The bright side of brothels
- Punam Vyas
- Thursday, 5 July 2012
With the prospect of a new Darlinghurst brothel looming, community groups are petitioning to stop the business moving into their local area. There are 40 brothels across the city at the moment and the City of Sydney Council is currently assessing a development application for one to open at 22 Burton St. The proposed business will operate in a mixed zone area, where commercial and residential buildings coincide.
Jane Anderson, a committee member of East Sydney Neighbourhood Association (ESNA) said: “The purpose of a Mixed Zone is to act as a buffer to protect residential zones; i.e. where people actually live and sleep, from inappropriate uses.
“There are guidelines on what those uses could be and these do not include a brothel.”
CEO of Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, Janelle Fawkes said: “In NSW, we have a system that ensures brothels are compliant with council regulations. If brothels open without approval,
they have to go through a process and are given a chance to submit
a development application, just like any other business would.”
Decriminalisation has been in effect in NSW for 17 years and has been commended by international authorities, such as UNAIDS, as best practice. The model was also influential in New Zealand’s law reform.
Ms Anderson concedes that decriminalisation is “a big improvement on no regulation” and hopes it makes life safer for the sex workers. But she is still concerned about the impacts the new brothel will have on the wider community. “Residents are sick and tired of being trampled
over by everyone out to make a buck with late night activities,” she said.
“This proposal serves absolutely no good to any sector of our community. It … sends a negative message about the aspirations of what Oxford Street could become, which is not the seedy side of the Cross.”
“Susan” is in her mid-30s and has been a sex worker since university. Currently working in a Surry Hills brothel, she said: “I am Asian and Asian brothels are heavily policed. Immigration come in regularly, even if you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s bad for business.
“I get discriminated against when it comes to things like getting a loan from banks and I have had friends who struggled to get accommodation. Community stigma affects our day to day life and can be harmful to our mental well-being too.”
Should the application be successful, the proposal will go to a committee meeting for deliberation.
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