Campus Commentary News

Collective Shout returns for prostitution law reform talk

By Caris Horton

A talk on sex work law reform will see controversial lobby group Collective Shout on campus after their previous event was cancelled by the Murdoch Student Guild.

A poster advertising the event on the School of Law's facebook page. Source: Murdoch University - School of Law
A poster advertising the event on the School of Law’s facebook page. Source: Murdoch University – School of Law

Organised by the School of Law, the event will feature Caitlin Roper, a member of Collective Shout, who was scheduled to speak during SHAG [Sexual Health Awareness Guidance] week about the objectification of women in the media.

This previous event was cancelled after students, including former Women’s Representative Rebecca Leighton, voiced their opposition to Collective Shout’s views including the anti-abortion stance of its founder.

The talk, to be held on Thursday September 24, will discuss the Nordic model of law reform and also feature Simone Watson and Peter Abetz, who is a current MP and former pastor who, in March, condemned a primary school anti-bullying program for secretly being a ‘gay lifestyle promotion program’.

Sex workers not asked for their views

In WA, prostitution is legal while brothels are not. The Nordic model calls for paid sex to be criminalised, with pimps and buyers being targeted.

Adopt Nordic WA ensure on their website that sex workers wouldn’t be punished under the law but some people within the sex work community disagree with this approach.

“Under this model, a lot of sex workers have ended up homeless because the police will ring landlords and say that if you don’t evict them [sex workers] then you will be charged with pimping,” says Rebecca Davies, current sex worker and member of People for Sex Worker Rights in WA.

“Basically they are the sort of laws that force us to work in isolation. They cut us off from everyone because anyone who has contact with us could be charged with pimping.”

Peter Abetz, advocate for the Nordic model. Source: WA Parliament
Peter Abetz, advocate for the Nordic model. Source: WA Parliament

Davies also condemns the event for not allowing debate to take place and  for not providing sex workers a chance to speak about issues concerning them.

“We have representative organisations in every state that are made up of current sex workers. Why have they not been contacted to speak?” says Davies.

Not all happy with choice of venue

The event is not guild-affiliated and Dean of Law, Jürgen Bröhmer, states that neither the University nor the Law School are giving money to the speakers.

“The event is an event by Adopt Nordic WA and they (Peter Abetz) approached us [to see] if we were willing to host it,” says Brohmer.

Guild President, Raeesah Khan, did not respond to a request for a statement on this matter but the comment left on the School of Law’s Facebook page spoke of her disapproval.

“It’s pretty shocking that a university faculty would use their platform to further political agenda instead of creating a space for intellectual debate,” Khan wrote.

The event will be held in the ECL1 lecture theatre on the September 24 from 6pm to 9pm but Davies assures that members from the People for Sex Worker Rights group will be standing out the front of the venue with information about their organisation and how this Nordic model may do more harm than good.

Students who are interested in learning more can get in contact with the People for Sex Worker Rights group and the Scarlet Alliance  to find out more about the battle for sex worker rights however only current or past female, male, intersex and transgender sex workers can officially join the groups.

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