Curtin University study on sex work recommends decriminalisation of industry

A Curtin University report in WA's sex work industry found a shift towards advertising online.
A Curtin University report in WA's sex work industry found a shift towards advertising online.

MORE sex workers are moving from the streets and brothels to online and private work in a new report released by Curtin University.

The report recommends the decriminalisation of the sex industry and offers a snap shot of WA’s sex industry with seven local governments and two police officers involved and 354 workers surveyed.

The study showed a significant increase in the number of private sex workers predominantly advertising online, which was affecting brothel owners, plus an increasing demand by clients for “natural” or unprotected services.

The study found about 40 shop front massage parlours in WA offered discreet and cheaper services than brothels.

The street scene seems to have dissipated, perhaps driven underground with ‘in car services’ and increased use of mobile phones to generate business.

Participants said private work paid better, was more discreet and offered flexible working conditions.

Threats and assaults however were prevalent, with reluctance from workers to contact police as they did not expected to be treated well or taken seriously, or they had concerns about their visas.

The report was released October 20, with summaries tailored for the Department of Health, WA Police, WA Local Government Association, and the Department of the Attorney General.

Report findings, by the numbers:
– 55 per cent surveyed did at least some private work
– 30 per cent worked in a massage shop at least some of the time
– 12 per cent worked only in a massage shop and 7 per cent did any street work
– 25 per cent had been threatened at least once in the past year
– 17.2 per cent had been assaulted once or twice, while 4.6 per cent were assaulted more often
– 29.4 per cent were pressured to do something they did not want to do

AMA (WA) backs industry regulation

AMA (WA) President Omar Khorshid said WA should look into regulating the state’s sex industry to protect the health of both sex workers and their clients.

“We need to accept the fact that prostitution does and will continue to exist in WA, and regulating the industry could safeguard the health of both sex workers and clients,” Dr Khorshid said.

“Current legislation focuses largely on sex workers operating out of brothels, however a vast majority of sex workers opt to work privately. Legislation should be updated to reflect this shift.

“The AMA (WA) will discuss the issue with the Minister for Health to determine what can be done to improve the health and wellbeing of both workers and clients.”

Health Minister Roger Cook’s office said legislative responsibility for decriminalisation of prostitution did not sit solely with the Minister for Health, and would require further discussion with the Attorney General and the Minister for Police”.

Opposition Leader Mike Nahan was unavailable for comment but his office said it was not an issue that had been considered at a party level at this stage.

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