Australia’s immoral prostitution lawsBy Asia Sentinel Sep 19, 2013 1:23PM UTC
Although the country’s handling of prostitution is often cited as a success, exploitation of sex workers is rampant, writes Asia Sentinel’s Murray Hunter
In the 1970s illegal brothels masqueraded as massage parlors and street walkers proliferated in the street areas around St. Kilda, the notorious Melbourne suburb. Victoria was the first state to legalize brothel-based prostitution through the Melbourne and Metropolitan Planning Scheme with the objectives of controlling industry growth, reducing illegal activity, preventing criminal elements infiltrating the industry, preventing child prostitution, and making streetwalkers safe.
The Victoria model permitted licensed commercial brothels, regulated under the 1994 Prostitution Control Act which became known as the Sex Work Act, and under local government planning regulations. In addition single owner-managed brothels with one additional sex worker were also allowed and exempted from the need to obtain licenses under the Sex Worker Act. However these small brothels still needed local government planning approvals which were almost impossible to obtain, requiring appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and needing expensive legal representation.
The Sex Work Act also allowed escort agencies which could provide sexual services at customer premises, or just recently at hotels, although streetwalkers were still illegal.
Under this legislative regime, Consumer Affairs Policy of the Victorian Government gives the impression that this A$500 million per- year legal industry, with over 3 million customers annually in a country with a population of 23.2 million, is a safe and reasonable job for women in Victoria. In Victoria prostitution is considered a consensual act between two people where one is used sexually by the other. In addition ‘pimping’ is legalized by allowing non-sex workers who own and manage licensed brothels to benefit financially from prostitution.
Sex workers are considered service providers, but without the guaranteed pay, protection, and benefits workers that other industries are afforded.
This situation appears to be institutionalized by the attitudes of the topmost sex worker association, the Scarlet Alliance, which sees prostitution as a legitimate occupation, parallel with the interests of the commercial brothel owners, who as mentioned are not sex workers.
This situation in the state of Victoria leaves sex workers as an exploited group by both government and commercial interests, where the sex workers themselves are regarded as mere objects who generate commercial revenue. The current prostitution laws in Victoria maintain the industry as a vocation of oppression against individual sex workers who are unable to empower themselves and given no resources to cope with the trauma and violence of the job.
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