Election 2013 Western Australia March 9

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Justice Matters

WA Govt Received Independent Recommendations on Sex Reform

The WA government funded an independent report into the Sex Industry that was produced in 2010.

Despite this report action in regard to Sex Workers has seen continual delay in the WA parliament.

The 8 key recommendation are detailed.

1. That a bipartisan Working Group be formed to review the WA legislative response to prostitution. Through the LASH study and
other recent research, extensive new data have emerged on the functioning and policing of the WA sex industry as well as evaluations of alternative legislative approaches operating in other jurisdictions. The Working Party should recommend a broad legislative strategy as well as addressing the specific anomalies that are detailed in Chapter 4 of this Report. The Working Party should be convened by the Attorney General’s Office, with representation from all major political parties, the Police Force, and the Departments of Health,Planning, and Local Government. As poor prostitution laws are usually generated in
intense political climates, the current absence of evidence of widespread police corruption or imminent public health threat offers an
ideal opportunity for WA to achieve a broad and pragmatic consensus.
 
2. Licensing of sex work (‘legalisation’) should not be regarded as a viable legislative response. For over a century systems that
require licensing of sex workers or brothels have consistently failed. Most sex workers remain unlicensed, so criminal codes remain
in force, leaving the potential for police corruption. Licensing systems are expensive and difficult to administer, and they always
generate an unlicensed underclass. That underclass is wary of and avoids surveillance systems and public health services. Thus
licensing represents a potential threat to public health – most jurisdictions that once had licensing systems abandoned them long ago.
 
3. If the WA Government opts to proceed with decriminalisation of most of the adult sex industry is should recognise that prime
responsibility for the industry will move from the Police to local government. Local government should be resourced for this
new role. Decriminalisation in New South Wales has been associated with many local governments refusing to approve development
applications for brothels. This has resulted in substantial legal costs and, in isolated instances, corruption by local government
officials. Overseeing brothels to ensure compliance with planning law and the development and enforcement of occupational health and safety standards requires human resources. A suggested ratio is one local government officer for every 10 brothels in any local government area.
 
4. If the WA Government opts to continue with criminalisation of all or part (the unlicensed sector if there is a licensing system) of the sex industry steps should be taken, through legislation if necessary, to ensure that possession of safe sex supplies cannot be used as evidence of prostitution. This self-evident recommendation has been made by every national and international agency concerned with HIV/AIDS control for the past 20 years.
 
5. The Department of Planning, in consultation with local government, community representatives, and the Health Department,
should draw up planning guidelines for brothels. Perth brothels rated relatively poorly for access by Magenta, Occupational
Health and Safety (OH&S) practices, and display of health messages. These guidelines should ensure that both public
amenity and public health considerations are addressed.
 
Conditions of approval for brothels should include:
  • access for health promotion programs
  • the free provision of safer sex equipment
  • the prominent display of health messages, and
  • the display of and adherence to purpose-designed OH&S guidelines.
 
6. The Department of Health should commission an independent review of clinical and health promotion services available to sex workers. The review should include an analysis of current service specifications and a proposed funding model to ensure the sexual health and wellbeing of sex workers in WA. Very few of the surveyed sex workers attended the Royal Perth Hospital Sexual Health Centre; choosing instead to access the Fremantle Hospital Centre, GPs, or no services at all. Magenta’s focus on clinical service provision, absence of evening outreach, and lack of staff proficient in relevant languages reflects their history and limited resource levels. Stronger community links should improve the coverage and appropriateness of health promotion services.
 
7. The Working Party should investigate more effective and humane approaches to the dangers and loss of public amenity posed by
street-based sex work. Street-based sex work is problematic everywhere and WA’s problem is not exceptional. Street sex workers comprise the most vulnerable and traumatised section of the sex industry. Though they are the smallest component of the industry, street sex workers are the major target for police prosecutions because of their high visibility. The aim of the investigation should be to explore methods of reducing the street presence and vulnerability of sex workers by means such as ensuring an adequate supply of indoor alternatives, including a ‘safe house’ facility.
 
8. Considerations should be given to supporting research into the health and welfare of WA sex workers outside Perth; including the
structure and determinates of the industry, and the knowledge, experience and behaviour of the workers.
 
The LASH survey was limited to urban female brothel-workers in Perth. Parts of regional WA have large numbers of unaccompanied men that could be expected to provide a ready market for sexual services. Such research could inform clinical service delivery and health promotion programs.

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