Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How is prostitution defined under Australian law?

Perhaps the easiest definition of prostitution is sexual services in exchange for money, but what fun would leaving the definition on that note be? Instead we can look to the more refined comments of the judgment in R v De Munck [1918] 1 KB 635; [1918-19] AII ER Rep 499; 13 Cr App R 113 where a mother was convicted for soliciting men for a girl, and receiving money for it. The appeal was dismissed:

“The Court is of opinion that the term “common prostitute” is not limited so as to mean only one who permits acts of lewdness with all and sundry or with such as hire her when such acts are in the nature of ordinary sexual connection. We are of opinion that prostitution is proved if it be shewn that a woman offering her body commonly for lewdness for payment in return.”

In Begley v Police (1995) 66 SASR 514; 78 A Crim R 417, the Supreme Court of South Australia had to consider whether the acts of masturbation and nude massages for money was considered as prostitution. It was held that the acts were indeed prostitution, and each of the elements of prostitution as commonly understood was made out, which were:

  • there was an offer of the body for use, as opposed to view;
  • the body was used;
  • it was offered in circumstances of lewdness;
  • the offer was indiscriminate;
  • it was offered for reward;
  • the service the appellant offered, and offered by others, to her knowledge on the premises, amounted to acts of prostitution within the meaning of the relevant statutory provisions.


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