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The historical geography of prostitution in Perth, Western Australia

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This paper charts major changes in the locational distribution of female prostitution in the Perth metropolitan area during the twentieth century, and aims to explain why these changes took place. The study confirmed that there is a positive relationship between changes to law enforcement policy and changes to the spatial distribution of the sex industry. Factors that affect law enforcement policy (and thus the location of prostitution) include the social stigma associated with prostitution, economic forces that compete for urban space and political pressures to contain and occasionally relocate the trade. At the same time, and despite a number of major spatial redistributions caused by changes to law enforcement policy in Perth, the central city area has remained the sex industry's geographical focus throughout the twentieth century. This strong preference to be centrally located is related to the sex industry's primary locational imperatives, being access to major client catchments and availability of appropriate operational premises. The paper argues that a complex set of endogenous and exogenous factors contribute to the locational behaviour of prostitution, and that these forces and their associated dynamics need to be understood in order to successfully integrate the sex industry into an equitable and orderly town planning process.
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Keywords: Perth; Prostitution;; historical geography;; locational model;

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Western Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2003

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