Asian brothels cleared of sex trafficking

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Queensland’s sex industry regulator says it has found no evidence of of illegal sex trafficking in any of the state’s 25 licensed brothels, despite a fourfold increase in the number of Asian-only bordellos.

In its annual report to State Parliament, the Prostitution Licensing Authority, which is responsible for issuing brothel licenses and ensuring compliance in Queensland, noted a “marked” jump in offering the services of Asian sex workers, with three new speciality Asian establishments opening in just the last 12 months.

As a result, the PLA joined with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Queensland Police’s Prostitution Enforcement Taskforce for a snap inspection of one unnamed Asian brothel earlier this year.

“No evidence of sexual servitude or foreign nationals working illegally was revealed,” the report found.

“More generally, compliance officers are always on the lookout for any signs of sexual servitude when conducting audits and inspections of licensed brothels. There has not been a single instance of sexual servitude in a licensed brothel in the nine year history of the authority.”

Legal sex workers enjoyed a generally trouble-free year, according to the PLA’s report, with only 84 “corrective actions” orders issued from 205 compliance checks. None involved a serious breach of the law.

And while industries including construction and mining took a hit from the global financial crisis, the world’s oldest profession defied the odds.

Two new brothels opened for business in the 2008-2009 financial year and a third is yet to open its doors, while five applications to open new brothels were lodged.

Local councils are also helping the industry expand, granting eight separate development approvals, however, these premises have not yet sought licenses to operate.

Licensees pay about $28,000 a year for permission to sell sex in brothels.

Brisbane is likely to be home to two new bordellos in the near future, with development approval given for premises in Coopers Plains and Eagle Farm.

“Although the licensed brothel industry experienced a slight contraction in 2007-08, during the last year an additional two brothels have commenced operation, bringing the total number of operational brothels in the state to 25,” PLA Chairman Manus Boyce QC said.

“Despite the economic downturn, not a single brothel in the state ceased operation, although the authority is aware that a number of licensees are struggling financially.”

Regulation of the industry continues to be tight despite interest from speculators.

Figures show 126 separate bids have been made to open brothels in Queensland since regulation began in 2000, with only 25 ever gaining permission.

Opposition also remains strong, with 205 Queensland towns being given permission from Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson to refuse development applications for brothels.

Permission to open a brothel in Toowoomba in February attracted public protest, with local church and community leaders taking particular exception to a sausage sizzle and “open day” held by the owner.

The establishment, Deviations at Harlaxton, has been trading since September.

“The community reaction to the development application for a brothel in Toowoomba demonstrated that prostitution remains a controversial and divisive issue, capable of arousing strong passions from detractors and supporters alike,” Mr Boyce said.

“Whilst community concern is understandable, it has been the experience of the authority that at worst licensed brothels have a negligible impact on community amenity.”

He said despite opposition, the PLA was “firmly convinced” that legalised prostitution was the safest way to protect sex workers from coercion, violence and disease.

Of 76 complaints lodged with the PLA last year, more than half pertained to advertising and suspected illegal activity.

source: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/asian-brothels-cleared-of-sex-trafficking-20091116-ihrq.html

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