18 October 2017

NZ Herald - Sex workers speak out about the crackdown on illegal or non- compliant brothels


Sex workers speak out about the crackdown on illegal or non- compliant brothels

28 Sep, 2017 1:46pm 

By: Natalie Wolfe 

Australian cities are waging a war against illegal or non-compliant brothels but sex workers have slammed the methods, calling it a form of sexual assault.

As each state's police and councils announce "crackdown" plans on Australia's sex industry, they're having to become increasingly cra y in their methods.

Prostitution in Australia is governed by state and territory laws meaning its degree of legality di ers in each.

New South Wales and the ACT have the most relaxed laws in Australia but just because the practice has been decriminalised doesn't mean they still don't have to jump through a number of hoops. 

Lachlan Jarvis, the head of Lynswood Private Investigators, a firm employed by various councils to bust brothels, completely disputes that statement. 

Jarvis, who doesn't engage in brothel busting himself, told news.com.au he "doesn't understand" why sex workers would feel that way.

Lynswood has been in the business of brothel busting for almost 15 years, investigating everything from venues set up without council approval to completely legal ones that might be staying open past approved operating hours.

"People think it's unusual that the sex industry is regulated but everything else is so why shouldn't it be? It's entirely normal," Jarvis.

While investigating brothels is "an extremely small percentage" of the work they do, Jarvis did say their greatest success rate, by far, comes from work with brothels.

The practice, which Mr Jarvis said some councils employed more than others, is increasingly becoming a divisive issue - a sentiment he doesn't understand.

"Our private investigators going into brothels and having sex is no di erent to us investigating someone for intellectual property the and sending a private investigator into a store pretending to be a customer," he said.

Jules Kim, the chief executive of Australia's peak sex worker association Scarlett Alliance, is another figurehead in the sex industry who is furious about the treatment of workers.

Kim said they "condemned" the way investigators come into brothels. "We see it as sex by deception which is a form of sexual assault," she said. 

"They refuse to treat us like any other business and won't follow the frameworks they follow for everyone else.

"I have no idea why they're resorting to such tactics. They aren't governed by evidence or reason and it's an irrational, knee jerk reaction to sex work."

Numerous advocacy and human rights groups around the world are fighting to criminalise sex by deception, which is defined as telling a potential sexual partner anything that could be seen as a "deal breaker".

In 2013, Tom Dougherty, a philosophy professor from Cambridge University, published a paper, calling it sexual assault.

Jarvis said he doesn't "see how there's any deception at all". "It's just a person paying for a sexual service, just like anybody else," he added. 

City of Sydney Council, which both Cox and Kim said were one of NSW's better councils to deal with, responded to the backlash.

"The City of Sydney works closely with health services, NSW Police and non-government organisations to address the health and safety of workers in the sex industry in the local area," the spokeswoman said.

"Authorised sex premises are required to operate in a discreet manner and comply with council's conditions of development consent.

"The city has a responsibility to ratepayers and the community to investigate concerns about unauthorised brothels or massage parlours o ering sex services. Our health and building o icers use all enforcement powers available to them under state legislation to investigate complaints of illegal sex services, including the power to enter premises and seize evidence, and the power to compel people to provide information and records.

"At times it is necessary to gather evidence covertly. The City engages private investigators for this purpose. The use of private investigators has been acknowledged by the courts as a legitimate evidence gathering approach."

The statement said they "use funds responsibly" to investigate the claims and that they were "developing a new strategic approach to investigate unauthorised sex premises and ensuring the wellbeing of sex workers".

Cox on the other hand said he sees the whole method as a waste of money.