Police raids on Asian brothels are a “waste of time” and do nothing to prevent trafficking of sex workers, a federal parliamentary inquiry has been told.
Jules Kim – migration project manager at Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association – told the inquiry into slavery and human trafficking on Tuesday there was a bias towards the sex industry when it came to the number of trafficking cases.
She said the current “scatter-gun” approach in which police look for trafficking victims by raiding Asian brothels was an “enormous waste of time, resources and misdirected energy”.
“That has resulted in a gap between law enforcement bodies and the sex industry workers, which is not helpful.
“People change the nature of their work to avoid that harassment, not because there are trafficking-like conditions happening in those place, but because constant raids on your business have an implication,” she said.
She said in most known trafficking cases, migrant sex workers were aware of what they’d be doing in Australia and had actually consented to sex work.
“None of the cases involved deception or trickery of the fact the person would be doing sex work.
“Instead of an evidence-based approach addressing real vulnerabilities, Australia’s approach continues to try to detect the mythical trafficking victim and trafficker that is a media-driven stereotype.”
Ms Kim said Australia’s current approach to trafficking prevention, such as police raids and immigration surveillance at borders, was weak.
“Both of these approaches do not seek to prevent the circumstances that create trafficking and have also been unsuccessful in assisting workers who experience labour exploitation and trafficking-like work conditions,” she said.
She said there was no evidence that criminalisation of sex work in Australia would prevent trafficking.
“Criminalisation of our work, our clients or our workplaces makes us vulnerable to exploitation – it does not protect migrant workers.”