision of refuges for trafficked women
It beggars belief, but Scarlet Alliance is opposed to the establishment of appropriately funded refuges for trafficked women, and they oppose assistance and support being provided to victims of trafficking.[xii]
They oppose these services to victims lest attention be drawn to the evil of human trafficking which, in turn, would make it difficult to argue that “sex work” is the equivalent of any other professional occupation
12. Opposition to public awareness programs for clients of prostitution:
Scarlet Alliance is opposed to any advertising that alerts purchasers (johns)and prospective purchasers (johns)of sexual service to the existence of the crime of sexual trafficking.[xiii]
It wants the public to remain in denial about the existence and magnitude of sex trafficking on the grounds that this would give a bad name to “sex work” in general.
13. Opposition to anything that hinders the promotion of sex work
Anything that hinders the promotion of “sex work”.[xiv]
Wants to promote sex work and 457 visas for sex work.
Scarlet Alliance wants to promote “sex work” as a legitimate occupation; it claims that “sex workers” should become entitled to 457 Visas and that brothel owners should be eligible sponsors of “migrant sex workers” (i.e trafficked women) to give more respectability to the pursuit of professional “sex work”.[xv]
Scarlet Alliance claims that “sex work” should be considered legitimate in all its forms, including brothel, private escort and street based work. No licensing model should apply.[xvi]”
So this is for anyone still wondering why they oppose the Nordic Model, which decriminalises the prostituted and instead calls the men who buy and sell us the criminals. For anyone still wondering if they have a point and if this is all about sex being taboo and “stigma” and blah, blah, blah. For anyone wondering if you yourself should oppose a model which provides exiting strategies and funding for women trying to leave prostitution .You can have a think about their ethics, their chants of “sex worker rights!”, their actual misogyny parading as some personal, stigmatised oppression from “moralists” and “rescuers”. You can have a think about how these ‘advocates’ who claim to be “run by sex workers, for sex workers”, even if they are in management positions and don’t have to sell sex at all ! treat women such as myself and so many others who actually give a shit about women. Would you call a woman entered into prostitution as a child a “Migrant Sex Worker”? And what would you give to know back then, when you were being “liberal” and “Choosy-Choice”, what you know right now?
They are calling for more funding . The Scarlet Alliance just received an extra of $960,000,(on top of the funding they have already received, which adds up to millions), for their place on a board to fight sex-trafficking.
Yes, you read that right. A group which denies sex-trafficking exists is on an advisory panel with the Abbott Government’s National Anti-Trafficking Plan.
Statements from NORMAC and Abolish Prostitution Now following Amnesty state AGMs on weekend
NORDIC MODEL AUSTRALIA COALITION (NORMAC)
AMNESTY BRANCHES OPPOSE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S SEX INDUSTRY AGENDA.
A resolution has been passed today by Amnesty branches in Tasmania and Queensland which advocates for an abolitionist approach to prostitution.
This decision conflicts with the position proposed by the international secretariat in support of a legalised sex industry with little government interference into the buying and selling of sex and with no recognition of those who are harmed in the industry.
Former anti-discrimination commissioner Dr Jocelynne Scutt stated her concern for the direction of Amnesty in proposing support for the sex industry. “Concerted action on a global level needs to be taken by all countries working cooperatively to end the slave trade, prostitution, and buying women and girls by whatever means – whether prostitution, slavery or marriages.”
Several Amnesty members who attended the Tasmanian branch AGM said that Amnesty had not consulted with Survivor Groups in the development of their sex laws proposals nor had they acknowledged the growing body of evidence that legalisation has been a failed experiment in all countries where it has been adopted, especially in Holland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.
International Survivors Group Abolish Prostitution Now has stated:
If Amnesty International succeeds in its pimp- and pro-prostitution lobby-inspired stance of decriminalizing all aspects of prostitution, that will be almost the end of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as we know and understand it. They will not have brought it down alone, there have been other forces undermining the foundation of global human rights, but the impact of AI to decriminalize and remain the leading human rights NGO of the UN cannot be underestimated. The concept of Human Rights, and of Human Dignity as universal, inalienable and shared by all equally will be replaced by the idea of “dignity” being a marketable, individual stance that is at all times subject to market forces. Safeguarding human rights – and the rights of marginalized and disadvantaged groups like women and girls – will no longer happen from the standpoint of their inalienable rights, but merely from the point of view of improving their sales opportunities.
This is unacceptable. It means giving free reign to those in power, that is those with money. Just as decriminalizing all aspects of prostitution basically means giving free reign to pimps, traffickers, brothel owners and punters. The question will no longer be – how can women and girls (and boys and men) be kept out of prostitution, which we know to be devastating – but: How can we devise ways to make prostitution sound good, and to let those in prostitution keep a fraction of the money that is being passed around among powerful men? This is not Human Rights.
