"So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war."
This was Abraham Lincoln's reported first greeting to the outspoken abolitionist, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book he referred to was "Uncle Tom's Cabin".
Today, slavery is not legal anywhere, but it happens everywhere. Human trafficking is the modern day slave trade.
We collectively mourn the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian young women, many destined for modern day slavery. Over 27 million people are currently slaves. 600,000 - 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80 per cent are women and girlstrafficked into the commercial sex industry.
I have recently returned from accompanying an Australian delegation to Stockholm, Sweden to investigate what has now become known as the Nordic model of dealing with the problem of prostitution.
Because Sweden criminalises men who buy women for sex, it has become an unattractive destination for sex trafficking. Several other countries have followed, or are following, in its footsteps.
Because brothels promote demand for women, they are not permitted. The law hits the purchaser hard, but provides support to the one purchased, in most cases a woman.
After decades of legal brothels, the Swedes radically changed tack. They recognised something Australian State governments have failed to recognise - prostitution exists because inequality exists.
The criminalisation of the purchase of sex was unique when it was first enacted in Sweden in 1999, but since then Norwayand Icelandhave adopted similar legislation, both in 2009, and Francebegan enacting a similar law in 2013.
Other countriesinvestigating this model include Canada, US, NZ, Finland, Belgium, UK, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands.
Prostitution targets those already marginalised. In a society where everyone is equal, you cannot have a situation where you can buy a person's body and neither can you sell yourself. It is a violation of human dignity and it devalues all around you as it normalises the sale of human beings. A society where full gender equality exists cannot at the same time support the idea that women are commodities that can be bought, sold, and sexually exploited.
The law is a teacher and legislation does change behavior. It brings with it a normative influence. Since introducing the ban on purchasing sex, Swedish culture has changed in a similar way in which public opinion has changed regarding smoking.
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