Brothels: outlaws or citizens?

Cambridge Journals
Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Law in Context, 2010, 6 (2), pp. 151 - 166
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Historically, sex services premises in New South Wales, Australia were regarded and regulated as illegal and disorderly entities; they were policed as outlaws. The Disorderly Houses Amendment Act 1995 [NSW] bestowed legal status, providing an opportunity to regulate sex services premises as legal subjects. Despite these reforms, in many areas brothels continue to be regulated more restrictively than other businesses. I argue that this is because, for many, brothels continue to be perceived as outlaws. They are regarded as inherently unlawful, disorderly, and hence warranting and requiring exclusion from the community. I argue that this conception of brothels as outlaws is constructed and reinforced through regulation. In contrast, some local councils and Land and Environment Court decisions have taken up the opportunity to regard and regulate sex services premises as legal subjects or citizens. The conception of sex services premises as citizen imports an existing legal framework, with associated accountabilities, rights and responsibilities. This shift in conception results in people viewing sex services premises differently, experiencing them differently and regulating them differently.
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