“NORMAC fully endorses this statement by Abolish Prostitution Now and considers that if Amnesty does not develop a contemporary and informed policy framework on the issues of exploitation of persons in the sex industry, the outcome will be dire both for their membership and for their standing as a peak human rights group.” said Matthew Holloway
For further information contact Spokesperson: Matthew Holloway 0450 682 372
Abolish Prostitution Now
Amnesty’s Prostitution Policy Sparks Dissent in Australia
Members of Amnesty International Australia vote against International Secretariat’s plans to decriminalise pimps and buyers of sex.
Pimp admits involvement in policy’s development.
Jimmy Carter speaks in support of the Nordic Model in opposition to decriminalising pimps and prostitution buyers.
Amnesty International’s proposed policy to decriminalise pimps and buyers met with opposition at Australian Amnesty state Annual General Meetings on the weekend.
The proposed policy was raised at Amnesty state level AGMs around Australia Saturday May 10, with dissent from Amnesty members. Amnesty Queensland and Amnesty Tasmania voted against the draft policy. Members voted instead to adopt the Nordic Model of prostitution, which decriminalises prostituted people, while at the same time criminalises pimps, traffickers and buyers. WA members voted in favour of a new process, which would involve seeking input from those who have survived sex industry violence. There was rigorous debate on the issue in other states.
Former president of the United States and human rights champion, Jimmy Carter, is the latest big name to speak out against the proposal. In an interview with Robin Morgan, Carter said ‘it’s inconceivable to me that Amnesty International, or any other organisation that respects human rights, would endorse slave masters’.
Escort agency manager, Douglas Fox, has claimed the credit for the policy’s development and advancement throughout the organisation. Fox manages one of the biggest escort agencies in the UK, along with his male partner. Fox has held leadership positions in Amnesty International, with an agenda of decriminalising prostitution.
While escort agency managers have been given a voice by the international secretariat of Amnesty, survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking say they have been ignored by Amnesty’s international leadership.
The Swedish branch of Amnesty International has also taken a stand against the decriminalisation of pimps and buyers of prostitution.
The consultation on the draft policy on decriminalisation of pimps and buyers of sex was initially slated to be resolved at the International AGM in June. However, due to strong opposition internationally from prostitution survivors, Amnesty members and other human rights organisations, Amnesty International had pushed back the decision until August 2015.
Sunday May 11, 2014
Dr. Caroline Norma: Ph: 0410 190 964
Why are we forced to fund Scarlet Alliance?
NORDIC MODEL AUSTRALIA COALITION (NORMAC)
4 May 2014
Minister must withdraw funding from Scarlet Alliance
The Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NORMAC) has written to the federal Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, calling on him to withdraw $360 000 in funding provided to the Scarlet Alliance to assist with the detection and prevention of human trafficking and slavery.
NORMAC has asked Minister Keenan to re-allocate the Scarlet Alliance’s funding to other groups who will also receive funding for this purpose, including Anti-Slavery Australia, Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) and Project Respect.
Spokesperson Matthew Holloway said, “Whilst we fully support the intent of this funding, NORMAC is concerned that tax payer dollars are going to an organisation that promotes an effectively unregulated industry, with the only constraints on its operation being the planning approvals that would apply to any other business.”
“Project Respect is better situated to utilise additional funding as they do a lot of on-the-ground work assisting and supporting people trapped in prostitution towards meaningful careers and employment outside the sex industry.”
Lecturer in public policy Dr Mary Louise Sullivan has stated that:
“The Scarlet Alliance presents itself as the peak ‘sex worker’ association in Australia and is a major defender of the pro-prostitution position. Indeed the Association’s membership requires that those who join must agree to its objectives. Members must acknowledge that ‘sex work is a legitimate occupation’. Moreover they must be ‘actively promoting the right to work… including street, brothel, and escort, private and opportunistic work’.The Scarlet Alliance undisputedly opposes ‘the development of exit strategies and programs for women who wish to leave the sex industry, particularly trafficked women.”
The 2004 report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission – ‘Inquiry into the trafficking of women for sexual servitude’ indicated it is generally accepted that approximately 300 women are trafficked into Australia each year for sex work whereas the Scarlet Alliance estimates only a low number of 10 trafficked women.
The Hon Mr Duncan Kerr observed that contract women who have been trafficked into Australia represent a continuum – from those who enter with full knowledge and consent; to those who enter with consent but are deceived as to conditions; to those who enter Australia completely deceived as to their work in the sex industry.
“NORMAC’s concern is that the Scarlet Alliance response fails to recognise that a number of people, specifically women, are trafficked into Australia under the false pretense of being offered legitimate work and instead become sexual slaves.”
“It would be irresponsible for the new Liberal government to continue down the path of providing any funding to the Scarlet Alliance as the organisation lacks the ability to impartially represent trafficked people and those in sexual slavery.”
“The Scarlet Alliance’s core beliefs and ideology seem deeply opposed to recognising the harm caused by prostitution to those involved in the sex industry. NORMAC believes this makes their organisation unfit to receive taxpayer funding when it would be more effectively used by other organisations who have a proven track record” said Matthew Holloway.
For further information contact: Matthew Holloway – 0450 682 372
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
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“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.”
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