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?

Click to access 24.pdf

[977 words]

13 Replies to “Sydney Out-Sleazes Amsterdam”

  1. Thanks Bill

    The United States Department of Justice estimates that 100,000 American youth under the age of 16 are trafficked within the United Sates each year. 22,000 people are illegally brought into the United States against their will each year, primarily to work in the nation’s sex industries. 17,000 American citizens are forced to work against their will around the world, again, primarily in the black market sex industries.
    Today, the International Labor Organization estimates there are 12.3 million people being held agianst their will, as slaves, at any given time. Of these, 800.000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. 80% of these victims are women; 50% are children.

    Tragically slavery and human trafficking is still a reality for many people.

    Anne Van Tilburg

  2. Prostitution and pornography are one and the same thing. Both reduce the human being to a commodity. Richard Poulin writes on both:

    David Hechler writes on the traffic of children:

    But dear Peter (Tatchell) assumes the mantle of being the international human rights advocate, who fearlessly champions the rights of persecuted sex perverts. But he is no where to be seen when it comes to defending the rights of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of women and children caught in the global sex slave traffic. He points to Thailand where perverts, like himself, can get it on the cheap and in abundance. He says, “The importance of sex tourism to the Thai economy cannot be under-estimated. It’s a huge earner of foreign exchange.” How interesting Peter. Please tell us more.

    David Skinner, UK

  3. And here in Victoria, whose official report paved the way for “legalised” prostitution? And where is she now? And who appointed her? [One guess only]. Wiki: “Justice Marcia Ann Neave AO was appointed to the Supreme Court of Victoria, Court of Appeals division, on 22 February 2006. Before her appointment, Neave was the foundation Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission and Professor of Law at Monash University. She is one of the only academics to be appointed to the Supreme Court in Victoria’s history, with the vast majority of judges practising as barristers prior to being invited to the bench.”

    And how come “illegal” prostitution proceeds in parallel, as they said it wouldn’t? [as if!]
    And what am I doing about all this?

    Gerard Flood

  4. Nice piece Bill. It’s a sick trade for sure. But not sure about this…

    ‘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.’

    This seems to treat women as if they are not moral agents in this. If it works then I am not one to argue but it seems to be reverse sexism. It would be analogous to charging a drug purchaser but not the seller.

    Got to think this one through…

    Damien Spillane

  5. Thanks Damien

    Yes, I would not necessarily completely support the Swedish law as it now stands. I like the idea of targeting demand, but supply should not go completely scot free. Perhaps the majority of prostitutes are victims, and need help in getting out, but then again, some freely choose to go into this line of work and stay there. So I too am thinking it through, in terms of the best mix of public policy options here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  6. Though some governments are still trying to crack down on prostitution, others are realising that it is better to legalise and license it than to suffer the ill effects of driving it underground. New Zealand has just done so; Belgium looks set to be next….

    Jeff Dixon

  7. Thanks Jeff

    Sorry, but let me cut you off there on your pro-prostitution agenda. But it is not because of your viewpoint. You offer me nine meaty paragraphs – but just one problem. You seek to pass it off as your own, yet your pinched it straight out of the Economist (a full article from the July 11, 2003 edition to be exact).

    In any school you would be booted out for plagiarism. Here your run will simply come to an end. But your deception does tell us a lot about how the other side argues – or cheats.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. Someone should make this research known to Christian Porter, our Attorney General here in W.A. He plans to legalise prostitution here (despite holding the trade abhorrent himself). At a talk I attended earlier this year he discredited the Swedish model explaining that its early effect of reducing street prostitution was not maintained over time, whilst it had no reliably measurable effect on brothels. He quoted seemingly reputable research in support of his argument.

    He seemed unwilling to see any parallels between his plans for prostitution and legalising, but containing to specific locations, such things as murder and theft which similarly “have always existed and are impossible to stop so therefore are best managed by controlling them.” He believed his plan would control trafficking of women and children into this hell-on-earth lifestyle. He also argued that existing police numbers could be retrained to manage all the supervision required.

    It has just dawned on me that I’m the “someone” mentioned above!!!

    Anna Cook

  9. I attended recently a very interesting meeting held by a former prostitute and madam called Linda. She is a Christian who has come out of the sex industry and now spends her time warning people about the dangers of legalising prostitution.
    In the Q&A time, I asked her where the push for legalisation was coming from. Her answer? The police. They do not want to have to spend their time enforcing the law, especially where what is happening is seen as a ‘victimless crime’.
    So there we have it. The WA police seem to be quite happy to sell our daughters and sisters into sexual slavery so they can spend their time focussing on ‘real’ crime.
    Lucy Zubova

  10. Thanks Lucy

    Yes, Linda is a real warrior and needs our prayer cover. Her home has been attacked and fire-bombed by the sleaze industry more than once. That shows you what we are really up against.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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