Brothel Safety a dangerous myth

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Brothel Safety a dangerous myth

Postby delphyne » Fri Jul 15, 2011 12:31 am

Evidence from Australia:

Brothel safety a dangerous myth
Caroline Norma
July 15, 2011
Comments 50
There is an alternative to a model that profits from the prostitution of others.

STAFF at Consumer Affairs Victoria must have broken into a cold sweat this week reading a report in The Age about a prostitute who plans to sue a brothel over a violent incident there. The ability of Consumer Affairs to continue to collect licensing fees from pimps, otherwise known as ''sex work service licensees'', who run legal brothels in Victoria depends on news about violence against women in the brothels not becoming public.

The report related to the case of a woman whose ''client'' threatened her with a gun in a legal Melbourne brothel after she refused to have unprotected sex with him.

Sexual assault statistics for women in street prostitution in Victoria are easily found, but no government or academic research documents violence in brothels.

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Consumer Affairs publicly promotes the view that ''indoor'' prostitution is a safe and reasonable job option for the women of Victoria. It is able to oversee a legalised brothel industry only as long as the rhetoric of harm minimisation remains a plausible policy option.

According to this rhetoric, turning to prostitutes is an ''inevitable'' habit of men that needs to be catered to in warm, safe, high-security brothels that are monitored by government. The brutality of street-based prostitution gives the rhetoric its force. Street prostitution is dangerous and socially undesirable, so the Victorian government responds to the problem by channelling women out of St Kilda's dark alleys and into brothels, where their health and safety is supposedly guaranteed by checks by Consumer Affairs staff.

The rhetorical strategy that justifies Consumer Affairs' continued collection of licensing fees starts to unravel when journalists and academics report on brothel violence.

Three NSW academics who interviewed women in legal brothels in 2011 found that physical safety was one of the women's biggest concerns, and one interviewee told researchers she feared men ''coming into the parlour knowingly infected and forcefully removing … [condom] protection, becoming acutely physically violent''. Even a report commissioned by Consumer Affairs in 2009 noted the difficulty women have in getting men to agree to condoms in legal brothels.

The idea that women are safe and protected in legal brothels in Victoria is a bureaucratic fantasy. Even the organisation funded by the state government to support its harm minimisation approach to prostitution, RhED, is not fully confident of the safety of indoor venues. It advises women on its website that they should check brothels have ''duress'' alarms, ''and one that is not at the base of the bed or tucked under the carpet where you can't reach''.

The sexual violence inherent to prostitution doesn't vary much according to whether it's perpetrated in cars or brothel spa baths.

A number of other countries take a very different approach to prostitution. Sweden, South Korea, Norway, and Iceland have all enacted laws that reflect the view that prostitution - even prostitution in legal brothels - is unacceptable and should not be encouraged in gender-equal societies, let alone profited from. These governments have introduced the Swedish model of legislation, which penalises people who profit from the prostitution of others (pimps), as well as those who seek to pay for the services of prostitutes.

Under the model, prostituted people are seen as victims of violence, and do not attract criminal penalty. Rather, responsibility shifts to the men who are trading, profiting from, and using women in prostitution.

The Swedish model does more than just criminalise prostitution. It also mandates public education campaigns and retraining of police on the harm of prostitution, and encourages empirical research on the issue. Exit programs are offered to women to help them with housing, employment, legal and medical issues, and drug dependency. The Korean government offers a monthly stipend to help women exit prostitution, and runs education programs for men.

When Consumer Affairs staff next receive a licence fee cheque from the Melbourne brothel Butterflys of Blackburn, where the woman was threatened with a gun by a customer, they might remember the Swedish model, and the alternative vision for a gender-just society that it offers.

Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning at RMIT University, and a member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia.

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Re: Brothel Safety a dangerous myth

Postby delphyne » Fri Jul 15, 2011 12:32 am

Didn't know about South Korea - great!
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