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Sex Work Offences (Qld)

Sex work in Queensland is legal if it occurs in a licensed brothel. When it is done outside of a licensed brothel, it is a criminal offence unless it is done in private with the sex worker operating alone. Offences relating to illegal sex work in Queensland are contained in the Criminal Code 1899 and in the Prostitution Act 1999. 

What is sex work?

Section 229E of the Criminal Code defines prostitution as the provision to another person, under a commercial arrangement, of any of the following:

  • Sexual intercourse;
  • Oral sex
  • Masturbation;
  • Any other activity that involves a person using another person for their sexual satisfaction involving physical contact.

Legal sex work

Sex work is not illegal in Queensland. It is perfectly legal to carry out prostitution is a licensed brothel, which may have up to eight sex workers present on the premises at the same time. It is also legal to do prostitution in private as a sole operator, either working from home or providing outcalls.

However, it is illegal for one private sex worker to work together with another. It is also illegal to solicit. However, it is permissible to employ another person as a bodyguard or driver, or both.

In Queensland, prostitutes do not have to be registered or licensed.


The below are offences under the Prostitution Act, which are punishable by a fine.

Public soliciting

Under section 73 of the Prostitution Act, it is an offence to publicly solicit for prostitution. This includes offering to do sex work or accepting an offer to do it in a public place or within sight or hearing of a public place. It also includes loitering in a public place or within sight of a public place.

This offence is punishable by a fine of between 15 and 30 penalty units (depending on whether it is the person’s first, second or third offence).

Coerce person to provide prostitution

Under section 77 of the Prostitution Act, it is an offence to coerce or use duress to cause another person to provide sex work. This is punishable by a fine of 100 penalty units.

Sex work without a condom

Under section 77A of the Prostitution Act, it is an offence to perform sex work involving sexual intercourse or oral sex without using a prophylactic. It is also an offence to ask for sex work or offer to perform sex work without a prophylactic.

The Criminal Code also contains offences relating to sex work.

Obtaining prostitution from a person under 18

Under Section 229FA of the Criminal Code, it is a criminal offence to pay a person under 18 for sex work if the person knows or ought to know that the young person is under 18. The maximum penalty for this is imprisonment for seven years. If the young person is under 16, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 14 years.

Procuring engagement in prostitution

Under section 229G it is an offence to procure a person for prostitution or to come to or leave Queensland for the purpose of prostitution. This offence can attract a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment, or 20 years imprisonment if the person procured is under the age of 18.

Participating in provision of prostitution

Under section 229H it is an offence to knowingly participate in the provision of prostitution, This offence carries a maximum penalty of between three and years imprisonment (depending on whether it is a first, second or third offence).

However, it is not an offence for a person to participate in the provision of sex work at a licensed brothel.

Carrying on business of providing prostitution

Under section 229HB it is an offence to carry on the business of providing unlawful prostitution. This is punishable with a maximum of imprisonment for seven years, or for 14 years if the person engaged in prostitution is a child or a person who has a mental impairment.

Unlawful prostitution

Under section 229HC it is an offence to engage in or obtain prostitution through an unlawful business. This is punishable by imprisonment for between three and seven years (depending on whether there have been prior offences).

Other prostitution offences

There are numerous other offences relating to sex work. These include:

  • Being in a place used for prostitution;
  • Allowing premises to be used for prostitution;
  • Permitting a child under 18 to be at a place that is used for prostitution.
  • Manager of a brothel providing sex work at a place other than the brothel
  • Operating a licensed brothel in a place other than in a building;
  • Failing to personally supervise a licensed brothel.

Law reform and sex work offences

The Queensland legal framework has been much criticised. The law preventing privately operating sex workers from working together with others means that those sex workers have to work in isolation which makes their work more dangerous. Organisations such as Scarlet Alliance which advocate for the rights of Queensland sex workers say that governments have repeatedly ignored prostitutes’ concerns, meaning workers must choose between safety and legality.

Queensland police commonly solicit illegal acts from prostitutes and arrest and charge them if they agree. The poor relationship with the police makes it harder for sex workers to approach police when they have been the victims of crimes.

Sex workers from non-English speaking communities reportedly have difficulty understanding the complex regulations around sex work in Queensland. Advocates of decriminalisation say that it would improve workplace health and safety and lead to greater transparency for the industry.

The current system has also been criticised for pandering to the economic interests of licensed brothels, whose business interests may be undercut by the proliferation of private sex work.

The laws governing sex work in Queensland have been reviewed twice by the Crime and Misconduct Commission but it has rejected calls for change, saying more relaxed laws around sex work could encourage organised crime.

If you require legal advice or representation in a criminal law matter or in any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal. 

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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