MELBOURNE, Australia, October 12, 2011 ( – Prostitution may be legal in the Australian provinces of Victoria and New South Wales, but this hasn’t stopped legal brothels from having ties to human trafficking, sex slavery and organized crime, according to recent police investigations.

The results of the investigations have led critics to denounce the decriminalization of prostitution in these states. The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said the government attempt to regulate the sex trade has failed, and has exacerbated rather than solved the dangers to the women involved.

A report in The Age states that state authorities have not taken action against legal brothels in Victoria and New South Wales – at least three in Melbourne and two in Sydney – that have been linked to an international sex slavery ring run by Asian organized crime.

“A trade that encourages workers to undertake regular health checks for STIs and requires the provision of panic alarms clearly is one that cannot claim to provide anything remotely approaching a safe workplace,” said ACL’s spokeswoman on human trafficking Michelle Pearse.

“But more than that, government legalization of prostitution sends a message that it is OK for men to purchase a woman’s body for sex.

“This increases the demand for sexual services – a demand that can never be met by the legal industry and the few women who freely choose to participate in this largely exploitative trade.”

Pearse pointed out that “the shortfall in demand can only ever be made up through illicit means, such as coercion and human trafficking, as the evidence from Victoria and New South Wales so clearly demonstrates.

“Illegal brothels in Victoria are believed to at least equal the number of legal ones,” Pearse said.

Pearse called on the governments of the Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, which are in the process of reviewing their prostitution laws, to not follow the failed approaches of the large eastern states in decriminalizing or legalizing prostitution.

“The last thing vulnerable and desperate women need in a society that claims to value gender equality is to be told that selling their bodies for sex is a legitimate career option,” she said.

Pearse pointed to Sweden, where purchasing sex has been criminalized “in order to limit the demand and the associated harms of the trade.”

“Many other countries are now following Sweden’s lead,” Pearse said.

In many countries where prostitution has been legalized, such as the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Finland and Norway, governments already have or are currently reconsidering their decision after rates of child prostitution, sex trafficking and organized crime increased dramatically.

Sweden’s strategy in dealing with prostitution is an example of legislation that experts agree actually works and which has nearly eradicated prostitution in that country.

Sweden in 1999 passed legislation that criminalized the buying of sex, while decriminalizing the selling of sex.

“In Sweden prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children. It is officially acknowledged as a form of exploitation of women and children and constitutes a significant social problem … gender equality will remain unattainable so long as men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them,” says Swedish literature explaining the law.