Advocating to end sexual slavery -
in particular the end of international trafficking in women for sexual slavery and prostitution in Australia.

by Linda Watson

of Linda's House of Hope,
PO Box Z5640, Perth St Georges Tce, WA 6831

One of the first treaties passed by the newly formed United Nations half a century ago was the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.

It was passed because of the enormous growth of trafficking in women for prostitution - within and between nations.  Earlier studies had shown that countries which had a legal or "regulated" brothel system had the worst trafficking problems.

The convention required participating nations to punish those who procure others for prostitution, even if the prostitute consents.  It also required penalties for pimps, brothel owners, brothel managers, brothel landlords - in fact anyone who profits from the prostitution of others.

For a while many nations (including Australia) modelled their prostitution laws on this convention, and prostitution was minimised.  But inflation meant the penalties became trivial and the rise of "escort agencies" meant that the old laws could be evaded on technicalities.  Today many nations have either legalised the prostitution trade under the pretence of controlling it, or have failed to police their laws against it.  Trafficking in women and young teenage boys is at an all-time high, in Australia and around the world.

I know about trafficking first hand.  I was enticed into the prostitution trade as a young single mother with bills to pay, and once trapped I was unable to escape until 20 years later.

I wasn't trapped by force.  Some are, because pimps can be pretty vicious - but I had no pimp.  I was trapped by the easy money which lulled me into thinking that the physical and mental pain I went through was worth it.  It was never worth it.  It destroys you.  Even though I have now been out of the sex industry for nearly eight years, I am still in recovery and probably always will be.

Fairly soon after becoming a prostitute, I became a madam as well.  I am ashamed when I think about how many girls' lives I helped to ruin.  It's why I'm now trying to rescue them in my House of Hope.

The girls start out as fresh, pretty young things, excited about all the money they are making.  Then perhaps three or six months later, the pain sets in.  It is physical pain - in the back, the legs, the head, all over - and mental pain.  The mental pain is the worst.  It is what makes girls turn to drugs - alcohol and cannabis at first, then harder drugs.  When I was a madam I would get together with other madams and we'd talk about how many of our girls had a drug habit.  In those days, about 85% had a habit.  These days I'm told it is worse.  I myself had a problem with alcohol and pethidine.  You won't find madams admitting this in public.  They all pretend their establishments are squeaky clean, but I know what really goes on.

A long-term study has been done by criminologists Dr Cecilie Hoigard and Dr Liv Finstad at the University of Oslo.  They found that all girls who become prostitutes end up hating their jobs and use various psychological tricks to try to disassociate themselves from what their clients are doing to them.  It ends up making them a mental wreck.

Australia now has laws against sexual servitude with big penalties - but there have been no successful prosecutions that I know of.  You have to prove that force or drugs were used to trap the girls.  That's often impossible to prove - it's her word against his. 

You need to go back to the old laws under the 1949 UN convention.  You need to make brothels, escort agencies, pimps, brothel landlords and prostitution advertising illegal - and enforce the law with tough penalties.  You need to tell the stories of the girls I see whose lives have been ruined by prostitution - including legal prostitution.

Legalising brothels makes everyone think prostitution is OK, like a legitimate business.  It is not - it is toxic, like an asbestos mine, and it slowly kills.  One of my worst jobs these days is attending the funerals of girls I could not save.  It breaks my heart.