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Australia gets tough on sex slave traders: Many young Asian prostitutes are held against their will

BBC News, Tuesday 5 January 1999, 06:11 GMT

Australia is to introduce tough penalties, including jail sentences of up to 25 years, to confront what it says is a growing trade in sex slaves.

The crackdown follows increasing evidence of young Asian women being brought to Australia and forced into sex slavery in Sydney's red light King's Cross district and other state capitals.

A recent report said that up to 300 young women from Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia had been forced into prostitution in King's Cross after legitimate jobs they had been promised by racketeers failed to materialise.

It said many of the women were kept against their will in brothels and were forced to hand over their earnings. One woman gave evidence of having to pay back more than 17,000.

According to the Justice Department, many Asian prostitutes are women who simply want to begin a new life outside their homeland.

Serious penalties

People who've been brought to Australia from elsewhere using false immigration documents find when they get here they've got no real documents, they can't get help and they are required to work as prostitutes for very low wages, said Justice Minister Amanda Vanstone.

The authorities say they intend to impose prison terms of up to 25 years for anyone involved in actual sex slavery, 15 years for keeping sex slaves through force, threats or deception - unless the victim was under 18 years old. The maximum jail term would then be 19 years.

These are very serious penalties and so they should be because in a modern country and a free country like Australia there is no place for slavery, added Ms Vanstone.

The proposed legislation which has not yet been passed in parliament will be reintroduced this year

A previous attempt to introduce sex slavery legislation with a maximum 20-year jail sentence was introduced to parliament last year but lapsed because of the October election.