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.
Legal frameworks Current legislation on sex work in Australia varies by state and territory see Table 1 as a result of major reforms that occurred in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory in the s and s.
Act does not state that it is a crime to work as a sex worker in a brothel without planning permissionb Restricted Premises Act , s 7 1 Brothels must be licensed and working within the licence conditions to operate legally Sex Work Act , s 22 1.
It is a crime to live partially or wholly off the earnings of sex work unless working for legal premises ie licensed, or exempt from requiring a licence but registered Sex Work Act , s 10 Brothels must be licensed and in accordance with planning laws Prostitution Act , s It is unlawful to work as a sex worker in premises other than a licensed brothel or contrary to brothel licence, unless exempt from needing a licence see private work below Criminal Code , s C Illegal to run a brothel Criminal Code Compilation Act , Division , s 1 a.
Also illegal to live partially or wholly off the earnings that the person knows are the earnings of prostitution Criminal Code Act Compilation , s 3 It is a crime to manage or keep a brothel, or to receive payment in a brothel for sex work Summary Offences Act , s Illegal to live partially or wholly off the earnings of the prostitution of another person Summary Offences Act , s 26 Illegal to run a brothel.
Act does not state that it is illegal to work as a sex worker in a brothel Sex Industry Offences Act , s 4 Legal to run a brothel, but must be registered and based in prescribed locations. They have a dedicated area for seniors. Another one of the reputable, larger firms in Australia.
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