Australia Asian sex workers in Sydney brothels hide their job from friends and family, survey finds

23:20  02 december  2019
23:20  02 december  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Asian women in "lower-end brothels " in Sydney work in secret due to fears of the stigma of sex work , a new survey has found , leaving researchers Only 5 per cent would be comfortable to disclose their occupation to family or friends , despite the fact that sex work has been legal in NSW for decades.

The report titled ' Working with Migrant Sex Workers in Sydney 's Lower-End Brothels ' also found that only one in four sex workers were given condoms at Asian sex workers in Sydney brothels hide their job from friends and family , survey finds - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

a man standing in front of a fence: Jade is a former sex worker. © ABC NEWS Jade is a former sex worker. "Money is very important but not everything." (ABC News: Stephanie Boltje) Asian women in "lower-end brothels" in Sydney work in secret due to fears of the stigma of sex work, a new survey has found.

The study has left researchers concerned that sex workers are not reporting violence or assault to authorities.

A strong majority of respondents — 80 per cent — come from Chinese-speaking countries, and more than half have experienced domestic violence in the past, with some still seeking basic financial stability after fleeing abusive relationships.

The report 'Working with Migrant Sex Workers in Sydney's Lower-End Brothels' — provided exclusively to ABC's The Drum — conducted by BaptistCare HopeStreet Women's Services identified a "high correlation between past experiences of domestic violence and involvement in the sex industry".

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A survey of CALD migrant sex workers in ‘lower-end brothels ’ in Sydney revealed half had experienced domestic violence in the past. More than 40 percent

The way it worked was I sat in a room, while ladies walked in, said their name, and gave a twirl. I know a few girls who are sex workers in canberra brothels (I know them I have two friends who are sex workers who have worked at red door. they are both Asian by I would ban all women who say they love their sex work job from working if it meant saving ONE trafficked woman from being raped.

It also revealed three in four sex workers believed "Australian society has an ingrained view of the [sex] industry".

Only 5 per cent of respondents would feel comfortable disclosing their occupation to family or friends, despite the fact that sex work has been legal in NSW for decades. Only 2 per cent believed their family would support them.

"Some people from China feel comfortable to tell their family about their work and they don't feel shame about their work, but I'm different," said Sally, a former sex worker who is keeping her identity a secret because she doesn't want her family to know.

"Most of the people think being a sex worker isn't good."

Condoms not always used

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Eventually, after realizing that working in the sex industry might satisfy her, Alice went to the Moonlite Bunny Despite sex work being so highly stigmatized, I love my job because I get to help people She explained that legal brothels in Nevada have ' their own vocabulary'. 'Folks can come in, see a

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At the same time, 50 per cent of the women said they sometimes felt safe at work, while 36 per cent of sex workers surveyed claimed they always felt safe.

About one in four workers were provided condoms by employers, despite it being a standard WorkCover requirement in Australia, while only two-thirds of respondents used condoms with clients on a regular basis.

Sally said she paid for her own condoms.

"Clients asked me not to use a condom, and they would give me (an) extra $50, but I was very afraid to get HIV so I say no," she said.

Jade — who also wanted her identity kept from her ex-partner — also had to pay for her own condoms during the year that she worked in a brothel.

"Some customers not use condom(s). I said: 'If you (do) not use (a) condom, I don't do!' Because I am thinking of safety first," Jade said.

"Money is very important but (it's) not everything."

A survey, published in 2015 by the Australian Institute of Criminology, in consultation with the national peak body, Scarlet Alliance, found that more than half of female sex workers were forced to pay for their own condoms.

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Sex is never 'just a job ' to me. Say, a therapist, will still listen to their friends about their problems If I remember correctly, brothels are legal in Australia and most women in the business enjoy their How do you think your family would react if they found out? Do you plan on stopping once you settle

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'The first time I was very afraid'

Lower-end brothels include venues such as massage parlours that fall below average industry prices.© Picture: Adam Calaitzis Lower-end brothels include venues such as massage parlours that fall below average industry prices. BaptistCare HopeStreet defined lower-end brothels as brothels and massage parlours that fell below average industry prices.

Half of the study's respondents said they would stop sex work if they found other ways of earning money, while a quarter indicated that they would prefer to do sex work before any other work.

Sally got into sex work after a classmate in her Sydney university course suggested she could earn more money for her family who was still living abroad.

