Lauren Novak | Political Reporter
THE “reality” of sex work in Adelaide has been graphically detailed to MPs preparing to make recommendations about whether the state should decriminalise prostitution. In a written submission, an
employee of an organisation which supports sex workers warns of deaths by suicide or drug overdose, repeated abortions, bondage debts and intimidation.
The worker, Claire, who did not give her last name, says she has worked for 13 years with sex workers from 120 brothels, massage parlours, escort services and also street workers. “There can be a perception that prostitution can be a safe, even a glamorous and lucrative lifestyle … but in my experience that is very much the exception,” she writes in a letter to members of a parliamentary committee examining a Bill to decriminalise sex work in South Australia. The committee is preparing to report by the end of the year.
On Wednesday, three members of the committee — Labor’s Tung Ngo, Liberal Andrew McLachlan and Green Tammy Franks — travelled to Sydney to tour six brothels and other sex work premises. Prostitution was decriminalised in NSW in 1995. Ms Franks said the visit was an opportunity to “bust some myths”. “The reality was these were businesses operating in a pretty low-key way, not in any way creating a nuisance or disturbance,” she said. “The sky won’t fall in if South Australia takes this path too.” The Bill put to SA’s Parliament by Liberal MP Michelle Lensink and Labor backbencher Steph Key would decriminalise all forms of sex work for people aged 18 and over. MPs will be allowed a conscience vote.The committee has received more than 80 submissions on the proposed legislation.
It is believed there are up to 2000 sex workers in South Australia but few working on the streets. Most work in brothels or privately. Doctors at the SA Healthfunded Clinic 275, based at the
Royal Adelaide Hospital, say about 100 patients each year acknowledge engaging in sex work. The doctors report very high rates of condom use and low rates of STDs among sex workers, but higher rates of hepatitis C. Support worker Claire’s submission mentions one Adelaide sex worker who reported having 17 abortions. “I have known of girls to die in the industry in SA, through drug overdose or suicide,” she writes. “The girls seem anxious and scared. “One brothel in Adelaide has barred windows and mattresses all over the floor. “Brothel owners can be overbearing. “It is a difficult industry for workers to leave.”