Madam warns against brothels

ESCAPE PLEA: Former prostitute and brothel madam Linda Watson will speak at a public meeting in Hobart tonight.
ESCAPE PLEA: Former prostitute and brothel madam Linda Watson will speak at a public meeting in Hobart tonight.

Linda Watson, who in 1999 founded the Perth-based House Of Hope dedicated to rehabilitating prostitutes, said in Hobart yesterday that prostitution had been out of control in Victoria and NSW since brothels were legalised.

"There are more illegal brothels and escort agencies than legal, licensed ones," she said.

"It is time for police to enforce the law against toxic brothels and to prosecute brothel owners."

Ms Watson, who is a finalist in the Australian Women's Weekly Australia's Most Inspirational Woman competition, said that the best way to clean up the industry was to enforce the existing laws and help prostitutes escape the industry.

"There is a solution: Sweden has eradicated prostitution by banning media advertising and prosecuting madams, pimps and clients," she said.

Ms Watson said that many prostitutes were desperate to leave the industry, but were trapped by drug habits.

"Twenty-five years ago, I was a single mum when a madam told me I would make `good stock'," she said.

"She told me I'd make $2000 a week and no one would know.

"What she didn't mention was that I would become trapped in the industry.

"We must never forget that every prostitute is someone's daughter. Prostitutes are not born into the trade, they are seduced into it by promises of easy money."

A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Judy Jackson said that legislation legalising brothels was being drafted and would be considered by Cabinet before being forwarded to the Local Government Association of Tasmania for comment.

¤Ms Watson will speak at the Hobart Town Hall at 7.30 tonight on behalf of the Catholic Women's League in Tasmania.