The Northern Territory Government should not be beguiled by sex industry lobbies with benign sounding names into legalising brothels in the Top End, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.

Responding to a call from the NT Sex Workers Outreach Program for brothels to be opened, ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said this has been a clear policy failure in other jurisdictions and that, instead, the NT Government should look at better ways of protecting women – such as the successful ‘Swedish model’ of managing prostitution.“Legalising brothels does nothing to address the appalling exploitation of women in the sex industry, but instead dramatically increases the problem, as well as increasing trafficking in women,” Mr Wallace said. “In Victoria, NSW and Queensland it has led to a huge increase in prostitution and the number of illegal brothels has as much as tripled. Legalising brothels simply legitimises pimps, brothel owners and men who buy women for sex.”

Mr Wallace said that if the Northern Territory is considering legalising brothels it should closely consider the credible researched evidence and expert testimony about the real harm to women on a far greater scale which results.

For example, in a 2004 paper, Melissa Farley Ph.D., (Prostitution Research and Education), looked at examples from the 2003 New Zealand Prostitution Law and concluded: “Legal sex businesses provide locations where sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and violence against women are perpetrated with impunity.

State-sponsored prostitution endangers all women and children in that acts of sexual predation are normalised.” A host of other research has similar findings.

However, Mr Wallace said the current situation in the NT where escort agencies are licensed is not working either, and he urged the NT Government to have a complete policy rethink on this issue. He said that the ‘Swedish model’ has been shown to significantly reduce the number of women involved in prostitution and the number of men purchasing sex - providing a far better alternative.

Mr Wallace said that Sweden came to realise that legalising the sex trade had resulted in a major increase in the number of women being trafficked into the country. By 1999 the Swedish Government dramatically altered its position by taking the view that buying sex promotes exploitation and is violence against women. The Government therefore decided to criminalise the purchase of sex and the ownership of brothels.

The new laws saw the number of women involved in prostitution cut by twothirds, reduced the number of men buying sex by 80 per cent, and led to a huge drop in the number of women trafficked into the country for sexual purposes.