Sydney Out-Sleazes Amsterdam

Amsterdam is known the world over as the sex capital of Europe. For decades its expansive and gaudy red-light districts have been major tourist attractions, as well as dens of iniquity. Local and foreign prostitutes sat in front of large windows displaying their wares.

However, so much crime and degradation has accompanied the sex trade there, that in recent years there has been a major clampdown. Vast swathes of the sprawling red-light district have been severely cut back and restricted. Now it is rather hard to find the near-naked women bathed in red lights.

Indeed, all around the world there are moves to clamp down on prostitution and its wicked sister, human sexual trafficking. This on-going form of human slavery is being targeted by both governments and NGOs. They are seeking to help these sex slaves – mainly women and girls – to be freed from this cruel trade.

But while so much of the world is moving against the inhumane and degrading sex trade, it seems that Sydney is moving in the opposite direction – big time. With hundreds of legal and illegal brothels, Sydney is quickly becoming the Amsterdam of the South – or what Amsterdam once was.

A recent article in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph lays out the ugly facts and figures: “Sydney has become the Amsterdam of the South Pacific. A confidential NSW Government document reveals Sydney alone has more than double the number of legal brothels than in the whole of Victoria and Queensland combined. In Sydney alone, there were 244 legal brothels, with a further 90 complaints about ‘suspected’ illegal brothels. By comparison, all of Victoria has just over 90 legal brothels, while Queensland has 24. In total, NSW has 271 legal brothels, including full-service and ‘happy ending’ massage brothels.”

The article continues, “The statistics show 150 illegal brothels operate in the state, with hundreds more are believed to be going unreported. Several industry figures estimate that there are at least 10,000 sex workers in NSW alone – Putting the state on a par with Amsterdam. The European sex capital is now winding back its legal brothel numbers due to major problems with organised crime and people trafficking. It has long been suspected Sydney is the sex capital of Australia, but the figures have shocked industry insiders.”

It seems that a city once known for its Opera House and Harbor Bridge is now becoming known as being the sleaze capital of the nation, if not the entire region. What a lousy way to be known. And this, despite all the evidence which shows just how harmful and dangerous prostitution is.

The research on the many harms of prostitution is widely available. The evidence is voluminous. For example, Melissa Farley, PhD has written extensively on these issues. Here is just a tiny sampling of her findings. She writes,

“It is a cruel lie to suggest that decriminalization or legalization will protect anyone in prostitution. There is much evidence that whatever its legal status, prostitution causes great harm to women. … In the past two decades, a number of authors have documented or analyzed the sexual and physical violence that is the normative experience for women in prostitution…

“Sexual violence and physical assault are the norm for women in all types of prostitution. [One study] found that 80% of women who had been trafficked or prostituted suffered violence-related injuries in prostitution. … In another study, 94% of those in street prostitution had experienced sexual assault and 75% had been raped by one or more johns. In the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, 60% of prostituted women suffered physical assaults; 70% experienced verbal threats of physical assault; 40% experienced sexual violence; and 40% had been forced into prostitution or sexual abuse by acquaintances.”

She continues, “It has been assumed that decriminalization/legalization will decrease street prostitution and that prostitution will then move indoors, where it will be physically safer for those in it. Those promoting legalized prostitution suggest that women will be safer in indoor prostitution than they are in street prostitution. However, women in Chicago reported the same frequency of rape in escort and in street prostitution.

“No research has demonstrated that legal prostitution decreases illegal (street and brothel) prostitution. Following legalization of prostitution in Victoria, Australia, although the number of legal brothels doubled, the greatest expansion was in illegal prostitution. In 1 year (1999), there was a 300% growth of illegal brothels.”

Plenty of other authors and academics could be cited here. Well-known feminists, for example, such as Sheila Jeffreys, Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant have written eloquently of the dangers and exploitation of prostitution. As one feminist puts it, “Prostitution is a form of brutal cruelty on the part of men that constitutes a violation of women’s rights, wherever and however it takes place.”

Prostitution hurts women, it hurts men, it hurts families, and it hurts societies. Given all this, why in the world do the powers that be in Sydney seem to think it is a neat idea to have even more prostitution? Governments certainly have a role to play here, but not as is being done in Sydney. For example, one of the best ways to deal with prostitution, as various experts have noted, is to follow the Swedish model: instead of arresting the prostitute, the man is prosecuted, and the woman is treated as a victim, and offered rehabilitation.

If the demand for prostitutes is reduced, it follows that the demand for sexual trafficking for prostitution will be reduced as well. In this area, we need not only speak of the sexual integrity of individuals. Why not speak of governmental sexual integrity? Governments owe it to their citizens to stamp out sexual trafficking. They have an obligation to protect women from the evils of prostitution, and to curtail this male-orientated, profit-based trade.

Why can’t the leaders and legislators in Sydney understand these basic truths?

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