People trafficking is a large-scale and growing problem in Australia and more migrants are being coerced into prostitution or exploitative conditions, Law Society of WA president Christopher Kendall has warned.
Dr Kendall is part of a panel that will discuss sex trafficking at WA's Supreme Court on Thursday.
He said women from Eastern Europe and Asia, particularly China, Korea and Thailand, were being trafficked into Australia to work in debt-bonded prostitution.
The barrister, who has represented victims of trafficking and prostitution for 20 years, said the women did not profit from the practices.
"Most never see money," he said. "Many die. Others suffer years of post-traumatic stress and social stigma. Australians need to be reminded of this and encouraged to fight inequality in all its forms."
Dr Kendall will join Justice Stephen Hall, Senator Michaelia Cash, Labor MP Melissa Parke, Australian Federal Police Supt David Berston and WA researcher Abigail Bray on the panel as part of Law Week.
"There are numerous studies that have shown the women who are prostitutes have serious mental health issues afterwards," Dr Bray said.
"Most women will do it because they are in reduced circumstances and they can't find another way to make money.
"There has been research done for decades that proves that women who go into prostitution come from really troubled backgrounds."
Dr Bray said she had concerns about the Government's plan to restrict brothels to non-residential areas and make prostitutes and brothel owners register by giving their palm prints to the authorities. She said it ghettoised the practice and did not address it as a human rights issue.
Kat Pinder, from the WA branch of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, said the draft legislation legitimised prostitution further and could create more demand for sex workers, leading to more women being trafficked into WA.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the Prostitution Bill would impose strict client-based penalties on any form of trafficking and help women who wanted to leave the industry.
Dr Kendall said more needed to be done to stop trafficking, particularly by educating people about the crime.He said there was overwhelming evidence of Australian men going overseas to pay for sex, often with underage prostitutes, and the problem needed urgent attention.
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