Australia: Sydney ‘the best city for sex workers’

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,24348679-5005961,00.html
SYDNEY prostitutes enjoy the best health and welfare and Melbourne sex workers fare the worst.

But their colleagues in Perth will get the “rawest deal” if the new Liberal state government stands by its pledge to regulate the industry, experts have warned.

A new report to be presented at a major sexual health conference found that all three cities have a “thriving” sex industry, with nearly 400 brothels in Sydney, 160 in Melbourne and 40 in Perth.

Researchers said Sydney was the “highest risk” city for sexually transmitted infections, as it absorbs all the migrant sex workers from Asia, but instead it appeared workers are well protected by decriminalisation of the industry.

“What we found is that sex workers (in Sydney) are not frightened to seek proper health services because there are no legal issues stopping them,” said Basil Donovan, a professor in sexual health at the University of NSW, who led the survey of 600 sex workers.

Melbourne on the other hand was a vastly different story, with a decriminalised system that still requires brothels to register their workers so they can get monthly health check-ups.

“That might sound nice but it’s extremely expensive, unnecessary and an intrusion on these women’s bodies, and it scares women away from being registered at all, which drives the whole thing underground,” said Prof Donovan, who argues the law should be reformed.

“It is simply a stupid system that creates an underclass of hidden sex workers who may very well suffer much worse health outcomes, if we could even track them down to find out.”

In WA, the now-ousted Labor government recently ended a 150-year system in which all forms of sex work were criminal and controlled by police.

The report, to be presented at the conference on Wednesday, showed that police have taken a protective role in recent years in a climate of imminent decriminalisation, allowing workers to openly seek health and welfare support.

But if the newly-installed state Liberal Government follows through on its election promise to revert to the old system and implement a licensing scheme which tolerates some forms of government-controlled sex work, the situation will worsen dramatically, Prof Donovan said.

“Licensing is an even bigger joke than criminal laws,” he said.

“It’s never worked. The tools of trade, that is a woman’s body, are so portable and concealable, that any pretence to control it only leads to an artificial system that causes hidden prostitution and alienates workers from authorities. The new government would be crazy to go down that path.”

Janelle Fawkes, chief executive of the peak sex workers organisation Scarlet Alliance, echoed the call to end regulation of the sex industry, saying NSW laws were the gold standard in Australia.

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