She earned between $350 to $1000 dollars a day, which is considered to be on the lower end of the scale of what sex workers can earn, according to BaptistCare HopeStreet.

"At that time I (was in) financial hardship and I need(ed) to support my kids and also my family," Sally said.

"The first time I did that I was very afraid. I feel like I am very dirty and when I get home I just keep cleaning."

But sexual health wasn't her biggest concern. Being on a student visa, Sally was afraid of being caught by the Department of Immigration, working longer hours than she was allowed to.

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West Brothels where most of the girls are of Asian background, and if walk into the ready room they have all got their law books and their computers And while the survey interviewed sex workers in most major cities, it mainly focused on the Sydney area and found the majority of sex workers were

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She was also worried about being noticed by people she knew while she was working.

"I was afraid I (would) meet other classmates, male classmates and then I (would) feel embarrassed," she said.

Sally decided to begin sex work while studying at a Sydney university.© Picture: ABC News: Kathryn Milliss Sally decided to begin sex work while studying at a Sydney university. BaptistCare HopeStreet found nine out of 10 sex workers were only in Australia temporarily, holding a variety of visas (a third were on student visas).

Some were working here on the false belief that sex work would provide a pathway to residency, the researchers found.

But the report stressed that "all the women we have worked with have indicated that they have made the personal decision to work in the sex industry".

'Stigma' leaves women vulnerable

Jessica Davidson, manager of BaptistCare HopeStreet Women's Services, told The Drum the group aims to create a safe space for women.

"We think that first and foremost, women need to know that they have value and that they have dignity, and it doesn't matter what choices you have and have not made, that you deserve to be treated with respect within that," Ms Davidson said.

The survey was conducted over a 10-month period, comprised of in-depth interviews with 100 Asian women about their experiences of being culturally and linguistically diverse members of Sydney's lower end brothel industry.

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It provides a unique snapshot of the working conditions of women who are rarely heard from in the national conversation.

With the research, BaptistCare HopeStreet aimed to identify better ways to assist women who may struggle with the language and different cultures in Australia to access support services.

Peggy Mak, from HopeStreet Women's Services' CALD program said a lot of women mentioned they wanted to talk to someone about their work.

"A lot of them maybe they come here by themselves, their family and friends are back in their home country but at the same time, they can't talk about what their work is," Ms Mak said.

The report found that many women didn't know where to seek help, especially for issues relating to their mental health.

The report found 21 per cent said they struggled to relax, while 38 per cent become easily agitated.

"We found that stigma would have a huge impact on mental health, and even on work safety if they are not willing to disclose their job to others," Ms Mak said.

BaptistCare HopeStreet's survey found if the women knew how to get support, they were more likely to enjoy their job.

'She wanted me working 24 hours'

Most of the sex workers surveyed said they would work between three to five days a week, but could be on "on-call" during that time, which BaptistCare HopeStreet defined as staying at work past eight hours or even overnight.

Jade told The Drum she lived and worked in a brothel: "She [the manager] was not happy when I go out. She wanted to keep me working 24 hours," Jade said.

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"The manager said 'do this', (so) I do what they say."

Ms Davidson said sex workers often experienced exploitative practices in the workplace.

"Things like women not having access to condoms, women working long work hours and sometimes also just not knowing how to communicate what they want and what they need," Ms Davidson said.

BaptistCare HopeStreet saw more than 800 women in the last year, for services including free counselling, case management, as well as a brothel outreach service that provide safe-sex kits to workers.

The last survey into migrant sex workers - conducted almost a decade ago by the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Scarlett Alliance - found that migrants were satisfied with their work conditions, but were "significantly less likely than non-migrants to identify that they received support, information, free condoms and access to sexual health services or worked in a safe workplace environment".

A survey of migrants in the sex industry by national peak sex worker organisation Scarlet Alliance between 2006 and 2007 found that half would not call the police if they experienced sexual assault.

Scarlet Alliance chief executive Jules Kim said the organisation worked with Asian sex workers through their migrant sex worker advisory group and Migrant Sex Worker Project.

"We agree that pervasive stigma and discrimination are a major issue for sex workers, particularly as we still do not have anti-discrimination protections for sex workers in NSW. However the best way to address this is through peer-based responses," she said.

Ms Kim said data from the 2016 NSW Kirby report in partnership with Sex Workers Outreach Project NSW found that between 2007 and 2015, condom use remained relatively high, at between 88 per cent to 96 per cent for all female sex workers, including those from Asian backgrounds.

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