On Wednesday, the 30th of August, a Bill (Summary Offences (Prostitution Law Reform) Amendment Bill 2023) was introduced to South Australian parliament by the Honourable Nicola Centofanti, MLC (Lib).
This Bill seeks to shift criminalisation from the sex industry service provider (sex worker) to the service user (client). This legislative framework is commonly called the “Swedish Criminalisation Model” or the “End Demand Model”. The model has been implemented in various international jurisdictions – Sweden, Northern Ireland, Canada, France, South Korea, and Iceland. In each of these jurisdictions the model has failed to deliver any of the benefits cited by proponents of the model. In fact, studies have shown a direct correlation between laws that criminalise clients and an increase in violence, the spread of sexually transmissible infections, and exploitation in the sex industry.
The legislation introduced by the Hon. Nicola Centofanti MLC seeks to abolish the sex industry by “ending demand” for commercial sexual services. The Bill positions all sex workers as victims that must be rescued from the sex industry. It is an infantilising model that removes agency, self-determination, and choice. The legislation is not rights based, nor does it speak to empowerment. It is, instead, moralistic legislation that posits women have the right to work – but only in industries the Hon. Centofanti MLC deems moral, valuable, and acceptable.
The Centofanti Bill is being sold as “partial decriminalisation”. This is a misnomer. This Bill retains the sex industry as a tenet of the Summary Offenses Act, thereby ensuring the criminalisation and policing of members of the sex industry cohort. This legislative framework has been denounced as harmful by the World Health Organisation, Amnesty International, and the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women.
SIN strongly condemns the introduction of this legislation. The Swedish Criminalisation Model pushes the sex industry further underground, re-enforces barriers to accessing support and other services, and undermines harm reduction and safety strategies.
Despite the overwhelming global evidence, Nicola Centofanti believes this legislation will abolish the sex industry and save sex workers. The Hon. Centofanti MLC is out of step with community ideals and opinion. This Bill is antithetical to progressive policy and will, without doubt, harm sex workers if passed. SIN will continue to fight for the full decriminalisation of the sex industry as best practise law reform.
Media comment by Kat Morrison, General Manager, SIN and Mish Pony, CEO, Scarlet Alliance