All staff of escort agencies must be registered with NT Police and receive a certificate from the Police Commissioner. At the time of writing, the Prostitution Bill WA , which proposes major amendments to the Prostitution Act , including the legalisation of prostitution under a licensing system, was before the WA Legislative Assembly. This table outlines the content of legislation in each state and territory regarding sex work but does not include sex work provisions within common law.
Sex workers can also be encouraged to sign contract agreements verifying this relationship Murray However, it has been argued that the level of control managers have over when sex workers work and the services they provide more closely resembles the work arrangements held in common law to be those of employer and employee Murray This includes fines for being late to work, not being allowed to sell sex services independently outside the workplace and control over the nature of the services sex workers provide, the amount they can charge and how long they work Murray ; Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council This leaves sex workers without the freedoms associated with being an independent contractor, yet without the benefits of being an employee Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee This is a situation where an employment relationship is disguised as one of client and independent contractor with negative consequences for the employee ABCC Much of the existing knowledge of sex workers has relied on input from peer and outreach workers, sexual health workers and sex workers themselves.
Convenience or snowball sampling, where participants are recruited in a non-random manner using existing knowledge or social networks, is the main methodology used in the research and surveys referenced in this section.
This dearth of population-based studies on sex workers internationally and within Australia is primarily a result of restricted access to sex workers for research and survey purposes due to:.
The majority of sex workers are female Donovan et al. Those who identify as transgender and male sex workers are difficult to access for research as they are more likely to initiate contact with clients electronically eg by phone and online and work as private escorts rather than in a brothel-based environment Donovan et al. Research suggests that the majority of sex workers are aged between 20 and 39 years Donovan et al. This increase in age appeared to be driven by an increase in the age of migrant sex workers, who made up a sizeable proportion of the sex worker population in Sydney.
Age distribution has also been shown to vary by sector. Only seven percent of private workers were aged 18—24 years compared with more than one-quarter of street-based and brothel workers Woodward et al.
Although the results may not be representative, these findings have been replicated in studies from other states and territories. The total number of sex workers working in Australia has been estimated to be 20, in any one year Quadara ; however the proportion of workers born outside Australia remains largely unknown.
Data from the SSHC suggested that the proportion of Asian migrant sex workers ie those born in Asian countries in Sydney accessing their Chinese and Thai-language clinics increased from 20 percent to more than half from to Donovan et al. This increase in sex workers accessing Sydney sexual health clinics was attributed to both an increase in migrant sex workers from Asia and a decrease in Australian-born sex workers Donovan et al.
It is possible that these data are biased towards Asian sex workers due to the Asian-language clinics the SSHC runs; however, the LASH research conducted in Sydney brothels in found a similar proportion of migrant sex workers from China and Thailand.
SSHC data from showed that the proportions of Thai and Chinese-born sex workers had nearly reached equivalence Data from the SSHC also showed a sharp increase in the representation of South Korean women from ; by they had increased their representation to close to that of Chinese and Thai women Donovan et al.
The migrant status of sex workers in other parts of Australia varied from that found for Sydney-based sex workers. These results were said to reflect those observed for licensed brothel workers in Melbourne Donovan et al. At first glance, it appears that migrant sex workers are more common in some states and territories than others, and that the cultural background of this population also varies by jurisdiction.
However, it is difficult to ascertain whether these proportions are representative of the true migrant population at the survey sites or the ease or lack thereof of access to this population for research. A questionnaire delivered to Asian female sex workers who attended the SSHC collected similar educational measures of sex workers born in China and Thailand Pell et al. Brothel-based and private workers generally had low rates of drug use, high rates of condom use and very low rates of sexually transmitted infections or STIs Harcourt et al.
Sydney brothel workers had levels of mental health that were comparable with the general population Donovan et al. Perth-based respondents to the LASH survey reported percent condom use and experienced STIs at a rate similar to that recorded for the general population Donovan et al.
