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Western Australian Law and Sex Worker Health (LASH) Study 2.0

Year

2016-2017.

Project status

Completed.

Ethics approval

Curtin University’s Human Research Ethics Committee approved this study (HRE2016-0078).

Investigators

Associate Professor Linda Selvey (Curtin University), Dr Jonathan Hallett (Curtin University), Dr Roanna Lobo (Curtin University), Ms Kahlia McCausland (Curtin University), Ms Julie Bates (Urban Realists Planning & Health Consultants), Professor Basil Donovan (University of New South Wales).

Brief overview

The LASH 2.0 Study was conducted in 2016 and builds on the 2007 LASH Study, focusing on the whole of Western Australia, and spanning the wider sex industry including private workers, men and transgender workers. This project aimed to investigate the impact of the law on Western Australian sex workers; their health and safety; and the intersections between sex workers, health service providers and Police. It is hoped that the information collected through this study will contribute to decisions about the provision of services to sex workers and to inform any future legislation relating to sex work.

Objectives

  • Describe the size and types of sex worker services in Western Australia including brothels; escort services; private and street-based workers; workers from non‐English speaking backgrounds; female, male and transgender workers.
  • Assess the health of sex workers including sexual health, mental health, injuries and violence.
  • Assess the access of sex workers working in a range of settings to health promotion and health and safety resources.
  • Enumerate and describe Police and court charges for sex workers, their managers and their support services.
  • Compare the situation in 2016 to what was described in the 2007 LASH Study.

The study components are:

  • Environmental scan.
  • Sex worker health and safety survey and interviews.
  • Venue audit.
  • Sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne virus prevalence study.
  • Court outcome data provided by The Department of Attorney General.

Funding

Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program, Communicable Disease Control Directorate, Western Australian Department of Health.

Project outputs and impacts

Our study demonstrated a number of ways that the criminalisation of sex work in Western Australia has a negative impact on the health, safety and well-being of sex workers. This includes criminalisation being used as an excuse for abuse by clients of sex workers; a reluctance of sex workers to go to the Police as victims of crime; the hidden nature of sex work in the context of private houses and massage parlours impeding access to services and health promotion; and the physical risk of street-based sex work. Decriminalisation also allows a highly visible focus on workplace health and safety in brothels and massage parlours. It is also an important step towards reducing stigma and discrimination experienced by sex workers.

Presentations

Selvey, L., Hallett, J., Lobo, R., McCausland, K., Donovan, B., & Bates, J. (2017). Sexual health outcomes and wellbeing of sex workers in Western Australia. The LASH 2.0 Study. LASH Project Launch, Grace Vaughan House. 20 October, 2017.

Journal articles

Selvey, L., Hallett, J., McCausland, K., Bates, J., Donovan, B., Lobo, R. (2018). Declining condom use among sex workers in Western Australia. Frontiers in Public Health, 6:342.

Selvey, L., Lobo, R., McCausland, K., Donovan, B., Bates, J., Hallett, J. (2018). Challenges facing Asian sex workers in Western Australia: Implications for health promotion and support services. Frontiers in Public Health, 6:171.

Reports

Selvey, L., Hallett, J., Lobo, R., McCausland, K., Bates, J., & Donovan, B. (2017). Western Australian Law and sex Worker Health (LASH) Study. A summary report to the Western Australian Department of Health. Perth: School of Public Health, Curtin University.

Selvey, L., Hallett, J., Lobo, R., McCausland, K., Bates, J., & Donovan, B. (2017). Western Australian Law and sex Worker Health (LASH) Study. An executive summary report to the Department of the Attorney General. Perth: School of Public Health, Curtin University.

Selvey, L., Hallett, J., Lobo, R., McCausland, K., Bates, J., & Donovan, B. (2017). Western Australian Law and sex Worker Health (LASH) Study. An executive summary report to the Western Australian Police. Perth: School of Public Health, Curtin University.

Selvey, L., Hallett, J., Lobo, R., McCausland, K., Bates, J., & Donovan, B. (2017). Western Australian Law and sex Worker Health (LASH) Study. An executive summary report to the Western Australian Local Government Association. Perth: School of Public Health, Curtin University.

Media releases

Selvey, L., Hallett, J., McCausland, K., Bates, J., Donovan, B., Lobo, R. (2018). Challenges for sex workers in holding the line in condom use in Western Australia. EurekAlert. Published 27 November, 2018.

Selvey, L., Hallett, J., Lobo, R., McCausland, K., Bates, J., & Donovan, B. (2017). New report recommends decriminalisation of WA's sex industry. Curtin University Media Release. Published 20 October, 2017.

Selvey, L., Donovan, B., Hallett, J., McCausland, K., Lobo, R., Bates, J. (2017). New report shows compelling reasons to decriminalise sex work. The Conversation. Published 20 October, 2017. 

In the News

Sex Workers in WA: Our laws are lagging, and people are suffering for it. (21 November 2017)

Curtin University study on sex work recommends decriminalisation of industry (Canning Times, 25 October 2017)

Study supports decriminalisation of sex work (Radio Adelaide, 24 October 2017)

Legalising sex work will improve health: Curtin University study finds (PerthNow, 23 October 2017)

Illegality harms WA prostitutes: study (SBS, 20 October 2017)

Calls to make WA sex work legal: Report lifts lid on mysterious industry (WAToday, 20 October 2017)