Maryanne Kenworthy, owner of the Langtrees brothels in Perth and Kalgoorlie, is concerned about the future of the sex industry.A leading urban planning expert is fearful that the state government’s plan to push brothels out of suburbia is going to send the sex industry deeper into the underworld, and WA’s most famous madam agrees.
Associate Professor of urban and regional planning Paul Maginn said the government’s prostitution law reform bill, which intends to eradicate sex workers from residential areas, would do little to move prostitution out of the suburbs.
“If you look historically at previous attempts to regulate brothels, the sex industry is quite adaptive and it will move with any legislation,” he said.
“The current bill will just see sex workers operate in a more illicit fashion – they’ll still continue, it’s not going to be eradicated.”
Dr Maginn says sex workers will continue to work discreetly in a range of suburban spaces including inner city apartments, residential brothels, hotels, bars and even on the street.
Maryanne Kenworthy, owner of the Langtrees brothels in Perth and Kalgoorlie, supports Mr Maginn’s claim, saying the new bill would push prostitution further into illegality.
“The bill going before parliament is completely unworkable,” she said.
“This government is trying to stamp out escorts, which no country in the world has successfully done and it’s not going to work.
“Instead, the industry is going to go completely underground and it’s going to be disgusting.”
Established sex houses such as Langtrees in Burswood, which have been operating legally in residential zones around WA for decades, face relocation if the prostitution reforms are passed.
Ms Kenworthy said she’d rather shut down her establishment than spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to relocate.
“The madams of the four major brothels in WA, including myself, are part of the old containment system so we could challenge the government for a fair amount of compensation if we are forced to close down,” she said.
“Really, all four brothel’s will have to close down because they’re all residential, and then what?”
“How many of WA’s 4000 sex workers are going to get a commercial industrial area to work out of?
“None, they can’t afford to, it costs half a million dollars just to get council approval.”
If suburban sex houses were made illegal Ms Kenworthy said she expected them to simply shut down, resulting in thousands of WA prostitutes left without a job and forced back into the suburbs to solicit illegally.
“The average woman in the sex industry is a solo mum that works two or three nights a week and comes from a low socio-economic area like Balga,” she said.
“She goes to work to put food on the table and a pair of shoes on her kid’s feet, I mean the dole will put food on your table but it doesn’t give your kids any of the extras.
“So she’s not going to stop and very few people will be aware of what’s going on because these women want their discretion; only now they’re safety’s going to be more at risk and they’re going to be ripped off more.”
With many Perth prostitutes turning to online advertising for business, Dr Maginn said this was a likely to skyrocket if suburban brothels were eradicated.
“There are a growing number of independent sex workers who have websites and advertise online,” he said.
“Even attempts to make this illegal won’t work, the government should be engaging with the peak bodies that represent sex workers and engage with the industry to develop legislation.”
And with industry slipping into the twilight, prostitution would be pushed further towards illegal activity, Ms Kenworthy said.
“I’ve fought for 30 years to clean up this industry and what you’re going to have now is brothels being run by organised gangs who are the only ones that have the money to do it,” she said.
“The police have better things to do than be stuffed around over dramas with non-commercial escorts, they’re there to process criminals and having sex for money is not a criminal activity.”
The government’s prostitution law reform bill is expected to have its second reading before parliament this year.
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.