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There have been a number of articles about people who have been exchanging sex for rent or accommodation.

Assuming that at some interval a person provides sexual services to another and in for this they are given some where to live (could be with them or at another location) could this be considered a form of prostitution? Or does money have to be exchanged to be considered prostitution.

What test apply?

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'Prostitution' is neither wholly legal nor wholly illegal in Australia. Some prostitution is legal and other prostitution is not. The rules differ from State to State.

In Victoria the relevant law is the Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic). The term 'sex work' is defined in section 3 of the Act. Note that, even then, not all sex work is necessarily legal or illegal.

In Victoria, it is generally lawful for a person to take money (or money's worth) for sex, as long as it's not as part of a business such as an 'escort agency' or 'brothel' (each term is defined in the Act). However, it is an offence to:

  • induce a child to perform sex work: s 5;
  • induce a person to perform sex work using violence, intimidation, drugs or fraud: s 8;
  • live off the earnings of another person's sex work: s 10;
  • loiter near a school or church looking to procure or offer sex work: ss 12 & 13 respectively;
  • operate, attend, etc an unlicenced brothel: s 15;
  • advertise for people to become sex workers: s 17;
  • provide or receive sex work services without a condom etc: s 18A;
  • carry on the business of sex work (including an escort agency or brothel) without a licence: s 22 (but certain owner-operators are exempt: s 23);
  • many other things.

In conclusion, a person paying rent in the form of sex is likely to be legal, but they would have to use a condom, take steps to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, etc. Advertising 'come live here in exchange for sex' would, however, be illegal.

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It would be prostitution, however, prostitution is not illegal in Australia.

Barter is a legal way to settle debts in Australia so long as all taxes are paid, for example, the tenant must pay income tax on the value of the sex provided and the landlord must pay tax on the residential rent value. Of course this hardly ever happens, so in that sense, it breaches tax law.

There are work health and safety and residential rental tenancy laws that must be observed.

  • makes you wonder if marriage itself is prostitution. In exchange for consummating the marriage, the other party provides for them. – mark b May 3 '17 at 19:56
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    @markb sounds nothing like my marriage – Dale M May 3 '17 at 21:02
  • What factors are involved when calculating the value of the sex provided? Is there a worksheet I can use? – Moses May 12 '17 at 4:47
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    The Australian Tax Office would assess it at "market rate" - this would depend on your location and the services provided. Any bona fide reasonable valuation would probably be accepted- they can make comparisons with the tax return data of sex workers – Dale M May 12 '17 at 6:25

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