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Other laws you should know

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Advertising sexual services

It is an offence in NSW for anyone to advertise sexual services, a sex worker or a sex industry business—but these laws are rarely enforced. The law prohibits the publication of advertisements or putting up of signs advertising sexual services.

Some newspapers do not accept sex industry advertisements, while others only accept discreet advertisements for adult services. Some may require a development consent number to be included in advertisements. Newspapers have made their own rules about what can be said in adult services advertisements. 

Advertising employment opportunities for sex worker staff

It is an offence for you to advertise that you are seeking to employ a prostitute (sex worker). But the daily and suburban papers carry advertisements for adult work opportunities and the prohibition is rarely enforced. 

A ‘brothel’ is a place advertised or represented as being used for the purposes of prostitution.

Premises advertised or represented as being used for prostitution (sex work) and likely to be used for that purpose, are considered a ‘brothel’ under the law.  Advertisements can include ‘adult services’ advertisements in newspapers and magazines, on internet websites or via promotional cards or flyers. These can be easily used by councils to declare premises a ‘brothel’. A brothel may be shut it down if its usage is unauthorised. 

Responsibility for the health and safety of clients in a workplace

Everyone is responsible for the health and safety of clients in a workplace! The owners/employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety and health of staff, clients and visitors to a sex services premises. They must:

  • have a current workers compensation insurance policy
  • provide for the safe use, handling, storage and cleaning of equipment such as sex toys
  • provide adequate information, training and supervision for all staff, especially trainees
  • provide and maintain safe systems of work such as security systems, and personal protective equipment such as condoms and lubricant.

Workers are also responsible for the health and safety of other staff, clients and anyone in the workplace. They must cooperate with workplace health and safety policies and practices. 

When a client is injured in the workplace

A client who contracts an illness or disease or is injured as a result of their use of sex services may seek compensation from the owner. The owner may be able to make a claim under a public liability insurance policy. 

If a client wants to use drugs

If a client wants to inject or shaft drugs, get them to do it themselves if possible—rather than you injecting/shafting them. Clients may have a lower tolerance level and could overdose, so try to reduce risk of overdose by using less than they request. If the client is already affected by alcohol or drugs the risk of overdose is greater.

Sex industry workers should also be aware that scoring on behalf of a client is technically ‘supply’, which is a much more serious offence than possession for personal use. 

If a worker or a client overdoses

If a worker or a client overdoses call an ambulance immediately! All people working in a workplace have a responsibility to prevent or reduce accidents or injuries. Occupational health and safety laws require everyone in a workplace to take whatever action they can to ensure the safety of others. The ambulance does not have to involve either the police or local council. 

Providing injecting equipment and bins

Where injecting equipment is used in sex services premises, the operators should provide safe storage and disposal. The local Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) or WorkCover office can advise on supply and disposal issues. Some local councils also have a sharps management plan, which should be consulted. 

Soliciting—what it is and when it is legal

Soliciting involves actively approaching or offering a sexual service to someone for payment. In massage parlours, simply offering your services as a sex worker may be soliciting. Street soliciting is only illegal if it is more ‘active’ (see Street Work section).

It is an offence to solicit in, near or within view of a:

  • church
  • school or
  • hospital.

It is an offence to solicit near or within view of a:

  • dwelling—any home or residence not attached to a shop or commercial premises.

It is also an offense to solicit in a:

  • business claiming to be a non-sexual massage service.  

You cannot solicit someone in a manner that harasses or distresses them. Soliciting is a very uncertain legal area—it is open to interpretation and if the case is taken to court it is up to the magistrate to decide whether soliciting took place.

The new liquor licensing laws no longer make it an offence for a sex worker to solicit in licensed premises. BUT, under liquor licensing laws it may be an offence for licensees to allow soliciting on their premises because this could be defined as 'indecent conduct'.

The licensee of a hotel, bar or nightclub can decide that certain behaviours—such as ‘indecent acts’—are unacceptable by their personal standards. They can then ask any patron, including a sex worker or client soliciting for sexual services, to leave the licensed premises. 

Working from a hotel or motel room

If you rent a hotel or motel room for sex work, you may be using premises that are not authorised by council to be used for sex work. Council may take action to stop you operating your business from the hotel or motel room. The council may also pressure the hotel to stop renting you the room if you use it for sex work. 

Sex workers and their children

The police, Department of Community Services (DoCS) and other authorised people can take action to protect children who they think may be ‘at risk’ of harm. Any child (person under 18) in a brothel could be considered ‘at risk’ of harm because brothels are classed as restricted premises. Action may be taken by DoCS to protect the child, even in a home—because the definition of a brothel includes a private worker’s home.

These are some of the circumstances in which a child is considered ‘at risk of harm’:

  • The child’s basic physical or psychological needs aren’t being met or are at risk of not being met
  • The child’s parents or caregivers haven’t arranged—whether unable or unwilling—for any medical care the child needs
  • The child or young person has been, or is at risk of being, physically or sexually abused or ill-treated
  • The child is living in a household where there have been incidents of domestic violence and, as a consequence, the child or young person is at risk of serious physical or psychological harm
  • A parent’s or caregiver’s behaviour towards the child has caused, or is at risk of causing, serious  psychological harm
  • A soon-to-be born child is reported to be at risk, and the birth mother—with the help of support   services—hasn’t removed or reduced the risks to the child.

The fact that a parent is a sex worker can be used in the Family Court as evidence. But being a sex worker does not automatically disqualify someone from being allowed to have parental responsibility for their child.  

SEEK ADVICE: If DoCS are taking action to remove a child in your care, you should contact a lawyer or a community legal centre for advice and information. SWOP can provide referrals to community legal centres.