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Brothels or sex services premises

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The definition of a brothel or sex services premises

In NSW, the law defines a brothel (sex services premises) very broadly. They are premises that:

  • are used for prostitution (sex work) or
  • have been used for prostitution and are likely to be used for it again or
  • have been advertised or represented as being used for prostitution, and are likely to be used for prostitution.

If sexual services are advertised or available in any premises, they are legally defined as a brothel, no matter what the business is set up for—and even if the premises are only used by one sex worker.

So a brothel may include:

  • a full service parlour
  • one-worker premises, such as where one person may be working from home
  • massage parlours offering services such as hand relief, oral sex and body slides
  • a ‘gentlemans’ club’
  • a sauna.

For more information: See 'What a sexual service is' to read about what could be considered sexual services under the law.

What it means to be advertised or represented as being used for prostitution (sex work)

The definition of a brothel was changed in 2007 to make it easier for councils to prove premises are operating as brothels. Now, premises that have been specifically advertised or represented as being used for prostitution, and that have been, or are likely to be, used for prostitution, are considered as a brothel. 

Advertisements include:

  • ‘adult services’ advertisements
  • internet websites and other electronic advertisement
  • promotional cards or flyers.

Councils can use advertisements to declare premises a ‘brothel’—even where there is only one sex worker.

Councils can close down a business if it is operating without permission.

For more information: See 'A guide to local councils' to read about council powers and how to get permission to operate as a brothel or sex services premises.

NOTE: It does not matter what you personally think your work or workplace is, if sexual services are provided it is legally defined as a brothel.