Categorising sex workers by the sector in which they work for research purposes can be problematic due to the extent sex workers may work in a variety of sectors simultaneously. Although limited in number, the research surveys reviewed in this report examine the issue of violence perpetrated by clients in the workplace.
Eight percent of respondents to the LASH survey reported having experienced physical assault by clients Donovan et al. It must be noted that none of these surveys used a representative sample; therefore the proportions may not be generalisable to the entire sex worker population. It is also problematic to compare the findings of these surveys as each one differed in their sampling frameworks respondents were sampled from different states with different legal frameworks for the sex industry , sampling approaches, sample sizes and categories for the violence reported by respondents.
The legal frameworks governing the sex industry play an important role in the health and safety of sex workers. The need for legislation, police and regulatory practices to support rather than impede health promotion extends to broader issues of workplace safety regarding violence, abuse and harassment.
There is the risk that sex workers working outside the legal framework face greater barriers to reporting incidents of violence or abuse, or implementing safety strategies. However, as Quadara There were several factors that were significantly associated with the prevalence of STIs among sex workers attending the SSHC between and These included being of a younger age, being of Asian origin and using condoms inconsistently at work Donovan et al.
This result is, in part, due to the lower initial rates of condom use among Asian sex workers during the s. As consistent condom use in the workplace increased among Asian workers from 77 percent in to 95 percent in Donovan et al.
The level of victimisation from assault at work among migrant sex workers is largely unknown. A small-scale survey of Chinese-born sex workers in Australia showed that 44 percent of the 43 participants had experienced sexual assault in the workplace Jeffreys In addition to the issues affecting all sex workers with regard to reporting sexual assault and violent situations that occur while working ie the stigma associated with sex work, and the illegality of some forms of sex work in some states and territories , there are further barriers for women with diverse cultural and language backgrounds, particularly non-English-speaking backgrounds.
For women from CALD backgrounds experiencing violence, barriers to accessing support include:. These barriers for sex workers, and for CALD women generally, may intersect to prevent migrant sex workers from reporting sexual assault and abuse experienced within the workplace.
Migrant sex workers working illegally in the sex industry may also have a legitimate fear of deportation or other repercussions from the authorities, which may act as a further disincentive to report these crimes or access other formal support networks.
As noted above, all surveys conducted on sex workers in Australia have included those born in countries other than Australia. However, with the exception of the SSHC surveys, there is little quantitative information specifically on temporary or permanent migrant sex workers in Australia and their experiences.
Similarly, little is known about if and how their workplace experiences differ from those of their Australian-born counterparts. In some instances, the ABS restricts its category of migrant to those who were aged more than 15 years on arrival or who arrived in Australia within a defined period ABS For the purposes of this research project, a broader definition of migrant was used. A migrant was defined as a person who reported being born in a country other than Australia, regardless of whether Australia was their usual residence and regardless of their age on arrival.
The little research that includes sex workers born in another country suggests that migrant sex workers are not likely to be street-based sex workers and that they work predominantly in brothels Pell et al. Aside from the issues with sex workers acting as subcontractors for commercial sex service employers, as described previously, brokered contracts or agreements involving salary reductions to pay back debt owed between migrant sex workers and their employers may also increase the risk of coercion or exploitation.
More recent evidence shows that contract arrangements are indeed used by some migrant workers, particularly Thai sex workers in Sydney Pell et al. The SSHC surveys showed that in , 19 percent of Thai-speaking sex workers had been on a contract at some point and four percent of all Asian sex workers were at that time currently on a contract Pell et al. However, it is unknown how many of these contracts were brokered by a third party or independently negotiated directly with the workplace.
Coupled with a lack of knowledge of Australian laws and poor English-language skills, this debt meant that Thai sex workers were often limited in their capacity to enforce safe-sex practices. This trend of contracting sex work was not seen at the time to the same extent within migrant workers from other cultural backgrounds. More recent research Pell et al. However, the proportion of Thai workers in who had at some stage been on a contract was still significantly higher than that of Chinese workers It should be noted that employing sex workers on a contract tied to a debt does not necessarily constitute the crime of debt bondage in and of itself; however, due to the lack of empirical information on the types of contract arrangements that are used by sex workers in Australia, it is difficult to determine what proportion of such contract arrangements could be considered a situation of debt bondage.
