For release: October 11, 2011

Further evidence of failures of legalising brothels

Reports this week that police have implicated legal brothels in Victoria and New South Wales in human trafficking, sex slavery and organised crime further demonstrate the failure of legalising then attempting to regulate the sex trade, the Australian Christian Lobby has said.

ACL’s spokeswoman on human trafficking Michelle Pearse said that the nature of the sex trade attracted illicit activities, and that the favoured Australian approach of decriminalisation or regulation of prostitution had in many cases exacerbated rather than solved the dangers of the trade.

“A trade that encourages workers to undertake regular health checks for STIs and requires the provision of panic alarms clearly is one that cannot claim to provide anything remotely approaching a safe workplace,” said Ms Pearse.

“But more than that, government legalisation of prostitution sends a message that it is OK for men to purchase a woman’s body for sex.

“This increases the demand for sexual services – a demand that can never be met by the legal industry and the few women who freely choose to participate in this largely exploitative trade.

“The shortfall in demand can only ever be made up through illicit means, such as coercion and human trafficking, as the evidence from Victoria and New South Wales so clearly demonstrates.

“Illegal brothels in Victoria are believed to at least equal the number of legal ones,” Ms Pearse said.

Ms Pearse called on the governments of the Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, which are in the process of reviewing their prostitution laws, to not follow the failed approaches of the large eastern states in decriminalising or legalising prostitution.

“The last thing vulnerable and desperate women need in a society that claims to value gender equality is to be told that selling their bodies for sex is a legitimate career option,” she said.

“Instead of normalising a dangerous and exploitative trade, Australia’s governments should be looking to the successful Swedish model of criminalising the purchaser of sex in order to limit the demand and the associated harms of the trade.

“Many other countries are now following Sweden's lead.”

Ms Pearse said that all states in Australia should learn the lesson from Sweden and implement a similar program to target the demand that allows for the trafficking and exploitation of women.