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When (Some) Prostitution is Legal: The Impact of Law Reform on Sex Work in Australia

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In Australia, prostitution regulation has taken a very different path from many other countries. Law reform has led to the opening of some significant new spaces for legal sex work, including the (very different) regulatory regimes established in two Australian states – Queensland (brothels legal if their owners are licensed) and New South Wales (most commercial sex businesses and some street prostitution decriminalized; no licensing regime). The main research question is: how has regulation impacted on the positive rights of sex workers? I argue that law reform has engaged a mix of neo-liberal and other approaches – not to increase personal or corporate freedom but as part of a practical strategy designed to control a range of social problems, such as police corruption and organized crime. Neo-liberal regulation of prostitution in Australia has always been deployed in tandem with other modes of regulation – including new criminal law and policing strategies, planning law, health regulations, and (of course) moral regulation.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Political Science & International Studies, University of Queensland, QLD 4071, Australia., Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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