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Does legalised prostitution lead to more trafficking?

The statistics on prostitution are vague at best but this is an industry that is continually in demand by clientele that, for whatever reason, choose to pay for sex,. It is known as the oldest profession and you will find sex workers of all different ages, sizes, demographics and nationalities.

When women chose to enter this profession of their own accord they cite the number one reason is the lucrative payments they receive and would never dream of earning this kind of money in a 9-5 job.

The laws are varied on sex work with Australia in general having legalised the payment for sex yet only the eastern seaboard permits the establishment of brothels and has regulated the industry.

However despite the legal status and the regulation many still operate outside the law. A recent raids of “Massage Parlours” on the Gold Coast found them to be operating as shop fronts to mask the business of prostitution occurring in the back rooms. These businesses were full of Taiwanese and Malaysian women that by working were in breach of their visa conditions. At the time the police noted that there was no evidence of sex slavery because “”A lot of the time the girls don’t provide assistance to police in terms of talking about the management, or who’s running them, or who’s made arrangements for their flights to Australia or flights to Queensland, or who pays for their accommodation.” Now that in itself is worthy of another blog on its own. The police action was to cancel the girls visas and deport them back to their countries of origin.

So you start to wonder if we have legalised an industry where people can freely buy and sell sexual favours does this open the door to allowing more children being exploited? The industry is regulated but is there sufficient checks and balances in place to assure the public that every sex worker in Australia is there of their own free will and that not one of them have been lured into the industry by a threatening pimp/trafficker?

A 2012 study published in World Development“Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?”investigates the effect of legalised prostitution on human trafficking inflows into high-income countries. The researchers analysed cross-sectional data of 116 countries to determine the effect of legalised prostitution on human trafficking inflows. The findings included:

  • Countries with legalised prostitution are associated with higher human trafficking inflows than countries where prostitution is prohibited.

  • The effect of legal prostitution on human trafficking inflows is stronger in high-income countries than middle-income countries.

  • Criminalisation of prostitution in Sweden resulted in the shrinking of the prostitution market and the decline of human trafficking inflows.

  • The type of legalisation of prostitution does not matter — it only matters whether prostitution is legal or not.

At PRC we are on the streets and we see children being sold in brothels, being put out on a street corner for passing traffic or advertised online. These children are living the life of a sex worker and we all agree that these children deserve a way better life than that and with that we can’t help but feel that adult sex workers too deserve better. How did we become a society where the demand for the purchase of sex has become unprecedented and the acceptance in some societies that children would be used the same way?

We don’t have the answer but as an organisation that sees the full extent of the brutality of child trafficking it is an industry that we can’t support.

In a perfect world there would be no prostitution but we know sadly that will never be so with statistics showing that legalised prostitution is associated with higher volumes of sex trafficking our Governments need to start looking closely and reviewing their current regulations for the sex industry. At the very least more training and stringent checks and balances to ensure that trafficking and sex slavery are identified effectively and those traffickers feel the full brunt of the law. No matter who, what or where every human deserves the right to be protected from the insidious crime of sex trafficking and especially our precious children of the world.

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