Former prostitute speaks out against decriminalisation in South Australia

Former prostitute speaks out against decriminalisation in South Australia

By Linda Watson

If South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer and the Law Society of South Australia’s President truly cared about the physical health and emotional welfare of women, they would not advocate decriminalising an industry that exploits women for monetary gain. 

Who are their advisors and where are they getting their information from to back up their assertions that decriminalising prostitution will make things better for prostituted women, particularly in terms of their safety and health? I doubt they personally know, as I do, about what happens behind closed doors.

For 18 years I was a sex worker initially and then a madam of a brothel in Western Australia, until I had a life altering change of heart in 1997. Since that time I have helped countless women escape a destructive lifestyle, which is nothing like the glamorous one portrayed in the Pretty Woman movie. 

I personally know about the damage the sexual services industry causes to vulnerable women; how it destroys their self-esteem and harms their physical and emotional health. Those who participate in this degrading work are always negatively affected by experiences that go hand-in-hand with this type of “occupation”. 

No parent should be proud to announce to their friends that their daughter (or son) has chosen to be a prostitute for their career. Instead, they should be extremely concerned at the high rates of drug and alcohol dependency, and the prevalence of PTSD from the physical and emotional abuse which their child will be exposed to on a daily basis. 

You cannot make a brothel a safe workplace because it always has been, and always will be, a high-risk environment in which to make a living. Condom use is touted as a safeguard for those engaging in sexual activity but they are not 100 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, especially when the propensity for human error is factored in. 

It is reasonable to assume that if a sex worker and/or their client is intoxicated with alcohol or high on drugs, their ability to participate responsibly in safe sex practices is impaired. In addition to this, there are clients who will resort to bullying tactics or coercion by offering to pay more for unprotected sex; not to mention trying to covertly remove the prophylactic during their “business transaction”.   

Yes, there needs to be a change in societal views about sex work but decriminalising or legalising the trade of women’s bodies for money is not the correct remedy. This course of action will only encourage detrimental permission-giving beliefs and increase the demand for prostitution. 

The optimum solution is to adopt the Nordic legislative model that Sweden established in 1999, which prohibits men from procuring and using a woman as an object for their sexual gratification. It discourages men who seek for paid sex and encourages women to exit the trade instead of punishing them. More resources need to be invested to assist these girls to leave their soul-destroying circumstances so they can rebuild their self-esteem, regain their emotional and physical wellbeing, as well as develop talents and skills to obtain safer employment conditions. 

If the good people of South Australia really want their (grand)daughters and (grand)sons, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, to be safe and healthy, then they shouldn’t capitulate to the propaganda promoted by advocates of the sexual services industry who make millions of dollars from exploiting our precious young people. 

Linda Watson is the Founder of Linda’s House of Hope, a support service for women involved in drugs and prostitution in Perth.