Sex Work Criminal Laws in Australia – Part Three



Today, we are going to be looking at the Western Australian laws with respect to sex work. And I must admit, this analysis was really really fun because you read the Prostitution Act 2000 (WA) and the Criminal Code and some of the provisions are, like, umm…say what? In all honesty, I can’t say its the best piece of legislation that I’ve read to date on sex work but here we go…..

Sex Work In Western Australia

In Western Australia, sex work comes under the Prostitution Act 2000 (WA). While sex work itself is legal, many activities associated with it (like as we saw in Queensland), such as brothels, soliciting in a public place and pimping, are illegal. They tried to push through a Prostitution Bill 2011 was introduced to regulate the industry and allow brothels in non residential area however following a period of consultation, it failed to gain majority support. So its relatively safe to say that we can put Western Australia into a similar category of being “decriminalised” as opposed “legalised” as there is no regulatory body that exists to regulate the industry. We have just have the sole piece of legislation, the Prostitution Act 2000 (WA) and the Criminal

Code to guide us.


The Prostitution Act 2000 (WA)

It really is a very straightforward but quirky piece of legislation.

Sex Work In Public Places

Section 5 of the Act states that you cannot seek a prostitute in or in view or within hearing of a public place. This means that this is an offence for the customer to be aware of. Its a really interesting section because it tells us that the penalties range from 2 years (if its a simple offence) to 7 years imprisonment. Not quite sure how they would determine what is “simple” and what is not. My guess is that if it involves a person under the age of 18, that would fall into the “not so simple” instance. This section is also pretty explicit about what counts as “seeking”. You can’t be seen to be loitering around, even if there is not “prostitute” (or person that identifies themselves as one) around.

Section 6 of the Act states that you cannot “seek a client” in public places. 1 year imprisonment, 3 years if it is a child. It appears that the legislation goes a little easier on the sex worker who seeks, rather than the customer who seeks.

Section 7 is simple – don’t induce or coerce someone into becoming a sex worker. You’re looking at 10 years in the slammer.

Section 8 – this places a $5000 fine on anyone who “engages in an act of prostitution” without a condom.

Section 9 – well this one made me go “umm…what?” You can be penalised a whopping $50,000 for publishing any form of statement that is intended to or likely to induce a person to seek employment as a prostitute or seek employment in any other capacity in any business involving the provision of prostitution. How bizarre. So if you need a receptionist at your local (illegal) brothel, do not ever advertise in your local newspaper – $50,000 is a lot of money!

Section 10 – this one is even more extraordinary. You can’t sponsor a prostitute. Initially, I read it to mean you can’t give one away as a prize. How hilarious. But in all seriousness, what it is actually saying is that you cannot promote a sex worker who is under some form of contractual arrangement which could be seen as sponsorship. Say goodbye to $50,000!

Sections 11-13 are all about behaving yourself around a police officer who approaches you if you are in that public place. Don’t hinder them, answer their questions, or you face a fine. So, be kind to Western Australian police 🙂

Sex Work and Children

The provisions of Division 2 and then part 3 are all about persons under the age of 18 engaging in prostitution. I am not going to outline these provisions. In my view, if you are thinking of engaging in prostitution under the age of 18, or if you even think about engaging a sex worker who is under the age of 18, then I highly doubt you’re going to be the type of person that reads sex work blogs for fun.

Sex Work and Police

Part 4, 5 and 6 are all technical provisions which give police all sorts of powers to do certain things with respect to prostitution, such as warrants, detention, seizure and all of those wonderful tools police use to obtain evidence and to detain people who are found to be breaching the Prostitution Act 2000 (WA). I am not going to go into these provisions but what I will say is that if you are found in breach of the Act, and you are concerned about the way the police dealt with you, or if you are in the process of being detained, contact a legal professional quickly to ensure that you know your rights when it comes to this sort of thing. _____________________________________________

Criminal Code (WA)

Like New South Wales and Queensland, there is always a Criminal Code hanging over your head with serious criminal penalties. And much like NSW and Queensland, it is all for the doing the same old thing, but in a kind of funny but screwed up way, its under the title of “OFFENCES AGAINST MORALITY!

Section 190 of the Criminal Code – don’t keep, manage, act or assist in the management of any premises for the purpose of prostitution – 3 years in jail or a summary conviction of 12 months and a $12,000 fine.

(SAY WHAT????)

Section 190(4) of the Criminal Code – don’t live off the proceeds of a sex worker (ie. pimp) – 3 years, or similar summary conviction as stated above (oh, and the onus is on YOU to prove that you are not doing it).s.191 of the Criminal Code – don’t procure a woman who is under the age of 21 (say what?) and is not a common prostitute or of known immoral character (yes, yes it does say that!).


What Could Have Happened in 2011….

If the Western Australian Parliament had their way and obtained a majority vote on the Prostitution Bill 2011, then this would have come your way –$File/Bill+218-1.pdf

Importantly, you would have needed a license to act as a sex worker in Western Australia, just as we see in Victoria. Now I have no knowledge that there is any intention by the Western Australian government to re-hash this Bill any time soon but we should be aware that it is exists and it may be resurrected at any time. This article talks about “what could have been…” —>


How Sex Workers Feel About Western Australian Legislation

Utter confusion, from what I can tell.Here is an article from 2010 about a sex worker who expressed her concerns about the vagueness of the legislation –

So there you have it.

Western Australia. Very bizarre, extraordinarily archaic but the alternative is not so great.




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