At the time of writing, no criminal prosecutions in Australia involving debt bondage as the primary charge have been finalised, although the majority of the small number of sexual servitude and slavery cases in the sex industry have involved elements of debt bondage IDC In contrast, only 7.
The proportions of those who entered on a student or work visa were not dissimilar to the proportions on these visa types at the time of the survey The SSHC survey found that the proportion of Asian sex workers who reported previous experience in sex work overseas decreased from almost half in The overall percentage of sex workers who had planned to do sex work after entering Australia also decreased during this period This decrease is probably partially attributable to the aforementioned decrease in the proportion of Thai-speaking sex workers, who were significantly more likely than Chinese-speaking sex workers to have planned to do sex work in Australia The Australian sex industry.
Structural elements of the Australian sex industry Size and structure There exist no official statistics on the number of sex workers in Australia. Only six percent stated that they paid for sex in the past year in a street sex-work setting.
Sex work is legal in about 50 per cent of international jurisdictions. Historic concerns around sex work, grounded in the moral view that the commercialization of sex is degrading and damaging, persist, as does the notion of sex work as inherent victimization for those who sell sex. There has also been a punitive shift in last two decades in many countries, particularly where human trafficking has been conflated with sex work. Criminalisation has been inked to labour abuses, corruption and exploitation.
There is debate about whether criminalisation can reduce the incidence of sex work. Critics argue labour abuses and other exploitations are concealed in any industry forced underground by criminalisation. It also provides opportunities for police and exploitation of sex workers by pimps or brothel managers. Criminalisation is often supported by those who see sex work as a public health menace or associate it with criminality.
But sex workers may be endangered by public attitudes in the form of homophobic or misogynistic behaviour. Critics of criminalisation claim that while penalties seek to protect women from exploitation, in practice they are mostly applied to sex workers and not sex work clients. Legalisation, which involves regulation of sex work by the state through licensing, is also not without problems.
Licensing is considered to exclude undesirable elements from industry involvement, but large proportions of the industry remain unlicensed and, thus, criminalised. In some countries this has resulted in increased police surveillance, forced health evaluations, higher taxes and financial penalties for sex workers.
In licensed Australian brothels, workers are not subject to normal work entitlements and they are also subject to compulsory health examinations and controls not typical of other industries.
Decriminalization has only been adopted in two jurisdictions worldwide, these being New South wales and New Zealand. It is a policy advocated by Amnesty International as a pragmatic approach to human rights and public health. Under this approach there are no special laws for sex workers, but they are subject to the same regulations as other people and businesses, including being subject to the protections of the criminal law.
Research indicates that decriminalisation delivers better public health outcomes, improved working conditions, safety and well-being, while not increasing the volume of the sex industry. There are, however, claims that decriminalisation increases the overall volume of sex work activity and leads to more trafficking and child prostitution.
There is no evidence that this has been the case in NSW, where sex work was decriminalised in It is better to frame concepts of trafficking and forced prostitution as forms of exploitation. Exploitation is experienced by varied occupational groups, but is not exclusive to sex work. As research in Australia has shown, the experiences of sex workers and clients are diverse and any generalisation or simplistic policy calling for abolition requires caution.
Creating an open and transparent sex work industry is very likely to reduce and perhaps eliminate stigma, making it a safer environment for sex workers and clients to operate within.
The full results of his survey, conducted with adjunct professor Victor Minichiello, will be published as a book chapter in Male Sex Work and Society Volume II , to be released in First posted January 04, More stories from New South Wales. If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC. ABC teams share the story behind the story and insights into the making of digital, TV and radio content. Read about our editorial guiding principles and the enforceable standard our journalists follow.
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